Alaska Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Alaska
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Learning the ins and outs of plumbing technology is intricate business, but the time and effort required pays well in Alaska. In fact, Alaska is the top-paying state in the country for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Almost every state requires plumbers to be licensed because it’s complicated work that can affect everyone’s health and safety.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 490,200 plumbers nationwide and Alaska employs 1,130 of them. That national number is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030 across the country, but in Alaska, the projected growth rate is 8% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters and 7% for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.
Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVACR or Mechanical professionals. In fact, only four states have fewer plumbers than in Alaska. According to the Associated General Contractors of America 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. and 56% of firms in Alaska had unfilled hourly craft positions. So, if you get the training you need you should have a variety of jobs to choose from when you’re ready.
Plumbing license requirements vary from state to state and in some cases, from locality to locality. Alaska has strict statewide standards for working in the plumbing business beginning at the apprentice level, and some cities have additional licensing requirements.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Alaska
Is a license required for plumbers in Alaska? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.
To perform plumbing work legally in the state of Alaska you must be licensed. The state licenses every level of this workforce from trainees to journeymen to contractors. Licensing is through the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Specifically, The Mechanical Inspection Section of the Labor Standards Division verifies training, experience, and registration requirements for applicants, conducts testing, and issues Certificates of Fitness in both the plumbing and electrical trades for Alaska.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in Alaska
What are the different types of plumbers licenses in Alaska?
There are four main plumbers licenses at the state level in Alaska, and they are referred to as Certificates of Fitness. There are also additional licensing requirements in Anchorage and Fairbanks. The state level certificates of fitness are:
Plumber Gas (restricted)
Plumber Utility (restricted)
Plumber utility trainee
Each one has specific requirements for licensure.
Plumber Journeyman Certificate of Fitness:
Requires a minimum of 8,000 hours of legally obtained work in the installation of commercial/residential plumbing. A maximum of 1,000 hours of trade-related classroom training may be used toward the work experience requirement of 8,000 hours.
Plumber Gas Certificate of Fitness:
Requires 4,000 hours of work in the trade. A minimum of 2,000 hours must be in the installation of fuel gas piping. May substitute 2,000 hours of commercial/industrial plumbing installation. Trade-related classroom hours may be substituted for up to 500 hours plumbing installation experience. No maintenance hours will be accepted.
Plumber Utility Certificate of Fitness:
Requires 1,000 hours of work in the installation of water, sewer, or storm lines; may substitute up to 125 trade-related classroom hours toward the work experience requirement.
Initial Trainee Applicants:
Must be at least 16 years old and, except for a plumber utility trainee level certificate of fitness, must provide documented proof of participation in an apprentice program accredited by the United States Department of Labor. Must also include a letter from the employer on company letterhead.
Anchorage and Fairbanks have additional licensing layered on top of the state requirements. In Anchorage, you must obtain a journeyman license or Municipal Contractors License or what is more commonly referred to as a Muni card. Any individual working in the Plumbing/Mechanical trade is required to obtain a qualification (fitness) card from the municipality and pass an exam to do so. Fairbanks requires passing an examination for its Plumbing Contractor Qualification (Master Plumber) License as well.
Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Alaska
Be at least 16 years of age and a high school graduate or GED equivalent.
Enroll in a pre-apprenticeship program like through a local vocational school to prepare for enrollment in an apprenticeship program or enroll directly in an apprentice program registered with the United States Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.
Apply for a trainee certificate of fitness, meet all requirements and pay a fee. Except for a plumber utility trainee level certificate of fitness, the department may not issue a trainee level certificate of fitness unless the applicant is participating in an apprenticeship program registered with the United States Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.
Complete apprenticeship working under the supervision of a certified plumber in the category you intend to be certified and gain the necessary education and experience.
Pass the appropriate exam given by the Department to obtain a certificate of fitness.
Meet any additional local licensing requirements where you intend to work.
Work indefinitely as a certified journeyman plumber for a licensed contractor or become a licensed contractor yourself by registering your corporation/entity with the State of Alaska Division of Corporations to receive an Alaska Entity Number and applying to the State of Alaska Business License Section to obtain a business license. You will also need a surety bond, general liability insurance, property damage insurance and workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees.
Keep your certificate of fitness current by completing continuing education and renewing it every two years.
Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Alaska
There are many benefits you’ll see from earning your Alaska plumbing license:
Most important, it is required by law in Alaska to be licensed through the state to legally perform any plumbing work.
Alaska is the top-paying state in the nation for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, so you can be sure you will be well compensated for your expertise.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill, and one that is acquired through a U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship is recognized everywhere in the country.
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 Mean Salary for a Plumber in Alaska?
The annual mean wage for a plumber in Alaska is $88,150 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as compared to the national average which is $61,100. That salary also increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $19.52 per hour in Alaska and $5,425 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyman plumber is $33.79 per hour in Alaska and $10,331 overtime per year.
Pay can vary widely, depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in Alaska?
The fee for the trainee certificate of fitness application and license is $250, and renewal is $200 every two years. Apprentice programs have different tuition costs associated with them, but most in Alaska are funded by the union, joint apprenticeship committee, or employer. If you go through a college or trade school, there will be tuition costs. Apprentices are earning as they learn, though, starting at a percentage of the journey level wage and increasing each year. The fee for a journeyman application is $50 and the license fee of $200 is collected after approval/passing the exam. If you work in Anchorage, you will have the city fees to consider as well. The plumber trainee card there is $85. Journeyman Plumber/Gasfitter card fees are $140. Contractor card fees are $400.
How to Get a Plumbers License in Alaska
Becoming a plumbing professional in Alaska isn’t fast, but it’s very straightforward. The state requires everyone who wants to join this skilled workforce to complete an apprenticeship recognized by the United States Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship. So, getting started is all about finding the right apprenticeship for you.
APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: You will need to be at least 16 years old and have graduated from high school or earned a GED equivalent. Apprenticeships are sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. If you get one of the coveted apprentice openings through your local United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs, it’s like getting a scholarship to college. Alaska has three UA local chapters that offer plumbing, pipefitting, welding, and heating apprenticeships. UA Local 367 based in Anchorage, offers each of those for both Residential and Commercial. It is a 10,000-hour program, about five years, of on-the-job training.
Apprentices are mentored on the job by journeymen and go to school to learn trade-specific subjects. Apprenticeships are very competitive, though, so you may need to distinguish yourself if this is the path you want to take. One way you can do that is by completing a pre-apprenticeship program like the one offered at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward. This can help you be more competitive for one of those union apprentice openings, or can make you a more desirable candidate for acceptance into an apprenticeship program at a university or for an entry-level job where the employer sponsors the apprenticeship.
Entry-level Employment: That’s another way to begin. Look for an entry-level job opening and work for a licensed plumbing contractor willing to sponsor a registered apprenticeship through Alaska’s Office of Apprenticeship, which maintains a list of registered apprenticeships that meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you. You will be required to attend classes at night or on weekends to get the requisite theoretical training, but you’ll be getting your academic instruction in tandem with your practical experience, and you probably won’t be paying for all of it.
APPLY FOR TRAINEE CARD: All initial trainee applicants must have (1) a current completed application, (2) a current color photo (no smaller than 2 x 2 in size), (3) documented proof of work in an apprentice program accredited by the United States Department of Labor, except for a plumber utility trainee (4) a letter from your employer on company letterhead, and (5) a $250 fee.
MEET EDUCATIONAL/EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS: As listed earlier, each type of license in Alaska has different experience requirements. The Plumber Journeyman Certificate of Fitness requires at least 8,000 hours of legally obtained work installing commercial and/or residential plumbing. Up to 1,000 hours of trade-related classroom training hours may be applied toward those 8,000 hours. The plumber gas license requires 4,000 hours with 2,000 being specifically in gas fuel piping, and the plumber utility license requires 1,000 hours of work in the installation of water, sewer, or storm lines. Once you meet whatever the required number of hours is for your specific fitness card, you may apply for examination.
APPLY FOR LICENSING EXAM: You will need to apply to take the exam using this application. The application requires that all documentation submitted as verification of your hours of experience must be on (1) a State of Alaska Experience Verification Form or; (2) company letterhead and notarized or; (3) verified through an Alaska based union. You need: (1) a current application, (2) original verification of the appropriate number of hours for the license requested, and (3) the $50 application/test fee. All three items must be submitted together BEFORE the department will schedule a test date. You must turn in your application at least two weeks prior to the date you would like to test. Applications and experience-verification forms must have original signatures. Copies, scans, or faxes will not be accepted.
TAKE EXAM: Exams are given by appointment only. You will need to call the Mechanical Inspection office to schedule testing in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau.
Note: Contact the Anchorage office for information on testing in other selected Alaska communities. A government-issued picture ID must be presented at the time of testing. There is a four-hour maximum time limit on all exams. A score of at least 70 percent is required for passing. More on the exams is covered later.
PAY FOR AND RECEIVE CERTIFICATE: The licensing fee is $200 for a two-year certificate of fitness. Fees may be paid by cash, check, and money order, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or debit card. Checks should be made payable to the State of Alaska. DO NOT MAIL CASH. Payments other than cash can be mailed to :
Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
1251 Muldoon Road, Suite 113
Anchorage, Alaska 99504
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own business, you will not only need to be certified but also registered as a Contractor. You will also need to register your corporation/entity with the State of Alaska Division of Corporations to receive an Alaska Entity Number, and apply to the State of Alaska Business License Section to obtain a business license. Business License fees are $50 per year and may be purchased for 1 year ($50) or 2 years ($100). All business licenses expire on Dec. 31, regardless of the date of purchase. The expiring year depends on your choice of an annual (1 year) or biennial (2 year) license. Payment can be made by check, money order, or major credit card. Again, make checks payable to the State of Alaska.
You will need a $10,000 surety bond, general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance—unless you are a sole proprietor, then you wouldn’t need the workers’ comp. There’s a lot of help found on the state website to walk you through this process. There’s an updated application with step-by-step instructions too.
RENEW: You will need to maintain your licenses as well. To keep your plumber certificate of fitness current, you’ll need to complete 16 hours of continuing education and renew it every two years.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in Alaska?
Most registered apprenticeships for plumbing take four to five years. You may also choose to complete a pre-apprenticeship program first. If you choose to become a contractor, the application process will take additional time. The great news is that as an apprentice you begin earning a wage from the very beginning and that compensation can go up each year as you acquire more training and knowledge until you are fully licensed at the journeyman level.
Alaska 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. Since the state of Alaska requires plumbing professionals to begin their career journey as a registered apprentice, you most likely will not choose to get a post-secondary degree. However, if you want to build your knowledge base before beginning as an apprentice, there are a couple of programs intended to prepare you for an apprenticeship in plumbing.
The Plumbing and Heating program offered through AVTEC provides students with a wide variety of experiences that prepare them for entry-level employment and for apprenticeships in the plumbing and heating, construction and facility maintenance trades.
Apprenticeship: There are many apprenticeships that will satisfy the licensing requirement in Alaska. Unions, trade organizations, and the state all offer them. Local United Association union chapters are a great place to start your search, because they are considered the gold standard in apprenticeships in the trades. The UA Chapters are listed here. Each has a slightly different way of doing things. You will want to apply to the local chapter where you live. Local 367 in Anchorage offers Plumbing, Pipefitting, Welding, and Heating Apprenticeships. Each is a five- year program consisting of 10,000 hours. The apprentice is paid while working, with raises of 10% given upon satisfactory completion of 12 months and 2,000 hours of work. Classroom and shop training is a mandatory six weeks each year. You are not paid while attending class, but if qualified, you can collect unemployment during that time.
You will work with and will be trained by expert experienced journeymen, who have extensive field experience in today’s plumbing and pipefitting industry. The cost of training is paid by the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC), composed of the Union and Union Contractors, as a part of each member’s fringe packet. If the Scholarship Agreement is not breached by the apprentice, there are no scholarship fees. There are some fees for books and licenses. The minimum requirements are:
Must be 18 years of age or older
Must have either a high school diploma, GED or a two-year minimum secondary/college Degree
Valid Alaska Driver’s License
NO DUI or DWI on your driving record in the last three years from application closing date
I-9 Employment Verification Documentation
WorkKeys tests (ACT Assessment tests)
The apprenticeships offered through Local 375 out of Fairbanks require a minimum of 250 hours per year of classroom training in related technical and theoretical aspects of the trade and 8,500 to 10,000 hours of on-the-job training. As a plumbing apprentice, you will earn money while you learn your trade in a tuition-free program. UA Local 262 in Juneau started in 1937 and trains apprentices and journeymen in plumbing, pipefitting, welding, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and all aspects of the commercial and residential plumbing trade.
Again, there are other apprenticeships. The Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska offers apprenticeship programs in: Carpentry, Electrical, HVAC, Insulating, Laborer, Pipefitting, Plumbing, Sheet Metal and Sprinkler Fitting. You can get more information on this resource and get answers to the most frequently asked questions on the ABC Alaska website.
The Alaska Workforce Investment board website has information for job seekers as well as employers and veterans to help apprentices find openings and help employers find apprentices. The site includes a list of current registered apprenticeship programs specifically for the construction trades through the Alaska Apprenticeship Training Coordinators Association, which offers training programs for boilermakers, plumbers/fitters, sheetmetal workers, and more.
Finally, the Alaska Works Partnership can connect you to training, education, apprenticeship, and careers in Alaska’s construction industry. According to its website, Alaska Works delivers services in partnership with Alaska’s Building Trades, the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the U.S. Department of Labor, Nine Star Education & Employment Services, and others, teaming with employers, communities, and regional organizations on targeted projects to find motivated applicants, provide the best training, and guide participants toward trade career opportunities.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs for books or tools, but the apprentice will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage rate and can receive periodic wage increases as they meet program requirements. The cost of tuition at a vocational school or college can range from a few thousand dollars for an online program or at a community college to $50,000 per year at a state or private school.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED and demonstrate mastery of basic high school level math. You may also need a driver’s license, a clean bill of health, and to pass a drug test.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job you will need 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.
Alaska Licensing Exam Details
All of the plumbing exams required by the state of Alaska are given by appointment only. You will need to call the Mechanical Inspection office to schedule testing in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Juneau.
Note: Contact the Anchorage office for information on testing in other selected Alaska communities.
A government-issued picture ID must be presented at the time of testing. There is a four-hour maximum time limit on all exams. A score of at least 70 percent is required for passing. If a passing score is not obtained, you must wait 30 days from the date of your last exam before retesting. Exams are graded in Anchorage.
The Plumber Journeyman Exam and Plumber Gas Exam are both closed/open book, and the Plumber Utility Exam is open book. All three are based on the 2018 Edition of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC).
The application/test fee is $50. The licensing fee is $200 for the two-year certificate.
The cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks have additional licensing, and each requires local examinations. In Anchorage, to obtain a qualification (fitness) card you will have to take an exam given by the municipality. These exams are given bimonthly for contractors and journeymen (Plumbers, Gasfitters and Sheetmetal). To be eligible you must show the required proof of hours:
Plumbing & Sheetmetal Contractor: 12,000 hours
Gas Piping Contractor: 8,000 hours
Plumbing & Sheetmetal Journeyman: 8,000 hours
Gas Piping Journeyman: 4,000 hours
To register for an exam, you must submit a completed application, along with notarized letters showing proof of hours. Applications can be obtained at the Development Services, Building Safety Permit Counter, 4700 Elmore Road, Anchorage or on the city website.
The fees are:
Exam Fee: $90
Card Fee: $400
Exam Fee: $60
Card Fee: $140
Exam Fee: No exam
Card Fee: $85
Fairbanks requires passing an examination for its Plumbing Contractor Qualification (Master Plumber) License as well. It is based on the City of Fairbanks’ appendices and amendments to the 2018 editions of the Uniform Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, and International Fuel Gas Code. You must use this form to apply for an examination and pay $200.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Alaska?
Plumbing professionals are licensed through the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Specifically, the Mechanical Inspection Section of the Labor Standards Division verifies training, experience, and registration requirements for applicants, conducts testing, and issues Certificates of Fitness in both the plumbing and electrical trades for Alaska. There is also some local licensing through cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Does My Alaska Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
Alaska does not have any reciprocal agreements for plumbers with any other states. If you are licensed in another state, you will still need to meet the educational and experience requirements in Alaska. If you’ve completed a United States Department of Labor Apprenticeship elsewhere, that should be no problem, but you will still need to pass the Alaska exam to get your Certificate of Fitness.
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.
Alaska requires all plumber journeymen to receive continuing education before renewing a license. According to state law, an applicant for renewal of plumber journeyman certificate of fitness must satisfactorily complete within the preceding 24-month period at least 16 hours of continuing education workshops, formal correspondence programs, individual study programs, or a combination approved by the department. At least eight hours must include a comprehensive general code course to the Uniform Plumbing Code and no more than eight hours may be industry related. To search for approved providers, you can go to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Corporations, Business & Professional Licensing Sponsor Search web page.
All Alaska journeyman plumbing certificates of fitness must be renewed every two years. The department will mail a notice of renewal to the card holder's address currently on file prior to the expiration date of the certificate. Renewals are $200 per two-year renewal. If the certificate has expired for more than 90 days but less than two years, you must pay a $50 application fee plus the prorated amount of time remaining until expiration. If your license has expired more than two years, you are required to reapply and retest. You must also send a current passport size (2 x 2-inch) photo or a digital photo is acceptable.
A trainee certificate of fitness renewal requires $200 per two-year renewal and an original letter from the employer on company letterhead or an original notarized statement, stating that the employee “continues to be indentured in a registered apprenticeship program and will be working under the direct supervision of an Alaska certified journeyman at all times.” You must also send a current passport size (2 x 2) photo. A digital photo is acceptable.
Other Requirements Unique to Alaska
The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development has introduced a new online system intended to make it easier to manage and renew professional licenses. It’s called MY LICENSE and the Department has provided detailed instructions on how to make an online account.
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