Plumbing License Washington - Housecall Pro

Washington plumbing license:
everything you need to know

The Washington plumbing industry is growing. Learn an in-demand skill and get your Washington plumbing license. This guide contains information about licensing requirements, apprenticeships, and job resources.

What plumbing work can be done without a license?

You need a Washington plumbing license to perform plumbing work in the state (with the exception of property owners). 

What are the different types of plumbing licenses in Washington

You can apply for a license to work as a journey level plumber or as a specialty plumber. There’s also a plumber trainee certificate for individuals to work under the direct supervision of a certified plumber.

Journey level plumbers can work in all phases of the plumbing construction trade. A specialty plumbing license lets you work in residential single-family homes and small buildings, on drinking and irrigation pumping systems, and on backflow prevention assemblies.

Getting licensed as a journeyman plumber takes at least four years. For specialty licenses, the length of work experience varies.

The average plumber pay is $35.00 an hour. Twenty percent of Washington plumbing jobs pay over $55,000 per year. 

Demand for skilled plumbers in certain areas of Washington state is projected to outpace overall job growth, especially as plumbers from the Baby Boomer generation continue to retire.

How to get a plumbing license in Washington

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (the DL&I) is the entity that issues plumbing licenses. Unless you already have an equivalent out-of-state license or comparable plumbing experience that you gained while in the U.S. armed forces, the first step towards working as a plumber is to become a trainee.

To do this, you’ll apply for a plumber trainee certificate. The goal is to keep this certificate active until you’ve worked the required number of supervised hours for a journey level or specialty plumbing license. You’ll need to continue renewing the certificate annually until you’re ready to take the exam for either of these two types of licenses. To get a trainee certificate you must be at least 16 years old. You’ll need to fill out an application and pay a fee. After receiving the certificate, you’ll have to demonstrate eight hours of continuing education training every year for a renewal.

A journey level plumber’s license requires that you show proof of 8,000 hours and not less than four years of working as a plumber trainee. At least half of these hours must consist of work doing commercial or industrial plumbing installation. As a trainee, you can back up this experience by regularly submitting an Affidavit of Experience to the DL&I. After fulfilling this requirement, you can pay a fee and apply to take the written license examination; a score of at least 70% will ensure you pass. If you want to install medical gas piping systems after getting your journey level certificate, you can take a 32-hour specialized training course approved by the DL&I and then take the appropriate exam.

The requirements for specialty plumbing certifications vary. As with the journeyman certificate, you need to receive a score of 70% or better on the written test.

  • You have to prove 6,000 hours and not less than three years of residential plumbing experience to apply for a specialty residential plumber’s license. This license allows you to install, maintain, and repair plumbing in single-family homes as well as in duplexes and in apartment buildings no taller than three stories.
  • For a specialty pump and irrigation plumber’s license, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have 4,000 hours and not less than two years of experience working on pumping systems that exceed 100 gallons per minute. This license is appropriate for those who will be performing installation, maintenance, and repairs on equipment that moves, treats, or stores water fit for drinking or irrigation purposes. Electrical certification is also required for this license.
  • To get a specialty domestic well plumber’s license, you’ll have to show at least 2,000 hours and not less than a year of experience working on pumping systems not exceeding 100 gallons per minute. With this license, you can install, maintain, and repair equipment that acquires, treats, moves, or stores water fit for drinking or irrigation purposes using a pump not exceeding 100 gallons per minute. Again, electrical certification is required for this license.
  • To obtain a specialty backflow plumber’s license, you need to show you have an active Backflow Assembly Tester certificate. This certification is issued by the Washington State Department of Health. A backflow plumber’s license lets you maintain and repair existing backflow prevention assemblies within a building but doesn’t let you install or replace these.

The best way to prepare for the license exams is to visit the DL&I website. You can prepare by studying the 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code and the amendments adopted by the Washington State Building Code Council. A free download of the amendments is available on the state legislature’s website.

You’ll learn the bulk of your plumbing skills during your apprenticeship, which will probably be sponsored by a union, a trade organization, or a builder or contractor association. Washington apprenticeships are organized by county. Each apprenticeship has its own list of conditions for entry. Being at least 18 years old, having a high school diploma or GED, and having a valid Washington state driver’s license are common prerequisites. In some apprenticeships, you may be expected to provide your own transportation and tools.

Formal study can give you a leg up on acceptance into apprenticeship programs. Direct entry can be offered to those who complete a no-cost Job Corps pre-apprenticeship plumbing program. You also may be given direct entry if you are a military veteran or member of a Native American tribe.

Without a trainee license, you can still learn the trade. The Penn Foster Career School offers an online plumbing program costing between $800 and $900. The most expensive preparation is offered by trade schools such as the Perry Technical Institute. The goal of their one-year program is employment for graduates as entry-level plumbing technicians. Tuition averages $18,000 a year. Trade school training isn’t required, but apprenticeship sponsors look favorably on it. 

Scholarships and financial assistance for people pursuing a career in plumbing are available. The Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Educational Foundation offers scholarships. You also can get a pre-apprenticeship certificate online through the PHCC Academy.

Should I join a union?

Joining a union is a personal decision. Today, a nationwide shortage of skilled tradespeople means that plenty of non-union plumbers can find work. However, dues-paying union plumbers often receive structured continuing education as a benefit. Also, unionized plumbers tend to work on more complex plumbing projects.

Insurance for plumbers in Washington

Workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for plumbers. Employers must provide this coverage to employees; coverage can be purchased from the DL&I. Plumbing isn’t a particularly dangerous occupation, but the risk of injuries is possible.

How to get my first plumbing apprenticeship

You can apply for an apprenticeship on the DL&I website. Ensure you meet all the application criteria before applying, then prepare for the interview. Be sure to dress in a professional manner. Apprenticeship sponsors will ask questions regarding your schooling, work experience, and mechanical abilities. 

Does my license work in any other states?

Washington has a reciprocity agreement with Idaho. The trade portion of your Idaho written licensing exam will be waived. 

How do I stay up to date with plumbing codes?

The Construction Industry Training Council of Washington offers plumbing code courses both online and at various locations within the state.

What resources are available in the plumbing industry?

Prepare for your career as a licensed plumber in Washington with the following resources.

I already have a license but:

  • I changed my name — You should notify the DL&I. Be prepared to show a marriage certificate or court order with your legal name change.
  • I misplaced my card — If you can’t find your certificate, you can request a duplicate from the DL&I by going online or by submitting a form. You must pay a fee of $20.
  • I changed my address — You can update your address online or submit a change of address request to the DL&I.

How often do I need to renew my plumbing license in Washington?

A journey level license must be renewed every other year and requires proof of 16 continuing education hours. The pump and irrigation and domestic well specialty licenses need to be renewed every three years, and the renewal must be accompanied by proof of 24 continuing education hours. A medical gas endorsement requires renewal every other year, as does the backflow certification. Evidence of a certain amount of brazing experience, plus up-to-date medical gas code knowledge is required for medical gas certificate renewal.

Some required continuing education classes can be taken online; prices for an 8-hour course range from $80 to $120. The fees for license renewals range from $45 to $121. However, if your license expires, the renewal can cost twice the original fee.