Becoming a plumber is an incredibly rewarding, stable career path. No matter how much times and technologies change, no matter how much economic or social disruption we experience, people always need professional plumbing services. What’s more, working as a plumber provides a great opportunity to meet people, to use your hands, and to get the instant gratification that comes from successfully installing a fixture or unclogging a pipe.
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Before you begin working as a plumber, you’ll need to ensure that you have the proper licensing. The specific requirements for getting a plumbing license can vary from state to state, but usually there is a long process that involves work as an apprentice or journeyman, plus lots of continuing education hours before you ultimately sit for a master plumber exam. Completion of this exam is typically a prerequisite for serving as a plumbing contractor.
What about becoming a plumber in Virginia, in particular? Virginia plumbers have their own unique licensing journey to consider. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about becoming a licensed plumber in the State of Virginia.
Why Seek a Plumbing License?
Before we get into the specifics of becoming a licensed plumber in Virginia, let’s take a step back and consider the reasons why licensing is so important in the first place.
One reason why licensing matters is that it provides the education and practical experience you need to confidently and competently serve homeowners, as well as local business owners. Simply put, the licensing journey forces you to hone your skills and beef up your knowledge of local building codes and ordinances. It makes you better-equipped to do your job, and to do it well.
It’s crucial to note that the overwhelming majority of professional plumbing companies will not hire you if you don’t have a license. To get the best jobs, then, you’ll want to make sure you go through the licensing process.
Of course, you can always start your own plumbing business, without a license… but doing so may prove difficult. It’s hard to get offers from job sites, or to appeal to everyday homeowners, without the assurances offered by a plumbing license. And certainly, major contractors will not trust you for any job if you don’t have a license to back you up.
The bottom line: The licensing process is meant to protect consumers, but it can also be an important safeguard for your own plumbing career.
How Virginia Plumbers Become Licensed
Now let’s get into some of the details of becoming a licensed plumber in the State of Virginia.
How to Apply for a Plumbing License
In order to apply for your plumbers license, either as a journeyman or as a master plumber, you’ll need to complete all the prerequisites, then fill out the form provided by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.
No matter which level of plumbing license you are seeking, the form itself is the same. However, the processing fee is different. To apply to become a journeyman plumber, you need to pay $100. For those applying to become master plumbers, the fee is $125.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Licensed Virginia Journeyman
What are the prerequisites for becoming a journeyman plumber? There actually aren’t that many. For example, you technically do not have to complete your high school education or earn your GED in order to get your journeyman license. However, high school education may be required by many apprenticeship opportunities.
Becoming a plumber also requires you to get some practical experience, also known as vocational training. The best way to do this is through enrolling in an apprenticeship program. The more hours you spend gaining practical experience and classroom training in your apprenticeship program, the fewer hours of training you’ll need later in the licensing process.
Becoming a Licensed Journeyman in Virginia
There are multiple paths to obtaining your journeyman plumbing license in the State of Virginia, but they all basically involve a combination of classroom learning and practical experience. To earn your journeyman license, you’ll want to obtain some combination of the following elements.
- You can get four years of practical experience working as a plumber, followed by 240 hours of vocational training.
- Or, you could seek five years of practical experience working as a plumber, followed by 160 hours of vocational training.
- Or, you could seek six years of practical experience working as a plumber, along with 80 hours of vocational or continuing education.
- You could even get seven years of practical experience working as a plumber, plus a mere 40 hours of vocational training in the trade.
- You will also need to get either an Associate’s degree or a certificate of completion of a continuing education course from an accredited college or technical school, specifically providing you with training in the trade.
- Getting a bachelor’s degree may mean you need fewer hours of practical experience in order to sit for the licensing exam.
- You can ultimately get your journeyman license without any formal education, but doing so may mean you need as many as 10 years of practical experience, supervised by a more experienced plumbing professional.
In addition to the completion of your apprenticeship, and the accumulation of all this practical experience, you’ll need to complete a written exam. This will test your knowledge of plumbing systems and water supply systems, but more than that, it will test your knowledge of laws and ordinances that are necessary for your success as a plumbing contractor.
Getting a Master Plumbing License
The highest level of distinction among plumbers in Virginia is to obtain a Master-level plumbing license. What does this process entail, exactly?
Here’s a quick path to master plumbing license status:
- First, you have to complete all the steps listed above in order to earn licensed journeyman status.
- Once you receive your journeyman license, you will need to get a full year of practical experience working as a plumbing journeyman.
- You can actually skip the journeyman step altogether, and apply directly for your master plumbing license if you have a decade of practical experience working as a plumber under the supervision of a licensed professional.
- Either way, you will need to sit for another license exam, verifying that you have received sufficient training in the trade and that you know all the right laws, building codes, ordinances, etc.
Once you have completed your examination, you’ll be ready to begin working as a master plumber in the State of Virginia.
Which Type of Virginia Plumbing License Do You Need?
You may wonder, what’s the difference between working as a journeyman plumber versus getting a master plumber license? Beyond the hours of formal vocational training in the trade, plus the years of practical experience required, what’s the difference between each type of Virginia plumbing license?
When you work as a journeyman plumber, it means you can work under the supervision of a master plumber, on jobs that are valued at no more than $1,000 in total. Working as a journeyman is a great way to build your years of practical experience plus your hours of formal vocational training. However, you won’t have as much autonomy as you would with a master plumber license.
Once you get the hours of formal vocational training and the years of practical experience in the trade that you need, it’s worth completing the remaining Virginia plumbing license requirements to become a master plumber.
When you obtain the hours of formal vocational training, plus the years of practical experience in the trade that you need to become a master plumber, your career prospects will really open up. Becoming a master plumber allows you to:
- Lay out the details for installing, repairing, and maintaining plumbing systems on a larger scale;
- Supervise your own team of plumbers, including journeymen and apprentices;
- Start amassing the hours of formal vocational training, plus experience in the trade, that you need in order to sit for your contractors license (if you so desire).
If you ever do decide to get your contractor license, it essentially just means you can start tackling even bigger plumbing installation and repair projects, including projects that are valued at more than $1,000. There are a number of sub-categories of contractor license to consider, and all of them will require higher levels of experience in the trade, plus additional hours of formal vocational training.
Becoming a Licensed Plumber in the State of Virginia
To recap: Whether you are looking to sit for your journeyman plumber license exam or your master tradesman license exam, there are a few steps you’ll need to complete.
- Consider earning the right educational credentials, whether that means getting a Bachelor’s degree or completing classes at a technical school.
- Be sure your pre-license education includes a sufficient level of vocational training.
- Study local laws and ordinances so that you’re ready to earn that journeyman plumber license, master license, or even a plumbing contractor license.
Once you are licensed, make sure you let everyone know! Advertising your license status is a great way to earn the trust of local homeowners and business owners, and ultimately to build your business. Contact us to find out more.