Discover your ROI with ServiceTitan: Calculate Now

Licensing Guides

North Carolina Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in North Carolina

category-iconPlumbing, NC

Table of Contents
  1. Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in North Carolina

  2. Types of Plumbers Licenses in North Carolina

  3. Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in North Carolina

  4. Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in North Carolina

  5. What Is the Median Salary for a Plumber in North Carolina?

  6. How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina?

  7. How to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina

  8. How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina?

  9. North Carolina Plumber Training Programs and Schools

  10. North Carolina Plumber Licensing Exam Details

  11. Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in North Carolina?

  12. Does My North Carolina Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?

If you’re looking for a career that is long-lasting, lucrative, and fulfilling, you may want to consider becoming a plumber. Plumbers are essential, respected tradespeople. It takes time and effort to master the trade and familiarize yourself with the government regulations but you’ll have tangible skills that last a lifetime. Almost every state requires plumbers to be licensed because it’s complicated work that impacts the health and safety of our society.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 490,200 plumbers nationwide, and North Carolina employs 12,160 of them. That number is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 across the country, but in North Carolina, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is significantly higher at 17% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters and even higher than that at 20% for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.

Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVACR or Mechanical professionals. 60% of firms in the U.S. and 70% of firms in North Carolina had unfilled hourly craft positions on June 30, 2020, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey. So, if you get the training you need, you should have a variety of jobs to choose from when you’re ready — you could even own your own plumbing business.

» Want to grow your plumbing business? Click here to get a demo.

Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. In North Carolina, licensing is uniform statewide, but the state website still says “check with your local City, County or Municipality for area-specific license requirements they may have.”

Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in North Carolina

Is a license required for plumbers in North Carolina? Yes.

In the state of North Carolina, to legally perform plumbing work of any kind, you must be a licensed contractor or working under someone who is a licensed contractor. Licenses are issued by the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors which falls under the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Types of Plumbers Licenses in North Carolina

What are the different types of plumbers licenses in North Carolina?

North Carolina does not license at the journey or master plumber level. There are three main plumbers licenses for contractors in North Carolina and a sublicense for plumbing technicians.

  • P-I (Plumbing -Class I) Contractor: Potable water and drain/waste/vent piping systems in any building (residential, commercial, industrial).

  • P-II (Plumbing-Class II) Contractor: Potable water and drain/waste/vent piping systems in single-family detached dwellings only.

  • RLP (Restricted Limited Plumbing) Contractor: Exterior building sewer piping, exterior water service piping 2" or less, exterior backflow preventers on 2" or less piping, water filtration systems.

  • Plumbing Technician: Potable water and drain/waste/vent piping systems. Must be a sublicensee of a P-I, P-II or RLP Contractor. This is not a contracting license. 

Each license has specific requirements that must be met to qualify for licensure.

CONTRACTOR: To be eligible to take the Plumbing, Heating Group 1, 2 or 3 Contractor examination, you must have 2 years (4,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. However, up to one-half (2,000 hours) (45 quarter hours or 30 semester hours) of the experience requirement may be in academic or technical training directly related to the field for which the examination is requested.

TECHNICIAN: To be eligible to take the Plumbing, Heating Group 1, 2 or 3 Technician examination, you must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. To be eligible to take the Fuel Piping Technician examination, an applicant must have 9 months (1,500 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service or repair of fuel piping systems.

STATE & LOCAL GOVERNMENT TECHNICIAN: To be eligible to take the Plumbing, Heating Group 1, 2, or 3 State & Local Government Technician examination, you must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. However, applicants for a license as a State & Local Government Technician who currently hold an active Class I plumbing or heating contractor license issued by this Board may qualify for the corresponding State and local government technician license without examination.

PRIVATE EDUCATION INSTITUTION TECHNICIAN: To be eligible to take the Plumbing, Heating Group 1, 2 or 3 Private Educational Institution Technician examination, you must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. However, applicants for a license as a Private Educational Technician who currently hold an active Class I plumbing or heating contractor license issued by the state licensing board may qualify for the corresponding Private Educational Institution technician license without examination. 

RESTRICTED LIMITED PLUMBING CONTRACTOR: To be eligible to take the Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor examination, an applicant must have 9 months (1,500 hours) of full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing systems. However, up to one-half (750 hours) of the experience requirement may be in academic or technical training directly related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. Current active licensees of the North Carolina Irrigation Contractor Licensing Board, who also hold Backflow Inspector Certification from an approved municipality in the state or demonstrates 500 hours of experience in the maintenance, service or repair of components of plumbing systems may also qualify.

Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in North Carolina

  1. Attend formal HVAC diploma or certificate program or earn a two-year degree; or

  2. Get a formal apprenticeship through a local union or trade organization or an informal apprenticeship through a sponsoring employer as an entry-level worker supervised by a licensed contractor.

  3. After learning the trade through classroom training and hands-on experience, you can apply to take the examination for one of the three technician licenses. It must be in the Group and Class for which you have met the eligibility requirements. To be eligible, you must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed.

  4. Complete the application, making sure that signatures are notarized where required.

  5. Obtain background check information from the approved provider.

  6. Send completed application with required documents and fee to the Board's office.

  7. If the application is denied or requires additional information, you will be notified of the issues. If the application is approved, you will receive notification of exam eligibility by mail or email.

  8. Contact the exam provider for scheduling. The plumbing exam must be taken within 30 days of the notification date.

  9. You will be notified of a pass/fail at the exam center following your exam. Failing applicants may attend an exam review in Raleigh prior to retesting.

  10. Passing applicants will need to submit the completed Licensing Activation form and fee in order to obtain the license.

  11. If you want to become a contractor yourself rather than working indefinitely as a technician, you will need to acquire 2 years (4,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed.

  12. However, up to one-half (2,000 hours) (45 quarter hours or 30 semester hours) of the experience requirement may be in academic or technical training directly related to the category for the license sought.

  13. Then repeat the process of applying for the examination, paying related fees, and completing the license activation form for your contractor’s license.

Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in North Carolina

There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your North Carolina plumbing license:

  • Most importantly, it is required by law in North Carolina to be licensed through the state to legally perform any plumbing work.

  • A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.

  • Only licensed plumbing contractors can: operate a business and advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, bid on public and government projects.

  • Having a license protects your company and customers.

  • A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and increases your earning potential as you acquire more experience.

What Is the Median Salary for a Plumber in North Carolina?

The annual mean wage for a plumber in North Carolina is $45,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, that salary increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to indeed.com.

Apprentice: The average salary for an apprentice plumber is $13.14 per hour in North Carolina and $5,429 overtime per year.

Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $23.82 per hour in North Carolina and $10,331 overtime per year.

Salary can vary widely depending on the city where you work and other factors like education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina?

It can cost absolutely nothing to get started in the plumbing field in North Carolina if you begin as a plumber’s helper— an entry-level apprentice position— working for a plumbing company. You just need to work for a licensed contractor and keep track of your work hours. Your employer will need to verify those hours to satisfy the work experience requirement to test for your technician license.

If you want to attend a vocational school or technical or community college for a certificate program or Associate of Applied Science degree, that’s another great way to get started. You will have that expense of schooling upfront, but employers often state a preference for job candidates with some knowledge of the field. You are also likely to earn a better wage starting out if you already have a degree or some kind of training.

If you decide to go after an apprenticeship, you may encounter fees but they are often relatively low and structured to be paid over the four or five years of the apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you’ll also be paid a portion of a journeyman-level wage and that salary will increase each year as you learn.

The cost to apply for a contractor’s examination, including the Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor exam, is $100 and the license activation fee is $150. The cost to apply for a technician examination is $100 and the license activation is $75, unless it is for a State & Local Government license. Then it is also $150.

How to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina

Some plumbing professionals opt to get post-secondary education through a certificate or degree program. Alternately, you could begin with an apprenticeship that will combine hands-on training with classroom instruction and usually takes four to five years. The bottom line is that you need to learn and begin gaining the necessary work experience required for licensure.

WORK EXPERIENCE: No matter whether you take an entry-level job or enroll in a formal apprenticeship, you need to accumulate 18 months or 3,000 hours of work experience before you can submit an application for examination for a technician’s license. Then you’ll send the completed application with the required documents and fee to the Board's office. Mail to:

State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors 1109 Dresser Court Raleigh, NC 27609

Make sure that signatures are notarized where required. Also, all fees must be paid by check or money order made payable to “State Board of Examiners.”

BACKGROUND CHECK: You must obtain background check information from the approved provider. All applicants are required to utilize “CastleBranch.com” to obtain a nationwide criminal record report and must attach a paper copy of the background report to the application. Applicants are required to pay the reporting service for the cost of the report. Detailed directions are included in the application packet. A past offense will not necessarily prevent you from getting a license. The Board will consider several things when an applicant has a criminal conviction.

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: If your application is denied or requires additional information, you will be notified of the issues. If your application is approved, you will receive notification of exam eligibility by mail or email. You must then contact the exam provider — PSI Exams Online — for scheduling. The exam must be taken within 30 days of the notification date. You will be notified of a pass/fail at the exam center following your exam. Failing applicants may attend an exam review in Raleigh prior to retesting.

SUBMIT LICENSE ACTIVATION FORM: Passing applicants will need to submit the completed Licensing Activation form and fee in order to obtain their license.

WORK EXPERIENCE: If you want to become a contractor yourself rather than working indefinitely as a technician, you will need to acquire 2 years (4,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience in the installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing or heating systems related to the category for which you wish to be licensed. However, up to one-half (2,000 hours) (45 quarter hours or 30 semester hours) of the experience requirement may be in academic or technical training. Then you’ll repeat the process of applying for examination, paying the related fees, and completing the license activation form for your contractor’s license after passing the exam. There are links to each of the different license application packets and forms on the Board’s website.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in North Carolina?

It will take a minimum of 18 months (3,000 hours) to qualify to take any of the Technician license exams in North Carolina, but you will have most likely spent some time taking classes first or an apprenticeship will take four to five years. As an apprentice, you will be earning a wage as you learn what you need to pass the state licensing exam. Likewise, if you take classes first as part of a certificate program or earn an Associate degree, you’ll still need to acquire the required experience and you’ll be getting paid while you do. 

The #1 newsletter for the trades.

North Carolina Plumber Training Programs and Schools

Plumbers are responsible for a lot more than just fixing leaks or clogs. They design, install, and renovate systems that carry liquids or gasses, so they must know more than just the mechanics. They must know plumbing code. If you want to build your knowledge base before beginning as an entry-level employee, there are programs at community and technical colleges throughout the state intended to prepare you. You can choose to earn a certificate or degree in plumbing.

Here are three great lists of the best Plumbing colleges and Universities in North Carolina:

  • Universities.com: Best Plumbing Colleges in North Carolina

  • Niche: 2021 Best Colleges with Plumbing Degrees in North Carolina

  • Prepler: Best Plumbing Colleges & Universities in North Carolina

You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists. 

The certificate programs are specifically designed to give students the base knowledge they need to prepare them for an entry-level position. Many employers hiring entry-level plumbers helpers look for candidates that have some base knowledge. They also tend to follow an apprentice model — pairing new employees with others who are licensed to begin hands-on training while requiring the beginner to attend classes if they have not already done so. Employers will even sometimes pay for instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average. 

Fayetteville Technical Community College offers both a diploma and a certificate program in plumbing. Guilford Technical Community College offers a 14 credit certificate program. Forsyth Tech Community College in Winston-Salem has a three-semester, 39-credit-hour diploma program and a two-semester, 18-credit-hour certificate program. Current tuition at each school is the same. For North Carolina residents, it is $76 per credit hour. Current tuition for non-residents is $268 per credit hour. There are many others to choose from all over the state.

There are also jobs listed for plumbing apprentices on zip recruiter and indeed. Or you can look for formal apprenticeships through union and non-union organizations which can run from $500 to $2,000 or more but those costs are usually spread out over the three to five years of the program.

UA Local 412 union serves North Carolina and South Carolina and offers apprentice training in plumbing and pipefitting as well as HVAC and Refrigeration Technology. The Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association of North Carolina also has four-year plumbing and HVAC apprenticeships.

North Carolina’s Apprenticeship program is managed by the North Carolina Community College System. The website for the program, ApprenticeshipNC, will lead you to registered apprenticeships that meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor. To get that recognition from the Department of Labor, the apprenticeship must include 2,000 hours of hands-on training and 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you.

Program Prerequisites: For any of these paths, you need to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED (General Educational Development) degree.

On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.

North Carolina Plumber Licensing Exam Details

The plumbing examinations are administered by PSI testing services. The Candidate Information Bulletin (CIB) provides you with information about the examination and application process. Every exam costs $100. Each of the plumbing trade exams for both the technician license and the contractor licenses are open book and each has a time limit of four hours, except for the Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor exam, which is two hours long. Contractor applicants will also need to take a 90-minute Business and Law exam. The Board gives detailed Exam Information on its website.

Examinations are given on a daily basis at seven testing centers throughout the state in Asheville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Greenville, and Wilmington. If your application to test is approved, you will receive written notification, including instructions for scheduling the examination, which must be taken within 30 days of the date of the notification letter.

Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in North Carolina?

The State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors Issues all Plumbing and Heating, Air Conditioning and Ventilation licenses.

Does My North Carolina Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?

No. North Carolina does not have reciprocity agreements with any other state. Anyone wishing to be licensed in North Carolina must meet the requirements and pass the examination(s). Current and former military personnel or spouses may receive credit for experience gained during active service. Click here for more information.

The only other possible exception is for Licensed South Carolina Contractors with a P-II license. If you are licensed and in good standing with South Carolina, you may be eligible for a technical exam waiver by completion of this form. The waiver is for the technical exam only and those who receive the waive would still need to take and pass the North Carolina Business and Law exam.

Plumbing Certifications

Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. National Inspection Testing and Certification (NITC), International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (ASSE Certifications), and other professional certifications are not required but may make you a more attractive hire to prospective employers or can increase your marketability to customers.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education is no longer required by the Board as a condition of annual license renewal; however; licensees are urged to take courses appropriate for their qualifications in order to remain current on codes, practices, technologies, and other subjects pertaining to the professional trades. 

Renewal

All plumbing licenses must be renewed annually by the end of the calendar year.

The State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors website has links to the form for both contractors with sublicensees and without. The renewal fee for contractors is $150 and for technicians is $75.

Resources

You can stay up to date on all Plumbing industry news in several ways:

Explore Toolbox