Becoming a Plumber in Illinois

If you’ve owned a home or business, chances are you’ve relied on the services of a plumber. The same holds true for anyone who has ever constructed a new building. Without help from a trained plumber, you can’t really rely on the quality of a sewer, water or gas installation. You also can’t rely on the quality of any repair work done on these vital systems.

Interested in becoming a plumbing professional? There are plenty of reasons to pursue this career in Illinois. Since plumbers’ services are always in demand, you can usually look forward to ample opportunities for work and career advancement. In addition, the typical plumber earns an income large enough to meet the many needs of everyday life. For details on how to get started in the plumbing field, just keep reading this informative guide.

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Those interested in working in the plumbing industry can expect plumbing programs to cover some of the following plumbing systems and topics in:

  • Plumbing tools
  • Sewer drainage
  • Vent piping
  • Plumbing Codes
  • Plumbing mathematics
  • Safety procedures
  • Hydrodynamic theory
  • Maintain underground water supply
  • Blueprint reading and drawing
  • Construction document production
  • Construction document production
  • Storm waster systems
  • Fire protection
  • Practical assembly techniques
  • Home plumbing system

Licensing Requirements for Illinois Plumbers

In Illinois, plumber licensing is handled by the state’s Department of Public Health, or IDPH. The IDPH maintains four separate licensing categories:

  • Apprentice Plumber
  • Plumbing Contractor
  • Irrigation Contractor
  • Retired Plumber

Apprentices are newcomers to the plumbing field. To work as an apprentice, you must be 16 or older. In addition, to get your license you must do one of two things:

  • Show proof that you’re working for a plumber already licensed by the state
  • Demonstrate that you’re enrolled in an apprentice program that meets state requirements

Once you receive your apprentice license, you have six years to take the Illinois state licensing exam

In Illinois, plumbing contractors are plumbers who take on customers directly. To get a contractor’s license, you must have a plumbing work history of four years or longer. You must also pass the state’s contractor exam. In addition, Illinois requires all contractors to carry several forms of insurance.

Irrigation contractors are responsible for installing various kinds of outdoor sprinkler systems. Many states do not include these contractors in the plumber category. However, Illinois does. To legally work as an irrigation contractor, you must register with the IDPH each year. You must also register your employees.

In Illinois, a retired plumber is a plumber who intends to quit working in the profession in the near future. Retired plumbers can carry out most of the functions of a plumbing contractor. However, they can’t work with apprentices or conduct plumbing inspections.

Plumbing Schools in Illinois

If you have a sponsoring employer in Illinois, you don’t need to join an apprenticeship program or plumbing trade school. However, many people do choose to enroll in such a program. If this option is for you, your list of potential providers includes:

  • The Building and Fire Code Academy – Elgin-based BFCA provides a well-rounded plumbing program for anyone starting out in the field. Classes cover a variety of topics including hands on training and classroom instruction. It will take you 15 weeks to complete this program.
  • Plumber and Tech Engineers Local 130 – Chicago-based Local 130 offers a comprehensive, five-year plumbing apprenticeship program. For three of those years, you’ll split your time between classroom training and hands on shop instruction. In the last two years, you’ll devote more of your day to working on plumbing jobs.
  • Illinois Plumbing Consultants – Based in Rockford and McHenry, IPC also offers an apprenticeship program split between classroom lectures and practical job experience. In addition, the organization offers a license preparation program.

Plumbing Apprenticeship Opportunities in Illinois

Plumbers are some of the most essential workers we have, designing, installing and maintaining the systems that safely bring us reliable, clean water and carry away our wastewater. The state of Illinois closely regulates the profession, requiring plumbers to carry a license. Licensed plumbers need to pass the Illinois state plumbing exam exam and need to have successfully completed an approved training course. They also need to demonstrate four years of work as a plumbing apprentice.

An apprenticeship is an excellent opportunity to learn on the job while earning a decent wage. You’ll be assisting and supporting experienced plumbers with their work, and they will support you as you take on more and more challenging tasks within the environment. You’ll also gain a good understanding of the various types of job sites and clients within the industry, and will forge professional connections that can benefit you throughout your plumbing career.

In Illinois, plumbing apprentices must also register with the state. They must be at least 16 years old and be sponsored by a licensed plumber. Registration costs $100. Apprenticeship programs can be very competitive, and are offered by individual private plumbers as well as by plumbing unions. As an example, the Joint Apprenticeship Committee of the United Association of Plumbers Local 130—a Chicago plumbers union—takes on apprentices every year. For a private apprenticeship, job websites like Monster or Indeed are good places to search. Contractors that employ a number of plumbers often offer apprenticeships. The Illinois chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors organizes this throughout the state.

Income Prospects for Illinois Plumbers

In Illinois, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earn a
significantly higher average annual salary of $98,370, which is well
above the national average of $60,090. The lowest 10% of earners in
Illinois make $48,200, higher than the national low of $37,250. The top
10% of earners in Illinois can make up to $116,430, also surpassing the
national top figure of $101,190.

National vs. Illinois Salary Comparison

Location 10% Low 25% Low Median 75% High 90% High
United States $37,250 $46,630 $60,090 $78,960 $101,190
Illinois $48,200 $65,590 $98,370 $108,960 $116,430

Salaries by Regions in Illinois

Region 10% Low 25% Low Median 75% High 90% High
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI $48,520 $68,370 $100,560 $111,620 $116,860
Peoria, IL $48,370 $67,630 $82,260 $100,240 $104,150
Springfield, IL $41,790 $60,120 $85,000 $102,090 $104,260

Plumbing Trends in Illinois

The employment outlook for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in Illinois shows promising growth. In 2020, there were 17,650 professionals employed in this sector. By 2030, this number is projected to increase to 19,340, representing a growth rate of 10%. This rate is significantly higher than the national average growth rate of 2% projected from 2022 to 2032.

Illinois is expected to see about 2,040 job openings annually over this decade. These openings will be due to both industry growth and the need to replace workers who retire or leave the field for other reasons. This indicates a healthy job market for these trades in Illinois, likely driven by ongoing construction and maintenance demands.


Location Employment (Start of Period) Projected Employment (End of Period) Projected Growth Projected Annual Job Openings
Illinois 17,650 (2020) 19,340 (2030) 10% 2,040
United States 482,700 (2022) 493,600 (2032) 2% 42,600

Sources of data:

  1. State Data: The projections for this State from 2020 to 2030 are provided by Projections Central, which offers long-term projections for occupational employment.
  2. United States Data: The nationwide employment projections from 2022 to 2032 are sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which regularly publishes detailed employment projections for a wide range of occupations across the United States.

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