How to Become a Plumber in Montana

Thanks to plumbers, we have heating, air conditioning, hot water and sanitation. If you would like to join their ranks, you are signing up for a physically demanding, intellectually stimulating job in all manner of working conditions and environments. You’ll need a working knowledge of physics, geometry and mechanical drafting, and you’ll need to train for four or more years—but you’ll be part of a valuable, well-paid profession.

Requirements for Becoming a Plumber in Montana

Plumbing training takes the traditional path: one starts as an apprentice, progressing to journeyman and then to master. This is regulated by the Board of Plumbers under the auspices of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Journeymen and masters are licensed.

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To qualify as a journeyman, one must have five years of experience in plumbing, have a bachelor’s degree in a field like mechanical engineering or have completed an approved apprenticeship program.

To qualify as a master plumber, you need to have four years as a licensed journeyman, three of them working for a master plumber or working in a supervisory capacity.

Both licenses also require passing an exam and must be renewed yearly. Journeymen and masters must complete four hours of continuing education per year. Applications, exams and licenses all carry a fee of $100-160 each.

Most aspiring plumbers start with an apprenticeship. Your apprenticeship is four to five years long, involves classroom education and paid, on-the-job training supervised by journeymen and masters. Apprenticeships must be formally registered and are open to people with a high school diploma or General Equivalency certificates. The state government offers a website with an up-to-date directory of employers who sponsor apprentices.

Training Courses and Educational Programs in Montana

There are only two courses that Montana’s Board of Plumbers accepts toward your apprenticeship experience requirement:

  • Montana State University’s College of Technical Sciences, located in Havre, Montana, offers a two year associate’s degree. The degree program is eligible for financial aid and covers two years of your five-year experience requirement. The university also can help connect you with apprenticeships and jobs upon graduation.
  • North Dakota’s State College of Science also offers an associate’s degree in plumbing. This can be completed in one year and covers all plumbing basics as well as plumbing network design and drafting.

Working as an Apprentice Plumber in Minnesota

Apprenticeship is a common path to becoming a plumber. An apprenticeship is a training opportunity that also provides a salary. You work with a master plumber, either in a union or non-union setting, earning an income and learning the job skills.

In an apprenticeship in Minnesota, you’ll learn the basics of installing, maintaining and repairing plumbing systems. Once you have enough hours of training, you can apply to become a licensed journeyman plumber, which leads to becoming a master plumber.

The state of Minnesota does not have a prescribed process for becoming a plumber, nor does it require that you become licensed. Unlicensed plumbers must still follow state guidelines, register with the Department of Labor and Industry, and work under the supervision of a licensed plumber.

Whether you choose to become licensed or not, your career as a plumber begins with training, and an apprenticeship is the best way to do it. The Department of Labor and Industry has a search tool to help you find a position as an apprentice.

You can also go directly to unions to apply for their apprenticeship programs. Examples include Plumbers Local 34 in Saint Paul and Plumbers Local 15 in Minneapolis. Contact the Minnesota Pipe Trades Association for access to opportunities through the state’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

Many apprenticeship programs will take applicants right out of high school, but an alternative is to start with plumbing courses at a community college. St. Cloud Technical and Community College offers a diploma and associate degree in plumbing.

Registration and Licensing for Montana Plumbers

Upon your completion of apprenticeship you’ll receive a certificate. This, along with an affidavit from colleagues as to your experience, a license fee and an exam passed with a score of at least 70 percent, is required to get your journeyman’s license. The exam is administered by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials and can be taken in person and online. The license must be renewed annually.

The master’s license requires a similar affidavit for four years of journeyman experience and a 70 percent or higher score on the master’s license exam, and it must be renewed annually.

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

Despite economic challenges across the U.S., the plumbing field is expected to grow by 14 percent by 2028, much faster than average job growth.

The median hourly wage for Montana plumbers is $28.50 per hour, with a median annual salary of a bit over $59,000.

Working as a Plumber in Montana

Plumbers work indoors and outside in all conditions, and a day on the job could involve anything from emergency maintenance to design and construction. Specializing in heating, air conditioning or medical gas installation is also an option depending on one’s employer and preferences. Plumbing jobs are often available on websites like Indeed.com, Monster.com and ZipRecruiter, or in state or federal job listings. Once you’ve put in the effort to train as a plumber, your skills will give you flexibility and job security.

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