How to Promote Yourself and Become a Master Plumber
Apprentices and journeyman plumbers can take a promising career to the next level by learning how to become a master plumber.
Starting a career as a plumber is a great option for those looking for a challenging job with a change of setting and new puzzles to figure out with every appointment. All it takes to start this job is to complete high school or get a GED, then apply to a trade school or plumbing apprenticeship program to begin working as an apprentice plumber.
After about 4 years, an apprentice can take the journeyman plumber test to get their plumber license, but there is room for further growth in this industry. Journeyman plumbers who have worked for 3 to 4 years can apply with the state plumbing board to take the master plumber exam.
According to James De Meo, master plumber and HVAC engineer at This Fixed House, “The basic difference between the two levels is that a [journeyman] plumber is a trained professional who can perform most plumbing tasks. A master plumber has the standard training, plus on-the-job experience, and then [attains] a higher level of technical certification demonstrating expertise.”
This plumbing certification indicates that the individual has a high level of training, experience, and knowledge in the plumbing field. Additionally, master plumbers receive a higher salary and can take on apprentices, which is beneficial when starting a new plumbing business. Apprentice or journeyman plumbers can learn how to become a master plumber while planning out their career path.
Before You Begin…
Master plumbers are essentially journeyman plumbers who have spent extensive time training and working in the industry to improve their knowledge and skills. Before pursuing a master plumbing license, it’s important for a plumber to understand the benefits, drawbacks, and responsibilities of this certification. In this career, the master plumber will offer a range of services, including installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing systems. A master plumber may work in residential, commercial, industrial, or institutional settings, as well as completing plumbing projects both indoors and outdoors.
“As a plumber, I do general plumbing work, but as a master plumber, I can design plumbing systems and manage larger projects,” says Andrew Miles, CEO at WaterFilterCast.com. “To become a master plumber, I had to complete additional years of [training] and pass a more comprehensive exam.”
Master plumber hourly rates are typically about $40.05, though wages can range between $30.77 to $45.43 per hour. After completing high school or acquiring a GED, a student can expect to spend about 6 to 10 years to become a master plumber. This time is spent studying, training, and working as an apprentice plumber and a journeyman plumber. Master plumbers may work for an established plumbing company or start their own business. They can also take on apprentices, making it easier to accept additional work when the business is just getting started. Plumbers will want to take some time to decide if this is the right career for them before starting the process of becoming a master plumber.
Tips on How to Become a Master Plumber
- Take pertinent subjects in high school, such as algebra, geometry, and physics.
- Study unfamiliar plumbing systems as an apprentice and journeyman plumber.
- Consider enrolling in additional trade school courses to further personal education.
- Work in a variety of settings to broaden the personal scope of knowledge.
- Take a free master plumber practice test before attempting the master plumber exam.
STEP 1: Complete your high school diploma or GED to get started as a plumber.
There are several plumber education requirements that must be completed before one can become a master plumber, starting with a high school diploma. In order to apply for an apprenticeship program or admission to a trade school, a student will first need to complete high school or obtain a GED. This demonstrates that the individual has the basic level of knowledge to pursue plumbing as a career, though the level of preparedness depends heavily on the subjects that are taken in school or studied independently. High school gives students 4 years, during which they are able to pick and choose specific courses to benefit them in future careers.
Plumbers frequently need to measure the length and diameter of pipes. They also put together plans and draft blueprints for intricate plumbing systems, so it’s important that they have a firm grasp on algebra and geometry. Similarly, computers are often used to create blueprints or draw up drafts of project plans, so it’s recommended that students take at least one computer course to learn the basics. If a student has future aspirations of starting their own plumbing company, it’s beneficial for them to study financial mathematics and look into any courses that could help them improve communication abilities and leadership.
Additionally, chemistry courses can help provide a foundation of knowledge for the student to ensure that they can recognize chemical symbols on common plumber products, such as solder paste or MAPP gas. Taking a physics class is also a good choice for students so they can learn how water and gases flow. And since plumbers use more than wrenches and frequently need to cut through metal water lines, open up drywall, modify studs, and locate buried emergency shut-off valves, it’s a good idea for students to take advantage of any courses that can give them hands-on experience working with a variety of tools. Simple DIY tasks at home, such as replacing the kitchen faucet or changing the toilet flapper, can also help to improve personal knowledge and experience with plumbing systems.
STEP 2: Apply for an apprenticeship with a local plumbing company to gain skills and experience.
After completing high school or obtaining a GED, the student’s next step is to complete the master plumbing license requirement to become a plumbing apprentice. Unlike with many other jobs where the student must pay for and complete education and training before they can start working, a plumbing apprentice will learn on the job. In this position, plumbing apprentices receive fair compensation for their work while learning from a professional plumber with a substantial amount of knowledge and experience. However, a plumbing apprentice must be supervised by a journeyman or master plumber when they work, so this limits the number of jobs an apprentice can take on. When working under a professional plumber, an apprentice will want to take the opportunity to ask for any plumbing tips or advice about working in the plumbing business.
Individuals who want to become apprentice plumbers can choose among several different ways to accomplish this goal. The most straightforward choice is to apply for an apprenticeship with one of the best plumbing services or through The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA). The applicant will need to fill out a series of forms and take a basic aptitude test to ensure they have the skills and knowledge (typically basic math skills and language comprehension skills) to start as an apprentice plumber.
Another route for a student to become an apprentice plumber is to apply to a trade school or to take one of the best online plumbing courses. Trade schools provide in-class and hands-on training for plumbing professionals, allowing students to immerse themselves in a variety of plumbing settings and challenging tasks. Students will want to make sure to evaluate the program ahead of time and check to ensure that it is an accredited program designed to help plumbers get an apprenticeship. The third path to becoming an apprentice plumber is for a student to combine both options: study plumbing and plumbing systems in trade school while working as a plumbing apprentice outside the classroom to quickly learn the skills necessary to work in this industry.
STEP 3: After completing your apprenticeship, take the licensure exam to become a journeyman plumber.
There is a lot to learn as an apprentice plumber, so it’s important for students to take as much time as necessary to find out more about the plumbing business, gain new on-the-job experience, and learn a range of helpful skills. After about 3 to 4 years, apprentice plumbers will be able to take a licensing test to become a journeyman plumber. Upon successful completion of this test, the apprentice plumber will become a journeyman plumber, which comes with an increase in pay as well as responsibilities.
Some journeyman plumbers will leave the company where they apprenticed after receiving their journeyman plumber license, while others may stay on. Before an apprentice takes the journeyman plumber licensing exam, it’s a good idea for them to speak to the master plumber who was overseeing the apprenticeship to determine if there is a position available with their current company. In some cases, the company will not be able to afford to keep a journeyman plumber, so apprentices will want to have a few backup employers in mind.
While it isn’t recommended for new journeyman plumbers, there is the option of starting a new plumbing business. Journeyman plumbers are allowed to work without supervision, so they can start a one-person company or even hire other plumbers to work for them, though they cannot take on apprentices. Journeyman plumbers can also pursue a plumber contractor position, which allows them to work on large jobsites and take on complex projects while coordinating with other contractors.
A journeyman plumber doesn’t need a master plumber to oversee their work, but in order to further their plumbing experience, skill, and knowledge, it’s a good idea for them to find a master plumber to work with if they want to become a master plumber. Plumbers can check to see if there is a master plumber license lookup for the area. This program isn’t available in every location, but in the areas where it is available, this lookup program can help a journeyman plumber quickly find a master plumber.
STEP 4: After 3 to 4 years as a journeyman plumber, take the licensure exam to become a master plumber.
Many journeyman plumbers are content with this level of certification in the plumbing industry. Journeyman plumbers can start their business, hire other plumbers, and work independently without worrying about needing supervision. These professionals can work in residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional settings, as well as working on both indoor and outdoor plumbing. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that some people may be satisfied simply having a stable career that pays a fair wage.
“Master plumbers spend years training on the job as an apprentice and journeyman plumber before getting the opportunity to take the master plumber licensure exam. Plumbers that aspire to get their master plumber license should use this time to diversify their knowledge of the industry and build their expertise.”
—Timothy Dale, BobVila.com contributor and former Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) Plumbing Project Manager
However, for plumbers who want to further their professional careers, improve plumbing skills, and learn more about plumbing systems and the plumbing industry, there is the option of obtaining a master plumber license. A master plumber license is also useful when starting a new plumbing business because master plumbers are authorized to oversee new plumbing apprentices, giving the master plumber a variety of workers from which to choose. For those who don’t find running a plumbing company appealing, another great reason to take the master plumber exam is that master plumbers are paid more than journeyman plumbers. Additionally, the master plumber certification can be helpful for plumbers when they’re applying for jobs with established companies or taking on new contract work.
According to Bill Bruininga, co-owner of Billy’s Plumbing and Rooter in Chatsworth, California, “A plumber is someone able to diagnose and solve problems. A master plumber is at the highest level with the ability … to solve the most complex issues [with no extra effort]. You become a master with experience.”
A plumber can take the licensure exam to become a master plumber after spending 3 to 4 years working as a journeyman plumber. The master plumber exam covers a range of subjects in order to thoroughly test the knowledge of the test-taker. Common subjects include the installation of plumbing systems, fire suppression systems, storm drainage systems, water supply systems, basic repair and maintenance of plumbing systems, advanced repair and maintenance of plumbing systems, and plumbing terminology. The test may also include questions about the International Plumbing Code (IPC), the International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC), laws, rules, and regulations that have been adopted by the examining board of plumbers.
According to De Meo, “The step up to master plumber typically involves qualifying in advanced plumbing concepts and systems, comprehensive knowledge of codes, management and supervision, reading designs and blueprints, and business ethics.”
Plumbers may want to consider taking a free master plumber practice test to help determine how ready they are for this step. Some individuals may need to enroll in additional classes to improve their knowledge and understanding of plumbing systems before taking the master plumber exam.
STEP 5: Consider starting your own plumbing business and offering apprenticeship programs to help aspiring plumbers on their career journey.
Obtaining a master plumber license is an accomplishment that takes time, effort, and dedication. It’s often considered the last step for many plumbers in their professional careers, so after passing the master plumber exam, a plumber will want to take some time to celebrate this achievement. When it’s time to get back to work, new master plumbers will need to decide if they will continue to work for the same company or if they will use this certification to get a raise, pursue a career with another established company, or even start a new plumbing company.
Journeyman plumbers can start their own plumbing business, but they may struggle to find plumbers to hire, and some contract jobs won’t accept bids from companies that do not have a master plumber. After getting a master plumbing license, the plumber will be able to take on plumbing apprentices, which can help when starting a new plumbing business. Plumbing apprentices cannot work on their own without supervision, so it may seem counterintuitive to hire apprentices at a new plumbing company. However, apprentices are typically paid less than journeyman plumbers, so hiring a plumbing apprentice is a great way for a master plumber to ensure there is a second set of hands on any job without paying a high salary for a journeyman or a second master plumber, which would likely translate to higher customer costs to hire a plumber.
Additionally, plumbing apprentices can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the job while providing master plumbers with the opportunity to pass on their skills and experience to a newer generation. Many master plumbers also find that training a new apprentice is a great way to further their own skills and enhance their understanding of the job. For those who are running their own business, training one or more apprentices within the company can be a clever way to ensure the company’s future. The master plumber can train the apprentices in how they operate, then take the apprentices on as journeyman plumbers after they have completed their apprenticeship.
It takes a lot of time and dedication to become a master plumber. An apprentice plumber needs to work several years before taking the journeyman plumber test; then as a journeyman plumber, an individual will need to spend another 3 to 4 years working and increasing their personal knowledge, skills, and experience before they can take the master plumber exam. After passing this plumbing test, master plumbers can use this certification to get better pay, take on unique jobs, and start training their own apprentices. While master plumbers do not need to start their own plumbing business, it can be a great way to further their career and show up when potential customers are searching online for “hire a plumber near me.”