In many places around the world, being a contractor and being a tradesperson require 2 different licenses.
This is also the case in West Virginia, so those who want to contract plumbing work need a plumber’s license as well as a contractor license or permit.
If you’re interested in this occupation, here is where you learn what you need to do to become a plumber.
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Plumber Job Description and Requirements
In West Virginia, plumbers generally install water lines, vents, and drains inside a building.
There are a series of plumbing tasks that can be performed without being a plumber, such as changing faucets, installing some appliances, or an HVAC unit.
Daily, depending on experience, their routine includes:
- Reading and interpreting blueprints
- Designing piping systems
- Installing, maintaining, and repairing systems that use pipes
- Adhering to safety regulations
- Assessing damage to pipes, finding and implementing solutions
- Measuring, cutting, and soldering
- Choosing the right tools and materials for each task
- Maintaining their tools
One can’t obtain a plumbing license without some training.
In West Virginia, the state’s Division of Labor issues plumbing licenses for the following:
- Plumbers in training
- Journeymen plumbers
- Master plumbers
Becoming a Plumber in Training
In most other regions and states, a plumber in training is called an apprentice.
These individuals have less than 8,000 hours of plumbing experience and all their work needs to be supervised.
To become a plumber in training, individuals generally need to:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Enroll in an accredited apprenticeship program
Finding such a program at a vocational school is an option and opens the door for more career opportunities, you also earn a degree.
Each program provider might have different requirements when accepting new trainees
These may include:
- Being 18 years old
- Having a clean criminal record
- Passing a drug test
- Showing knowledge of English and/or math
- Having a driver’s license
You should know that you’re expected to attend some classroom education courses as well, on top of the hands-on training, no matter the route you chose.
Some providers might organize the classes online.
Expect to have classes such as:
- Reading and drafting blueprints
- The safety measures
- Soldering methods for plumbers
- Measuring and cutting
- Which materials and tools to use for which task
- Installing sprinklers
It’s good to enroll in a program that has OSHA training as well.
Becoming a Journeyman Plumber
Apprentices who accumulated 8,000 hours of work experience can take the exam to become journeymen plumbers.
To be allowed to take this exam you need documents that show your experience, such as:
- Pay stubs
- Records from consumers
The exam is organized by ProV, and there is a fee associated with it.
You should also fill out an application form for the exam.
The plumber license costs $75 and needs to be renewed once in a while.
The renewal fee is still $75 and the renewal date is written on the license.
Journeymen plumbers are allowed to instruct and supervise apprentices, but they also need supervision when performing plumbing work.
Becoming a Master Plumber
When individuals accumulated 12,000 hours of plumbing experience, they can apply for the master plumber license.
They can use the same kind of documents as journeymen, to prove they have the needed number of hours.
For this purpose, they also need to pass an exam that is still administered by ProV.
Master plumbers might have to take 2 exams:
- 1 for the trade
- 1 for business and law
The Business and Law exam is for those who perform work valued at over $2,500.
These individuals need to have a contractor’s license as well.
Being a master plumber means you have the required knowledge for designing plumbing systems.
Plumber Salary Information
Plumbers in training also earn a salary.
Compared to journeymen and master plumbers, apprentices earn much less.
Finding work in a larger city and earning more experience will bring a higher paycheck.Annual Salary Range: Annual Salary by Location:
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This information is related to the occupation itself and not to the training process.
West Virginia and a few other states have a plumbing license reciprocity agreement.
They’re generally limited to allowing the candidates to skip the examinations.
The agreement with Ohio covers these exams:
- Trade exam
- Law and business exam
Individuals who got licensed in Ohio may qualify for a waiver for these exams.
Joining a Union
All plumbers can join a union if they so wish.
Unions can help with finding an apprenticeship position, job placements later on if needed.
Union members do have to pay a membership fee, but they also have higher salaries, receive health and disability insurance coverage, and other benefits.