Plumber: What Is It and How to Become

Plumber: What Is It and How to Become

Are you a young worker thinking about a career in plumbing? If so, you’re in the right place! Becoming a plumber is a sustainable and rewarding career path that requires a unique set of skills and qualities. In California, the demand for licensed plumbers is high, and it’s only expected to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is projected that by 2023 there will be a 4% increase in job opportunities for plumbers.

If you’re wondering what it takes to become a plumber in California, it’s important to know that you’ll need to go through a formal apprenticeship program. This is a hands-on training that typically takes about 4 years to complete. During this apprenticeship, you’ll learn the necessary skills to become a competent plumber, such as how to balance an environment’s plumbing system and troubleshoot common issues that may arise.

Once you’ve completed your formal education, the next step is to find an apprenticeship program. These programs are typically offered through local trade schools or online. Apprenticeships are a great way to learn the trade quickly and gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced plumbers. Not only will you earn a salary while you learn, but you’ll also have the opportunity to network with professionals in the plumbing industry.

Requirements for Becoming a Plumber in California

If you’re considering a career as a plumber in California, there are a few key requirements you’ll need to fulfill. These qualifications will set you on the right path to becoming a licensed plumber in the state.

Earning a High School Diploma or GED

The first step on your journey to becoming a plumber in California is earning a high school diploma or GED. While this may not be directly related to plumbing skills, it is necessary to demonstrate the basic level of education and knowledge required for the trade.

Completing Plumbing Programs and Apprenticeships

After completing your high school education, you’ll need to join a plumbing apprenticeship program or enroll in trade schools or community colleges that offer plumbing programs. These programs will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to start your career as a plumber.

During your apprenticeship or program, you’ll learn how to troubleshoot and fix plumbing and heating systems, as well as other duties related to the plumbing trade. These hands-on experiences are essential for gaining the practical skills needed to become a licensed plumber.

Accumulating Work Experience

To become a licensed journeyman plumber in California, you’ll need to accumulate a specific number of work hours. The exact requirements may vary, but typically you’ll need to work as an apprentice for around five years and accumulate a certain number of on-the-job training hours. This work experience will sharpen your skills and make you a more competitive candidate in the field.

If you have previous plumbing experience or training, you may be able to bypass some of the apprenticeship hours by demonstrating your existing skill set. However, the specific requirements for exemption vary and it’s best to consult the California Contractors State Licensing Board for more information.

Passing the Plumbing Examination

Once you’ve completed your required work experience and apprenticeship, you’ll need to pass the plumbing examination administered by the California Contractors State Licensing Board. This examination will test your knowledge and skills in various areas of plumbing.

If you pass the examination, you’ll officially become a licensed plumber in California and be eligible to work as a journeyman plumber. This opens up many opportunities for career growth and a sustainable salary.

Additional Licenses and Certifications

Besides the journeyman plumbing license, there are additional licenses and certifications you can earn to further enhance your skills and job prospects. These include specialty licenses for specific plumbing areas like gas piping, as well as certifications from plumbing organizations.

The Benefits of Becoming a Plumber

There are numerous benefits to becoming a plumber in California. Apart from earning a competitive salary, plumbers are in high demand, and the job satisfaction is often high. The skills you learn as a plumber are also transferable, allowing you to work in various sectors and even start your own business.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re still not sure if becoming a plumber is the right choice for you, here are a few frequently asked questions to help you make up your mind:

Q: How long does it take to become a licensed plumber in California?

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A: The time it takes to become a licensed plumber in California can vary. On average, it takes around 4-5 years of apprenticeship and work experience, along with completing the necessary education and passing the plumbing examination.

Q: What is the median salary for a plumber in California?

A: The median salary of a plumber in California is around $55,000 per year. However, this can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and specialization.

Q: Are there any benefits to getting a formal education in plumbing?

A: While a formal education is not mandatory to become a plumber in California, it can provide additional skills and knowledge that may give you an edge in the industry. Trade schools and community colleges offer programs that teach plumbing theory and practical skills, which can be beneficial for your career.

So, if you’re ready to join the plumbing trade and fulfill the necessary requirements, you’re on your way to becoming a licensed plumber in California. With hard work, dedication, and the right skills, you’ll be on the path to a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Steps to Obtaining a Plumbing License in California

Step 1: Obtain the Necessary Education

One of the first steps to becoming a licensed plumber in California is to obtain the necessary education. While a high school diploma or GED is not required, having one can make you more competitive in the job market.

There are trade schools and community colleges in California that offer plumbing programs. These programs can provide you with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to work as a plumber. You may also choose to pursue an associate’s degree in plumbing.

Step 2: Gain Practical Experience Through an Apprenticeship

Once you have completed your educational requirements, the next step is to gain practical experience through an apprenticeship program. California requires aspiring plumbers to complete an apprenticeship program lasting at least four to five years.

During your apprenticeship, you will work under the guidance of experienced plumbers, learning the skills and techniques necessary to be successful in the field. This hands-on experience is essential for becoming a licensed plumber.

Step 3: Apply for a Plumbing License

After you have completed your education and apprenticeship, you can apply for a plumbing license in California. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is responsible for issuing plumbing licenses in the state.

Before applying for a plumbing license, you will need to meet several requirements, including passing a licensing exam. The exam will test your knowledge and skills in plumbing, and passing it is essential to obtaining your license.

Step 4: Start Your Plumbing Career

Once you have obtained your plumbing license in California, you can start your plumbing career. There are many job opportunities for licensed plumbers in California, including working for plumbing companies, construction businesses, or even starting your own plumbing business.

As a licensed plumber, you will have the skills and knowledge to troubleshoot and repair plumbing systems, install pipes and fixtures, and work on heating systems. The median salary for plumbers in California is above the national average, making it a lucrative career choice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Q: Does California require a plumbing license?
  • A: Yes, California requires plumbers to be licensed.
  • Q: Can I become a licensed plumber without completing an apprenticeship?
  • A: No, completing an apprenticeship is a requirement to become a licensed plumber in California.
  • Q: How long does it take to become a licensed plumber?
  • A: It takes several years to become a licensed plumber, including the completion of an apprenticeship program.
  • Q: What skills do I need to become a plumber?
  • A: Some of the essential skills include problem-solving, teamwork, and the ability to work with various tools and equipment.
  • Q: Are there online plumbing programs available?
  • A: Yes, there are online plumbing programs available for those who prefer a flexible educational schedule.

Becoming a licensed plumber in California can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path. By following the steps outlined above and obtaining the necessary education and experience, you’ll be well on your way to starting a successful plumbing career.

Step 1: Complete a High School Education

While a high school diploma is the minimum requirement, it’s important to note that some plumbers may choose to pursue additional education. For example, you may decide to earn an associate’s degree or a certification in plumbing technology. These additional degrees can enhance your resume and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning.

However, it is important to point out that a high school diploma or equivalent is still the standard requirement for most plumbers in California. Whether you choose to pursue further education or not, your completion of high school will fulfill the basic requirement.

Why High School Education is Important

Completing a high school education is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it provides you with the foundational knowledge and skills required to enter the plumbing trade.

Options for High School Education

If you are still in high school or are a parent/guardian looking for options for your young ones, there are several paths you can consider.

One option is to enroll in a traditional high school where you can take general courses and electives. This is a great way to explore different subjects and find out what interests you.

Another option is to attend a trade school or vocational school that offers specific plumbing courses. These schools often provide hands-on training and allow you to learn directly from experienced plumbers. This can be a great way to jumpstart your plumbing career and gain practical skills from the beginning.

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If you have already completed high school, but did not pursue plumbing at that time, don’t worry. There are still ways to enter the field.

Entering the Plumbing Field Later in Life

Even if you have been working in a different field or have taken a different career path, it is still possible to become a plumber. Many mature individuals decide to make a career change and enter the plumbing trade later in life.

If you are interested in becoming a plumber but do not have a high school diploma, you can consider obtaining an equivalent credential. Some states offer the General Education Development (GED) certificate, which is equivalent to a high school diploma. This can fulfill the educational requirement needed to become a plumber.

Snapshot: Steps to Becoming a Plumber in California – Step 1

  1. Complete a high school education or obtain an equivalent diploma.
  2. Consider pursuing additional degrees or certifications in plumbing technology.
  3. Research apprenticeship programs and licensing requirements in California.
  4. Look into trade schools or vocational schools that offer plumbing courses.
  5. If you do not have a high school diploma, consider obtaining an equivalent credential such as a GED certificate.
  6. Think about your long-term career goals and how plumbing can provide a sustainable work-life balance.

Step 2: Complete a Plumbing Apprenticeship Program

What is a Plumbing Apprenticeship Program?

A plumbing apprenticeship program provides aspiring plumbers with a combination of on-the-job training and formal education. During an apprenticeship, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from experienced plumbers while earning a salary.

Apprenticeships can be offered by plumbing businesses, trade unions, or even directly by plumbing schools. You can find apprenticeship programs available both in-person and online, allowing you to choose the learning environment that works best for you.

Why Choose a Plumbing Apprenticeship?

Completing a plumbing apprenticeship program is an essential step towards becoming a licensed plumber in California. Not only will you gain valuable hands-on experience, but you’ll also earn a salary while learning.

Apprenticeships offer a competitive advantage in the job market, as more and more companies are looking for experienced plumbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 14 percent growth in the plumbing industry between 2023 and 2023, indicating a strong demand for skilled tradespeople.

Moreover, a plumbing apprenticeship provides you with the opportunity to develop and showcase essential qualities of a plumber, such as teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment.

How to Find a Plumbing Apprenticeship Program

There are several ways to find a plumbing apprenticeship program in California. You can search for listings online, check with local plumbing companies, or contact trade unions in your area. Many vocational schools also offer apprenticeship placement services to help students get started.

When choosing a plumbing apprenticeship program, consider factors such as the program’s duration, the training provided, and any additional benefits or certifications offered. It’s essential to find a program that aligns with your career goals.

Remember, completing a plumbing apprenticeship program is just the beginning of your journey towards becoming a licensed plumber. Stay motivated, work hard, and continue to build your skills as you progress towards becoming a journeyman plumber.

Step 3: Pass the Plumbing License Examination

The exam can be taken in-person or online, depending on your preference. You will need to call the CSLB to determine the available options and requirements for scheduling the exam.

What the Exam Covers

The plumbing license examination tests your knowledge and skills in various areas of the plumbing trade. It covers topics such as plumbing codes, regulations, and safety practices. It also includes questions on plumbing systems, materials, and installation techniques.

The exam consists of multiple-choice questions that require you to demonstrate your understanding and application of plumbing principles and practices.

Preparing for the Exam

To pass the plumbing license examination, you will need to study and prepare. Many plumbers find it helpful to enroll in a formal apprenticeship program or training course. These programs provide the necessary education and hands-on experience to prepare you for the exam.

It is also important to gain real-world experience by working as an apprentice or journeyman plumber. This allows you to apply what you have learned in a practical environment and further develop your skills.

There are many ways to study for the exam, including online resources, study guides, and practice tests. It is essential to dedicate sufficient time to review the material and ensure that you are adequately prepared.

Applying for the Exam

Once you have completed the necessary educational and training requirements, you can apply for the plumbing license examination. The application process requires you to submit the required forms and fees to the CSLB.

It is important to note that the CSLB may require you to provide documentation of your educational and work experience. This helps them determine if you meet the eligibility requirements to take the exam.

After your application has been approved, you will receive a notification from the CSLB with information on how to schedule your examination.

Passing the plumbing license examination is a significant milestone in your plumbing career. It lets you join the ranks of licensed professionals and opens doors to new opportunities. By obtaining your plumbing license, you demonstrate your commitment to the trade and your dedication to providing high-quality service to your clients.


How long does it take to become a licensed plumber in California?

The length of time it takes to become a licensed plumber in California can vary depending on the individual. However, on average, it can take anywhere from 4 to 5 years. This includes the time spent gaining hands-on experience as an apprentice and completing the required apprenticeship hours.

What are the educational requirements to become a plumber in California?

To become a plumber in California, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED). While a college degree is not required, attending a trade school or enrolling in a plumbing apprenticeship program can be beneficial in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge.

Do I need to pass an exam to become a licensed plumber in California?

Yes, in order to become a licensed plumber in California, you need to pass a plumber’s exam. This exam tests your knowledge of plumbing codes, regulations, and practices. It is important to study and prepare for the exam in order to increase your chances of passing.

Can I become a plumber in California without completing an apprenticeship?

No, completing an apprenticeship is a required step in becoming a plumber in California. It provides you with the necessary hands-on experience and training under the guidance of a licensed plumber. Without completing an apprenticeship, you will not be qualified to apply for a plumbing license in the state.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.