Plumbing, Technician Tips, Industry Insights

Plumbing Schools in Iowa: The Ultimate Guide

Adam Lamirand
January 24th, 2024
8 Min Read

We all need plumbers, and plumbers need extensive training to do the job right. There’s a lot to learn if you want to join this essential workforce, and training is accessible throughout The Hawkeye State.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, CareerOneStop, projects a 17% growth rate in Iowa for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters as compared with 2% nationwide over the next decade.

There’s definitely evidence to support this on job boards. There are hundreds of plumbing jobs in Iowa posted across Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter.com

We’ve put together everything you need to know to launch a plumbing career in the state of Iowa.

Accredited Iowa Plumber Training Programs 

According to the BLS, “Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn on the job through an apprenticeship. Some attend a vocational-technical school before receiving on-the-job training. Most states require plumbers to be licensed.” All of this holds true in Iowa.

In Iowa, you must be licensed to legally perform plumbing work of any kind. The state registers or licenses every level of this workforce, including apprentices, journeymen, masters, and contractors. Iowa requires plumber apprentices to be registered and issues licenses at the journeyman, master, and contractor levels through the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. Iowa does not have an accreditation organization for plumbing training programs.

The following Iowa trade schools and technical colleges offer plumbing training programs:

Apprenticeship is required to gain plumbing experience in Iowa. The following organizations provide apprenticeship training programs:

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Plumbing Degrees & Certificates

As you weigh the benefit of getting some formal training at a technical school, community college, or online, you may want to speak with people in the field in the state where you plan to work. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, and some, like Iowa, require you to gain work experience under a licensed contractor.

Finding a job as a plumber’s helper can be very competitive, and you will need to find ways to move up the ranking list to be selected. There are often classes applicants can take in high school and college to prepare and perhaps be ranked higher on the candidate list.

They include trade classes such as blueprint reading and construction classes, and math classes like Algebra I & II, Calculus, Geometry, and Trigonometry.

Very few plumbers choose a four-year program to get a bachelor’s degree unless they’re seeking a related engineering or building construction degree. If this is a path that interests you, you may want to explore the Mechanical Engineering degree programs at one of the four-year universities in Iowa such as:

Typical Courses in Technical College Programs

Plumbing programs at technical colleges are all intended to prepare students for careers in plumbing, pipefitting, and related fields. All class instruction combines theory and practical skills. Most develop academic, technical, and professional knowledge and skills required for job acquisition, retention, and advancement.

Among the plumbing courses you’ll take are:

  • Introduction to Plumbing Technology

  • Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC)

  • Plumbing Blueprints and Codes

  • Isometric Analysis 

  • Waste, Sanitary Drainage Systems, and Venting Systems

  • Water Supply and Water Distribution Systems

  • Plumbing Fixtures and Appliance Installation

Further along will be intermediate and advanced plumbing concepts, pipe fabrication, and welding technology fundamentals, among other education courses, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification, too.

School Selection Criteria  

There’s much to consider when picking the plumbing apprenticeship school or program that is right for you.

Cost

Cost is, of course, at the top of the list. According to Community College Review, tuition at Iowa community colleges on average is $4,331 per year for in-state students and $4,920 for out-of-state students. There will be some variations in fees at each school, too, so be sure to review all of the costs involved. 

You will also incur costs for books and tools, but those tools are yours to keep as you enter your field. All students who are interested in receiving financial aid in the form of a federal (Pell Grant) and any state grants can apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form online.

Program Length

Program length varies based on the type of program (certificate, degree, etc.) and the school. It takes a minimum of 42 months in a registered apprenticeship program to qualify to take the plumbing journeyman license exam in Iowa.

Benefits

There are many benefits to formal education if you want to join the plumbing profession. Many employers will choose an applicant with a certificate or pre-apprenticeship over one without. Those credentials can also give you an edge in the selection process for an apprenticeship. Having some basic knowledge helps you to hit the ground running and secures your place in a shop full of professionals.

Online vs. In-person

You may choose to get that jump on plumbing training through an online program. Only you know if this type of independent curriculum will work for you. 

Penn Foster and Ashworth College are two of the most recognizable online plumbing programs. Bob Vila’s website and the CPA Accounting Institute for Success both list them at the top of their posts about the Best Online Courses for Plumbing.

If you know your learning style relies more on personal instruction, the traditional in-person classes and accredited programs listed above are fairly accessible throughout the state.

Level of Difficulty

Plumbing programs are designed to prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the plumbing trade in commercial, industrial, or residential sectors. Curriculum includes an understanding of mathematics and physics. Plumbers must learn to do a lot of different things to be successful, including: how to follow blueprints or other design specifications to install or repair plumbing systems (including water heaters); troubleshoot issues at residences or commercial properties; execute on remodels or new installations that involve running all water, gas and sewage lines; know how and when to use different material pipes and how to fit them together properly; understand the plumbing code; and keep accurate records of work performed. And, of course, especially in residential work, customer service is key.

School Comparison: At a Glance   

Let’s take a look at plumbing trade schools in Iowa:

Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids

Western Iowa Tech Community College, Sioux City

Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs

Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo

  • Offers a Plumbing Apprenticeship program for students who are sponsored by an employer or local business, and includes on-the-job learning and classroom instruction.

Steps for Enrollment in Iowa

Every college has its own way of doing things, but in general the process begins with applying for admission on the school’s website. Some require that you pay an application fee and provide several documents. In general, the application process has the following steps:

  1. Complete your application.

  2. Pay the application fee (if applicable).

  3. Provide proof of residency to qualify for in-state tuition.

  4. Have sealed official high school transcript or GED scores sent.

  5. Submit placement test scores.

  6. If applicable, apply for on-campus housing.

If you choose to start with an apprenticeship, you will want to contact the Local Union or non-union trade organization chapter closest to you. Each organization has a slightly different application process, but the application requirements in general are:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age.

  • Must be a high school graduate, senior scheduled to graduate or have earned a GED certificate. Applicants will be required to provide a copy of their diploma or GED certificate, and an official transcript of their grades following submission of the application.

  • Must have a valid driver’s license.

  • Have passed high school algebra or an equivalent post-high school algebra class with a “C” or better or pass an aptitude test.

  • Pass a drug screen and criminal background checks.

Plumbing Career Requirements in Iowa

You must be at least 18 years of age and complete a four-year apprenticeship that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and which includes 2,000 hours of hands-on training and 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. Once your apprenticeship is completed, you will qualify to take the journeyman license exam. To qualify to take the master exam, you will need at least two years of work experience as a licensed journeyman or be licensed in another state or local jurisdiction.

After you become a licensed master and would like to own your own plumbing business, you will need a contractor license. All plumbing contractors must be registered with the board and with the Iowa Division of Labor. All contractor applicants must include registration fee in addition to license fee, proof of workers’ compensation insurance coverage, proof of unemployment insurance compliance, public liability insurance of at least $500,000, and a surety bond of at least $5,000.

Iowa law requires every member of licensed professions to receive continuing education as a condition of license renewal. For each plumbing and mechanical systems board license, eight hours of classroom instruction is required for every three-year license term. Additional hours are required for those who hold multiple licenses.

For a detailed explanation of Iowa’s plumbing licensing requirements and how to fulfill them, check out our essential guide to getting your Iowa Plumbing License

Salaries for Plumbers in Iowa

Before paying for technical education and getting started in the plumbing field, you’ll want some idea of what you can expect in terms of the return on your investment of time, effort, energy, and money. In other words, what average salary can you expect to make as a plumbing professional in Idaho? Payscale.com data provides an answer based on your experience. The median plumber annual salary in Iowa for 2023 is:

  • Entry level <2 years: $45,300

  • Intermediate 2-4 years: $54,900

  • Senior 4-6 years: $59,300

For more information about plumber salaries, visit this state-by-state guide.

Industry Apprenticeships   

Iowa requires plumber applicants to complete an apprenticeship recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. These programs provide plumbing apprentices the experience needed to obtain licensure and show their commitment to the field. In addition to the college plumbing apprentice programs listed above, union or joint apprenticeship training centers in Iowa offer plumbing apprenticeships, including:

UA Local 33, Des Moines

UA Local 125, Cedar Rapids

Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association of Iowa, West Des Moines

Other School Options

In addition to the training programs and schools already mentioned, there are training centers in neighboring Nebraska, Missouri, and Minnesota.

You can find the training you need to excel in a career as a plumber in Iowa. The opportunities are all around you.

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