Delaware Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Delaware
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You can’t rush the training it takes to become a plumber. There’s no shortcut or easy button, but the skills you learn are essential and last a lifetime. Almost every state requires plumbers to be licensed because it’s complicated work that affects the health and safety of our society.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,000 plumbers nationwide and Delaware employs 1,160 of them. The national number is projected to grow 2% from 2021 to 2031. In Delaware according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is significantly higher at 15% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters and 13% for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.
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Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVACR or Mechanical professionals. In fact, 60% of firms in the United States had unfilled hourly craft positions, 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 job choices when you’re ready.
Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and, in some cases, from municipality to municipality. Delaware has strict, statewide standards for working in the plumbing business beginning at the apprentice level.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Delaware
Is a license required for plumbers in Delaware? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.
The state of Delaware licenses plumbers at the state level as they do electricians and HVAC professionals through the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation. Specifically, the Board of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Examiners licenses and regulates the industry. Its website states that the purpose of the board is to “protect the public from unsafe practices and practices which tend to reduce competition or fix prices for services. The Board must also maintain standards of professional competence and service delivery.” The state requires licensure at the apprentice, journeyman, master, and contractor levels.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in Delaware
What are the different types of plumbers licenses in Delaware?
The state of Delaware begins regulating this workforce at the apprentice level. Plumbing apprentices are required to register with the State of Delaware Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship and enroll in an approved training program.
Delaware requires journeymen to obtain a Journeyman Certificate of Completion from an apprentice program that combines four years of hands-on training with at least 144 hours of education for each of those years, and at least two years of work under the direct supervision of a master plumber. The only other option is to work for seven years under the supervision of a master plumber and pass the Apprentice By-Pass Exam.
To obtain Master level licensure, you must be certified as a journeyman and pass the master plumber exam.
An individual who wishes to be a plumbing contractor must hold a master license and also be licensed as a contractor through the Delaware Division of Revenue.
Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Delaware
Typically be at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent unless beginning as a high school student through a Career and Technical Education program.
Must enroll in an approved apprenticeship program that combines four years of training with at least 144 hours per year of education and register with the Delaware Department of Labor.
Complete registered apprenticeship and work for two years under the direct supervision of a master plumber to receive Journeyman Certificate of Completion; or
Work for seven years under direct supervision of a master plumber and pass the Apprentice By-Pass exam to receive Journeyman Certificate of Completion.
Must apply online to take the Master Plumber exam and pay the application fee.
Upon approval from the board, pay a testing fee and pass the exam to be awarded your master level license.
If you wish to own your own plumber contracting business, you must get a contractor license through the Delaware Division of Revenue. This will involve unemployment insurance if you have any employees, general liability insurance to cover any accidental property damage and additional fees.
Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Delaware
There are many benefits to getting your Delaware plumbing license:
Most important, it is required by law in Delaware to be licensed through the state to legally perform any plumbing work.
You will earn as you learn with a potential for pay increases as you develop new skills.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
By meeting the high standards set in Delaware of completing a registered apprenticeship, you will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.
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.
You can own your own business and be your own boss.
What Is the Mean Salary for a Plumber in Delaware?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean wage for plumbers in Delaware as $68,250. The salary for plumbers increases as you acquire more experience according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $18.69 per hour in Delaware and $5,500 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyman plumber is $30.38 per hour in Delaware and $6,750 overtime per year.
Salary 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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in Delaware?
It can cost very little to get started as a plumber in Delaware. If you figure out this is your intended path while you’re still in high school, you can begin free of charge as a high school student through the Career Technical Education System. Three vocational-technical school districts in the state are New Castle County Vo-Tech in New Castle County, PolyTech in Kent County, and Sussex Tech in Sussex County. If you have graduated from high school and decide you want a plumbing career in Delaware you will need to find an apprentice position or program. The tuition at any of the vocational technical schools will be waived for you as long as you are in a recognized apprentice program.
There are also apprenticeships through union and trade organizations. UA Local 74 offers a five-year apprentice program for which tuition is fully covered as well. As an apprentice working for a private employer or a union job, you will be working full time and earning money while you are trained with increases as you learn more until you are making a full journeyperson wage. You will have to pay a registration fee to the state and renew it yearly as well as eventually pay to take the licensing exam and pay for that type of license. The same is true at the contractor level. The Delaware Master Plumber License costs $153 and must be renewed every two years.
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How to Get a Plumbers License in Delaware
Becoming a plumbing professional in Delaware isn’t fast, but it’s very straightforward. To enter the plumbing field in Delaware you need to learn and gain work experience. Delaware offers a few options for but has rigid requirements before permitting applicants to test for state licensing. You’ll need to acquire some combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training. Those are the two components of any U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the preferred path to working in the plumbing field in Delaware.
APPRENTICESHIP: If you decide young that this is your path, you can get a jump on that instruction. Through Delaware’s Career and Technical Education, some high schools offer vocational programs combining the trade education with high school curriculum. New Castle County Vo-Tech, for example, offers a Construction Technologies pathway that includes a plumbing program, a Heating, Ventilation & AC program, and an electrical trades program. As is explained on the website for the plumbing program, “Good plumbers use their minds as well as their hands since accurate computing, estimating, planning, and measuring are all integral requirements for this career.” Students who complete the program can earn the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) certification.
The county vocational schools offer adult education in addition to the high school programs. If you don’t get started in high school, you can turn to these programs to satisfy the classroom component of a plumbing apprenticeship.
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. UA local 74 serves Delaware out of Wilmington and has a five-year apprentice program. The Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee receives applications in the spring, usually in April and May. Call for exact deadlines — 302-636-7400. New classes begin every September.
Applicants must apply in person at:
Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 74 office
203 Executive Drive
Newark, DE 19702
Alternatively, you can find an apprenticeship through the Delaware Department of Labor Division of Employment and Training. The website explains the benefits of apprenticeship and allows you to search for registered sponsors. Or you can find an entry-level job and ask your employer to act as your apprentice sponsor. Your employer must agree to register you with Delaware’s Apprenticeship program which meets the U.S. Department of Labor standards that are recognized nationwide, so your credentials 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 it. In fact, the State of Delaware pays the tuition at vo-tech schools for apprentices whose Delaware companies have registered them with the Delaware Department of Labor.
Another option is to work seven years of experience under the supervision of a master plumber and pass the Apprentice By-Pass exam. The state doesn't issue a journeyman plumber license but rather a journeyman certificate after meeting either of the above requirements.
APPLY FOR EXAMINATION/LICENSE: A master plumber can design, install, construct, replace, service, repair, alter, or modify the pipes, fixtures, and other apparatus used for bringing the water supply into a building and removing liquid and water-carried wastes from a building. A master plumber can also install and connect gas piping.
You need a Master HVACR or Master HVACR Restricted license in addition to a Master Plumber license if you design, install, construct, maintain, service, repair, alter, or modify a product or equipment including gas piping in heating and air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, or process cooling or heating systems. See Master HVACR and Master HVACR Restricted Licensure for more information.
To get your master plumber license in Delaware, you will apply to sit for the appropriate exam. You will need to submit your application along with all supporting documents like your Journeyman Certificate, your apprenticeship program Certificate of Completion and proof of work experience after receiving the certificate. The application fee is $153. If you pass the exam with at least a 70%, you will receive your Master license.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own business in the plumbing field in Delaware, then you will also need to register as a contractor with the State of Delaware Department of Revenue. A professional license from the Division of Professional Regulation is not the same as a business license from the Delaware Division of Revenue. Most businesses need both to operate in Delaware. For information about Delaware business licenses, see One Stop Business Registration and Licensing.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in Delaware?
It takes years to get a master plumbers license in Delaware. No matter how you go about it, you will be working to get the hands-on experience you need, so you will be making money from day one. Earning while learning is a catchphrase often used about apprenticeships. The shortest path to a Master Plumber’s License in Delaware is through an approved apprentice program. To meet U.S. Department of Labor standards, it will take at least four years long and include at least 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. Then you will need to work under the direct supervision of a licensed master plumber for at least two years before you can apply to the board to take the licensing examination. That means getting licensed will take you at least six years, but you’ll be getting work experience the entire time. The only other way to qualify for licensure in Delaware is a longer path. You would need to work for a licensed master plumber for seven years, then apply to the licensing board to take the Apprentice By-Pass exam. If you pass that, then apply to the state board to take the master plumber licensing examination.
Delaware 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 Delaware requires plumbing professionals to begin their career journey as a registered apprentice, you most likely will not choose to get a post-secondary degree, but rather will take classes as part of an approved apprenticeship.
Typically you will find an employer first and then register for classes through a vocational-technical school. However, if you have trouble finding an entry-level plumbing job, you can contact your local vocational-technical division to register for class first. The tuition will not be waived until you are a registered apprentice and sponsored by an employer. But this will begin the necessary classes and you may meet other apprentices in the class who can inform you of sponsors in your area who are hiring. Additionally, vocational-technical schools may have career services departments that may assist you with finding a sponsor. Contact numbers for local vocational-technical schools in each county are below so you can get information on tuition, programs, and registration/class start dates.
Sussex Tech Adult Education Division (Sussex County): 302-856-9035
PolyTech Adult Education (Kent County): 302-697-4545
New Castle County Adult Education (New Castle County): 302-683-3652
You could also create an account on joblink.delaware.gov/ and search for employers in the field in which you would like to work. In your job search, explain to employers that you are interested in taking advantage of the State’s Registered Apprenticeship program. Doing this in either order is totally acceptable.
Tuition: Tuition varies from school to school. At PolyTech, each of the four year-long classes for Plumbing Trades costs $349-$398, but as long as you are a registered apprentice tuition will be waived. At New Castle Vo-Tech there are two fees associated with each course. Tuition is $350 and there’s a $150 administrative fee. All students are responsible for paying the administrative fee. The State of Delaware pays the tuition for apprentices whose Delaware companies have registered them with the Delaware Department of Labor. Companies outside of Delaware who register their students with the Delaware Department of Labor must prove that the student is a Delaware resident to receive the tuition waiver.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.
Union Apprenticeship: UA Local 74 offers a five-year apprenticeship that includes fully paid tuition and is very competitive. According to the website, there are usually more applicants than openings. To apply, candidates must:
Be at least 18 years of age
Have reliable transportation
Have valid driver’s license
Provide a birth certificate
Provide copies of high school diploma or GED equivalent
Provide official high school transcripts and/or GED scores
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.
Delaware Plumber Licensing Exam Details
Delaware requires examination for Master Plumber licensure. To sit for the exam, you must receive permission from the Board of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Examiners. A full explanation of how to apply for the exam is on the website. Currently the Board has contracted with Prometric testing services to administer the examination, but that contract expires at the end of June 2022 and the state is looking to pursue a new outside testing vendor to proctor the licensure examinations.
The way it works now with Prometric, once an applicant has submitted their application and it has been reviewed by the credentialist and deemed sufficient for board review, it is then reviewed and approved by the board at the next available monthly meeting. The applicant is then issued examination information to their email linked to their Delaware Professional Regulation Online Service (DELPROS) account. This correspondence contains all of the information necessary to schedule and prepare for the licensure examination. It will also include a pre-filled registration form with the examination name and number correlating to the license type.
The applicant then uploads/calls/mails Prometric with their registration and payment information to schedule the examination. Once the board receives the score report for that examination date from Prometric with proof of a passing score of at least 70%, the license is issued immediately.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Delaware?
The Board of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Examiners issues Master Plumber Licenses in Delaware. The board falls under the purview of the Division of Professional Regulation and makes sure that plumbing and heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration professionals meet all standards for professional competency, and adjudicates complaints against practitioners and, when necessary, imposes disciplinary sanctions.
Does My Delaware Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
Delaware does not have reciprocal agreements with any other states but does offer the opportunity to apply by reciprocity under certain conditions. There is a chart on the Master Plumber Licensure web page that explains that if none of the jurisdictions where you hold a current license has licensure standards that are “substantially similar” to those of Delaware, proof of experience is required.
So, if you hold a current plumbers license in Connecticut, Iowa, or Maryland where licensure standards are substantially similar you do not need to submit any proof of experience. If you hold a current license in Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia, you will need to submit proof of your experience under the supervision of a master licensee for at least seven years after licensure.
And, if you hold a current license in any other state or territory, the licensure standards must be evaluated by the board, and you must submit a copy of the other jurisdiction’s law and regulations for evaluation.
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.
Delaware Plumbing and HVACR licenses expire on Oct. 31 of even years. A few months before the expiration date of your license, a renewal notice will be sent to the email address on the record. This notice will explain how to access your online renewal application in DELPROS, the online professional licensure system. To complete the online renewal application, you must log in to your account, answer questions, and use a credit card to pay your renewal fee. You are notified of the amount of the renewal fee at the time of renewal. When you submit a renewal application after the expiration date, you must pay a late fee in addition to the renewal fee. The late fee is 50% of the renewal fee.
All notices about professional licenses, such as renewal and audit notices, will be sent by email only. It is important to keep your contact information up-to-date so that all the notices reach you. To check and update your contact information online, click on the Manage Profile link in DELPROS.
Other Requirements Specific to Delaware
Delaware requires everyone seeking licensure to apply online and gives a detailed explanation of how to apply on the Division of Professional Regulation website. You will want to review it carefully to avoid the most common mistakes. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions page on the website that can help.
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