How to Become a Plumber in California

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How to Become a Plumber in California

Some occupations are more lucrative than others.

If you live in California and you’re in search of a new job or career, you could consider becoming a plumber.

These professionals are in constant demand and they also have the possibility of establishing their own businesses.

Plumber Job Description and Requirements

Thousands of years ago, plumbers were working with lead which was used in the sewage systems of the Roman cities and not only.

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These days, plumbers work mostly with gas and water pipes found either in the homes, companies, or cities.

All these include:

  • Sanitary drainage,
  • Storm drainage facilities,
  • Special wastes,
  • Vent systems,
  • Public or private water systems
  • Gas piping within or adjacent to any building.

The major disadvantage is that you’ll need to undergo training for around 5 years.

Plumbers also measure, solder, and use a variety of tools to complete the task at hand.

They sometimes work outdoors in all weather conditions, will have to carry heavy equipment, and perform a variety of other duties.

Training as a Plumber

Plumbers train either in vocational schools or through apprentice programs.

Regardless of the chosen method, you’ll have to attend some classroom education as well as hands-on practice hours.

Classroom education should be around 2 years long, or 1080 hours.

The hands-on practice should last for around 5 more years, or 9000 hours.

Usually, the vocational schools make it easy for those enrolled to find an apprentice position.

Apprentices have a paid and supervised position.

They are supervised by a licensed plumber.

To be accepted in the plumbing training programs, you generally need:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • To be 18 years old
  • A clean criminal record in the last 7 years
  • To be able to read, write and speak the English
  • A valid California drivers license

While in training you’ll learn about:

  • Repairing leaky pipes
  • Reading blueprints
  • Installing boilers, furnaces, hot water tanks, sewer lines, sprinkler systems, and water well systems
  • Choosing the correct tools for each task

Some of the programs offer the possibility to attend the theory classes online.

Becoming a Journeyman Plumber in California

Just like in most states, to become a journeyman in California you need to pass an exam at the end of your apprenticeship period.

Unfortunately, the candidates won’t know how much they scored on the exam, instead, they’ll be told if they passed it or not.

All the materials needed to pass the exam are found at the Contractors State License Board (CSLB).

Those who become journeymen can have contracts on plumbing jobs that cost up to $500, both labor and materials.

These professionals also work without supervision.

Becoming a Licensed Contractor

In California, if you want to perform plumbing work that costs over $500, you’ll have to become a contractor.

For this, you’ll need to apply to the Board and only if you’re accepted you can take the contractor exam.

You can only apply if you accumulated 4 years of experience as a journeyman.

Additionally, 4 years of experience as a foreman, supervisor, contractor, or owner-builder, is also accepted for the contractor examination.

It’s mandatory for candidates to show proof of:

  • $2,500 as working capital
  • $10,000 as bond with the Registrar

Make sure to also download the application form from the Board and fill it out.

The application and all the documents need to be accompanied by the processing fee of $300.

This exam has actually 2 tests:

  • Business exam
  • Trade exam

The trade exam will cover the following sections:

  • Worker and job site safety
  • Service, repair, and remodel plumbing systems
  • Planning and estimating
  • Rough-in plumbing systems
  • Finish plumbing installations

Employment and Salary Information

Finding employment is relatively easy as you can start looking for a job while still being in training.

These apprenticeship positions usually transform into full-time jobs.

The income of a plumber depends on their experience and skills, as well as the job they need to complete.

The salaries are higher in cities like San Jose and San Francisco where plumbers earn much more than the average salary in California.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
Los Angeles $64,707
San Diego $61,802
San Jose $72,139
San Francisco $72,024
Fresno $57,596
Sacramento $62,131
Long Beach $64,091
Oakland $68,115
Bakersfield $61,735
Anaheim $64,235

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA850$67,540$32.47$109,830$38,770
Chico, CA140$65,240$31.36$106,210$36,970
El Centro, CA140$64,900$31.2$92,070$38,600
Fresno, CA950$68,960$33.15$117,710$38,280
Hanford-Corcoran, CA90$62,620$30.1$86,780$40,410
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA11,830$71,650$34.45$124,120$40,180
Madera, CA110$66,500$31.97$99,630$42,390
Merced, CA180$59,880$28.79$100,280$39,020
Modesto, CA380$67,850$32.62$111,340$41,650
Napa, CA130$78,420$37.7$131,630$48,550
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1,010$69,300$33.32$120,600$38,430
Redding, CA160$66,920$32.18$119,950$38,930
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA4,220$65,600$31.54$107,610$34,210
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA3,410$70,450$33.87$121,920$38,920
Salinas, CA350$71,590$34.42$122,260$46,010
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA4,290$70,900$34.09$110,230$40,330
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA5,200$92,000$44.23$155,680$47,980
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA2,330$96,870$46.57$167,310$50,940
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA350$71,980$34.61$107,130$45,720
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA280$72,900$35.05$123,900$41,290
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA520$65,580$31.53$94,640$45,140
Santa Rosa, CA710$76,420$36.74$127,920$47,390
Stockton-Lodi, CA530$75,000$36.06$128,940$39,420
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA500$65,330$31.41$97,250$39,430
Visalia-Porterville, CA360$63,620$30.59$95,360$37,440
Yuba City, CA100$67,660$32.53$115,590$35,010
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, OCC Code 47-2152, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Additional Information

Plumbers cannot perform work on forced warm air units.

They can however perform work on commercial, residential, and public constructions.

The employees of plumber contractors do not need to have a contractor license.

Union Membership

Plumbers have the possibility of joining a union in their area.

Doing this has several advantages and a few disadvantages.

Among the advantages is the possibility of earning more money and even receiving support if the individual needs to find a new job.

Among the disadvantages is the fact that the individuals need to listen to the union’s decisions even when not agreeing with them.

Schools Offering Plumbing Programs in California

School Name Address
Bakersfield College 1801 Panorama Dr, Bakersfield, California 93305-1299
City College of San Francisco 50 Frida Kahlo Drive, San Francisco, California 94112-1898
PHCC OF CALIFORNIA 1820 Tribute Road, Suite A, Sacramento, CA 95815
Diablo Valley College 321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill, California 94523
Foothill College 12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, California 94022
Los Angeles Trade Technical College 400 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90015-4181
San Diego City College 1313 Park Boulevard, San Diego, California 92101-4787
Pipe Trades Training Center 780 Commercial St, San Jose, CA 95112
Joint Apprenticeship / Apprentice & Journeymen Training Trust Fund of the Southern California Plumbing & Piping Industry 18931 S Laurel Park Rd, Compton, CA 90220
UA Local 467 1519 Rollins Rd, Burlingame, CA 94010
UA Local 447 5841 Newman Ct Sacramento, CA 95819
UA LOCAL 62 PLUMBERS & STEAMFITTERS UNION 11445 Commercial Pkwy, Castroville, CA 95012
United Association Plumbers Local 78 1111 West James M. Wood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Laney College 900 Fallon St, Oakland, CA 94607
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