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Iowa Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Iowa

category-iconPlumbing, IA

Table of Contents
  1. Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Iowa

  2. Types of Plumbers Licenses in Iowa

  3. Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Iowa

  4. Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Iowa

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

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

  7. How to Get a Plumbers License in Iowa

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

  9. Iowa Plumber Training Programs and Schools

  10. Iowa Plumber Licensing Exam Details

  11. Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Iowa?

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

  13. Other Requirements Unique to Iowa

You can’t rush through the training it takes to become a plumber, but that time and effort can lead to a career that is long-lasting, lucrative, and fulfilling. 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 Iowa employs 4,590 of them. That number is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 across the country, but in Iowa, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is significantly higher at 16% 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 79% of firms in Iowa 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.

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Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. Iowa has strict, statewide standards for working in the plumbing business beginning at the apprentice level.

Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Iowa

Is a license required for plumbers in Iowa? Yes.

It is mandated from the very beginning.

In the state of Iowa, to legally perform plumbing work of any kind, you must be licensed. The state licenses every level of this workforce including apprentices, technicians, journeymen, masters, and contractors. The Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board (PMSB) is responsible for the licensing and regulation of plumbers, mechanical professionals, and contractors and issues all licenses.

Types of Plumbers Licenses in Iowa

What are the different types of plumbers licenses in Iowa?

There are four main plumbers licenses in Iowa and a sublicense for a plumbing technician specialty license.

  • Apprentice

  • Journey Level

  • Master Level

  • Contractor

  • Disconnect/Reconnect Plumbing Technician Specialty

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

LICENSE REQUIREMENTS:

Apprentice

  • Must be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate or GED equivalent.

  • Must be both licensed with the board and enrolled in a recognized United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship program.

  • May only perform work under the supervision of a licensed master or journeyperson. An apprentice must not knowingly perform work for an unlicensed contractor. 

  • Must provide documentation of criminal convictions related to the practice of the profession, including a full explanation.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • The apprentice license covers all plumbing and mechanical systems trades. Only one apprentice license is needed to practice any of the trade disciplines.

Journey Level

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • Must work under the supervision of a master licensed in the discipline of the work being performed in the design, installation, and repair of plumbing, mechanical, HVAC-refrigeration, or hydronic systems.  A journeyperson must not knowingly perform work for an unlicensed contractor. 

  • A journeyperson who superintends one or more apprentices may only provide such supervision in the discipline(s) in which the journeyperson is licensed and only while performing work for the same licensed contractor.  A journeyperson must not knowingly supervise unlicensed persons.

  • Must provide documentation of any criminal convictions. Applicants with a felony conviction will be subject to review by the board to determine eligibility for licensure.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must provide the board with evidence of having completed at least four years of practical experience as an apprentice AND proof of successfully passing the Iowa journeyperson examination for each trade discipline requested. Beginning January 1, 2010, the four years of practical experience required must be from an apprenticeship training program registered by the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. OR

  • Provide evidence that the applicant possesses a master-level license in the same discipline from another jurisdiction.

  • You must first submit an Exam Approval Application, schedule and pass the test, then submit a Post-Examination Licensure Application.

Master Level

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • A master who superintends the design, installation, or repair of plumbing, mechanical, HVAC-refrigeration, or hydronic systems must be available to supervise journeypersons or apprentices as needed and only in the discipline(s) in which the master is licensed.  A master must not knowingly supervise unlicensed persons or work for an unlicensed contractor.

  • Must provide documentation of any criminal convictions. Applicants with a felony conviction will be subject to review by the board to determine eligibility for licensure.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Pass the state of Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board master licensing examination for the applicable discipline. To be eligible to sit for the exam, you must have a journeyperson license with two years of experience. OR

  • You must have a master license in another jurisdiction.

Contractor

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • All plumbing and mechanical contractors must be licensed with the board and also registered with the Iowa Division of Labor. 

  • Must provide documentation of criminal convictions related to the practice of the profession, which must include a full explanation.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must provide required bond and information to be issued a Division of Labor Contractor Registration Number.

  • Must provide a valid unemployment insurance number, even if you have no employees.

  • Must provide the board with evidence that the applicant maintains a permanent place of business. 

Disconnect/Reconnect Plumbing Technician Specialty

  • Sublicense under a plumbing license that allows licensees to perform work from the appliance shutoff valve or fixture shutoff valve to the appliance or fixture and any part and component of the appliance or fixture, including the disconnection and reconnection of the existing appliance or fixture to the water or sewer piping and the installation of a shutoff valve no more than 3 feet from the appliance or fixture.

  • Must be at least 18 years old.

  • Must have no record of felony conviction relating to the profession as determined by the board. Applicants with a felony conviction will be subject to review by the board to determine eligibility for licensure.

  • Must submit proof that the applicant is receiving or has previously received industry training to perform work covered under this specialty license, or the applicant completed a Service Technician Associate degree, or Board approved equivalent educational or similar training

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Iowa

Be at least 18 years of age and a high school graduate or GED equivalent.

  1. Enroll in an apprentice program registered with the United States Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.

  2. Apply for an apprentice license with the Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board (PMSB) meeting all requirements and paying a fee. Receive apprentice license.

  3. Complete four-year apprenticeship working under the supervision of a licensed journeyperson or master.

  4. Apply for, take, and pass exam for Journey Level license.

  5. Apply for Journey Level post-examination license meeting all requirements and paying a fee. Receive journey license.

  6. Gain two years of work experience as a licensed journeyperson working under the supervision of a licensed master.

  7. Apply for, take, and pass exam for Master Level license.

  8. Apply for Master Level post-examination license meeting all requirements and paying a fee. Receive master license.

  9. Work indefinitely for a licensed contractor. OR

  10. If you want to own your own business and become a contractor, you must be both licensed with the board AND also registered with the Iowa Division of Labor. 

  11. Apply for Contractor license meeting all requirements including surety bond, public liability insurance, unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance and paying a fee.

  12. Receive contractor license.

Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Iowa

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

  • Most importantly, it is required by law in Iowa 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 Iowa?

The annual mean wage for a plumber in Iowa is $54,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as compared to the national average, which is $61,000. 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 $17.10 per hour in Iowa and $5,429 overtime per year.

Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $24.73 per hour in Iowa 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 Iowa?

The cost to get started as an apprentice in Iowa is fairly low. The fee for the apprentice license application to the Board is $50 for a three-year period. The fee is prorated depending upon when during the three-year cycle you apply. Apprentice programs have different tuition costs associated with them. All have some fees for books and tools, but much of the cost is absorbed by your employer or the union.

The Iowa Department of Economic Development funds and manages the Iowa Jobs Training Program, which provides $1 million in funding a year to support job training services to employees who are registered apprentices of eligible businesses. The program provides loans to Iowa businesses that are forgivable as long as the employer uses the funding to train a specified number of workers.

Union apprenticeships, like the one with Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 125 in Cedar Rapids, are five years long and have a fee structure that ends up costing about $2,000 spread out over the five years. Apprentices are earning as they learn, though. They start at a percentage of the journey-level wage and it is increased each year.

Once you have met the work experience requirements, you’ll also pay a fee of $35 per trade examination to the state and an additional examination fee of $109 directly to Kirkwood Community College, which administers the exams.

Each of the other license classes has a different fee for the three-year period as well. For a Journey license, it’s $180. For a Master license, it is $240. For a Contractor license, you’ll pay $250 to PMSB and then a registration fee of $150 to the Iowa Workforce Development – Division of Labor. Again, the fee is prorated depending upon when during the three-year cycle you apply. You can access the prorated schedule through this link.

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How to Get a Plumbers License in Iowa

Becoming a plumbing professional in Iowa isn’t fast, but it’s very straightforward.

APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: You will need to be at least 18 years old and have graduated from high school or earned a GED equivalent. The state requires everyone who wants to join this profession to become an apprentice and complete an apprenticeship that is recognized by 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.

Registered apprenticeship programs range from one year to five years in length, but for plumbing apprentices, they are usually four to five years long. Once you are enrolled in either a union or non-union apprenticeship, you must apply to the Iowa Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board (PMSB) for an apprentice license and pay the application fee. The application can be completed online or you can submit a paper application to:

Iowa Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board Iowa Dept. of Public Health 321 E 12th Street Des Moines, IA 50319

You will be charged an additional $25 if you file a paper application rather than online.

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: At each of the following levels of licensure — Journeyperson or Master — you must submit a state of Iowa Examination Candidate Application and pay a fee of $35 per trade exam to the state. The Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board accepts examination applications for:

  • Master & Journeyperson Plumbing

  • Master & Journeyperson Hydronics

  • Master & Journeyperson HVAC/Refrigeration

  • Master & Journeyperson Mechanical

  • Journeyperson Sheet Metal

Journeyperson exam candidates must have completed a minimum of 42 months in a Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program. Master exam candidates must have two years of work experience as a licensed journeyperson or be a licensed master in another state or local jurisdiction. Once you submit your application to the board office, staff will verify the information and, if complete and eligibility requirements are met, an Exam Approval Letter will be sent to you. The Exam Approval Letter contains instructions on scheduling your examination through the board's approved examination provider — Kirkwood Community College. You must also pay an examination fee of $109 directly to Kirkwood when you schedule your test. 

APPLY FOR LICENSE: After successfully passing an examination, you will need to apply to the board office for Post-Examination Licensure. A license is NOT automatically issued after you pass the examination. You can find detailed instruction and a link to online post-examination licensure here at the bottom of the page. Since the fees for different licenses vary and the fees are prorated based on when you apply, you will want to check the chart on the PMSB website.

BACKGROUND CHECK: Every license requires the applicant to provide documentation of criminal convictions related to the practice of the profession and include a full explanation.

CONTRACTOR REQUIREMENTS: If, after earning your Master license, you choose to apply to be a contractor rather than work for a licensed contractor, you will need to meet several additional requirements that are explained in detail on this page of the board website. All plumbing and mechanical contractors must be licensed with the board and also registered with the Iowa Division of Labor. The application process now allows contractors to submit a single application for both a license (issued by PMSB) and a contractor registration (issued by the Iowa Division of Labor).

Applicants will be required to include the fee for contractor registration in addition to the 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. An applicant also must provide the board with evidence that the applicant holds an active master license or employs at least one person who holds an active master license. You must obtain an unemployment insurance number before applying for contractor registration with the Division of Labor even if you have no employees.

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

It will take a minimum of 42 months to complete a registered apprenticeship and then become licensed at the journey level in Iowa. It will take an additional two years to meet the eligibility requirements to test for a license at the master level. 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 goes up each year as you acquire more training and knowledge until you are fully licensed at the journeyperson level. Then it goes up again when you acquire your master license.

Iowa 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 Iowa 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 Pre-Apprenticeship Program at Kirkwood Community College provides entry-level skills and knowledge for students preparing to enter the plumbing industry. Classes in the first semester focus on safety, hand and power tools, materials, pipe joining methods, code book layout, plan and print reading, and trade calculations. Hands-on classes concentrate on pipe joining, pipe materials, and basic pipe fitting practices. Students also design and construct a three-fixture washroom group. The second semester covers plumbing code requirements, installation requirements for drain, waste and vent systems, water pipe systems, gas pipe systems, gas venting systems, and cross connection and backflow prevention. It is 35 credit hours total and costs about $7,500.

The Plumbing Systems Diploma Program at Western Iowa Technical Community College provides hands-on opportunities to install, maintain, and repair plumbing pipes, fixtures, and appliances. It includes instruction in blueprint reading and final inspection and testing of all finished systems while adhering to the local codes and standards that are enforced by the State of Iowa.

Students who complete the WITCC Plumbing Systems Diploma Program have the opportunity to take a test to enter the WITCC Plumbing Apprenticeship program. If students pass the test with at least a 75%, they may earn credit for Year 1 of the WITCC Plumbing Apprenticeship program. In order for students to begin Year 2 of the apprenticeship program, they must be business sponsored and working 2,000 hours annually. Upon completing the WITCC Plumbing Apprenticeship Program, which has had the standards approved by the Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, you will be eligible to take the Iowa journeyman plumbing licensing examination.

Apprenticeship: There are many other kinds of apprenticeships that will satisfy the licensing requirement in Iowa, too. You can apply for a union training program like the ones offered through Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 out of Des Moines or Local 125 out of Cedar Rapids. Or you could choose a non-union training program through a trade organization like Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association of Iowa. Or you could simply apply for one of the apprentice positions listed on zip recruiter or indeed to see if an employer will sponsor you instead. Just remember that your apprenticeship needs to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor.

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.

Iowa Plumber Licensing Exam Details

The examination is administered by Kirkwood Community College with testing locations all over the state. Click this link to learn more about registration, exam fees, testing centers, and the reference material for each exam. A score of 75% or above is required to pass each exam and all exams are open book.

The Master Plumber with Gas exam is made up of 125 questions. You are given 5 hours to complete it. The subjects covered include:

  • Definitions

  • General Regulations

  • Plumbing Fixtures and Fixture Fittings

  • Water Heaters

  • Water Supply and Distribution

  • Sanitary Drainage

  • Indirect Wastes

  • Vents

  • Traps and Interceptors

  • Storm Drainage

  • Fuel Gas Piping

  • Health Care Facilities and Medical Gas and Medical Vacuum Systems

  • Firestop Protection

  • Alternate Water Sources for Non-potable Applications

  • Water Systems Sizing

  • Drain, Waste and Vent Systems Sizing

  • Fuel Pipe Sizing

The Journeyperson Plumber with Gas exam of 75 questions has a time limit of 3 hours. The subjects covered include:

  • General Knowledge of the Uniform Plumbing Code

  • Drainage, Waste, and Vent Systems

  • Water Supply and Distribution

  • Fuel Piping

Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Iowa?

All Plumbing, Gas Piping, HVAC/ Mechanical, and related specialty licenses are issued through the Iowa Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board (PMSB).

Does My Iowa Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?

Iowa only has a reciprocity agreement for plumbers with the state of South Dakota. In May 2016, the board approved its first reciprocity agreement with the South Dakota State Plumbing Commission. The agreement allows persons who obtained their license on the basis of written examination to obtain a similar license without having to pass another exam in the other state. This means that if you obtained a South Dakota plumbing license on the basis of written examination, you can submit an application for reciprocity to obtain an Iowa plumbing license without passing another examination for the state of Iowa and vice versa.  You must agree to abide by all other Iowa laws and rules.

The reciprocity agreement applies only to the journeyperson, and master plumbing license requirements. To apply for an Iowa license on the basis of reciprocity, submit the application either online or via the paper application. You must include a copy of your South Dakota license and a certificate of good standing/license verification from the South Dakota Plumbing Commission. You must also have a non-Iowa resident address at the time your application is submitted.

If you are coming from any other state or local jurisdiction, you will need to take and pass the Iowa exam and apply using the post-examination application.

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/Renewal

Iowa law requires members of every licensed or regulated profession to obtain continuing education as a condition of license renewal. For each plumbing and mechanical systems board license, the basic requirement is at least 8 hours of classroom instruction during each three-year licensing term. For those who hold multiple licenses, there are additional hours required. For a course to be valid, both the instructor and the course must be pre-approved by the board. The board lists some but not all of the approved training on its website. Not all instructors choose to list their courses, so other courses may be available in your area through your closest community college, trade union or association.

All licenses expire at the end of a three-year cycle. For instance, all licenses issued or renewed after May 1, 2020, will expire on June 30, 2023. You have a one-month grace period (for most licenses until the end of July) to renew your license without paying additional penalties or late fees. To renew a license, applicants must submit an application for renewal (either online or via a paper application), pay the renewal fee, and meet the continuing education requirements for renewal. You can go to the IDPH Regulatory Programs PMSB page for instructions on how to renew through your individual online account.

Other Requirements Unique to Iowa

There are detailed instructions on how to apply for your license or examination at every level on the PMSB website. Here’s a link to the instructions to apply for an Individual Apprentice, Specialty, Journey, or Master License. For the instructions to apply for a Journeyperson or Master Exam, follow this link. And, for instructions to apply for a new Contractor License, click here. They all require you to create an account using the State of Iowa’s Authentication and Authorization (A&A) service which is referred to as an A&A account.

Resources

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