Kentucky Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Kentucky
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We rarely think about the plumbing in our homes and businesses unless something goes wrong with it. Plumbers become the heroes who rush to our rescue when that happens. We simply cannot live without these essential experts. As a result, most states agree there should be a minimum amount of training and education for all plumbers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,000 plumbers nationwide and Kentucky employs 4,740 of them. The national number is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031 adding 9,100 of these skilled workers to the ranks. In Kentucky, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is more than twice that at 5% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.
Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVACR professionals. In fact, 60% of firms in the United States and in Kentucky 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 jobs to choose from when you’re ready.
If you’re considering taking this career path, you’ll need to understand the licensing regulations and how to navigate the terrain. In Kentucky, it will take you at least two years as an apprentice before applying for a journeyman license, but then you will have started a career with job security.
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Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Kentucky
Is a license required for plumbers in Kentucky? Yes.
Kentucky licenses plumbers, electricians, and HVAC professionals at the state level. It is illegal to do any plumbing work without a license in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. However, Kentucky does not require you to have a license to begin working and learning as a plumber’s apprentice, as long as you are directly supervised by a licensed journeyman plumber and generally supervised by a licensed master plumber.
The Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction — Division of Plumbing issues and renews all plumbing licenses in the Commonwealth. The online address for DHBC is http://dhbc.ky.gov.
Types of Plumbing Licenses in Kentucky
What are the different types of plumbing licenses in Kentucky?
There are two types of plumbing licenses in Kentucky:
Steps to Get a Plumbing License in Kentucky
You must be at least 18 years of age.
You must be a citizen of the U.S. or be authorized to work in the U.S.
You must be of good moral character and pass a criminal background check.
Have at least two consecutive years as an apprentice plumber or complete a department-approved course that includes content on the practice of plumbing or the Kentucky State Plumbing Code and at least one year of experience as an apprentice plumber.
Take and pass the journeyman examination using form PLB-3 to register, provide a passport-sized color photograph taken within the past six months, and pay a testing fee of $50.
Apply for Journeyman Plumber License using form PLB-2, including documentation of years of experience and pay a $60 licensing fee.
After two more years working as a licensed journeyman under the supervision of a licensed master plumber or if you hold an engineer license in Kentucky, you can apply for a master plumber license.
Take and pass the master plumber license examination using form PLB-3 to register, provide a passport-sized color photograph taken within the past six months, and pay a $150 testing fee.
Apply for master plumber license using form PLB-1 including documentation of years of experience, pay $250 licensing fee, provide proof of general liability insurance of at least $250,000, and submit proof of compliance with workers' compensation and unemployment insurance laws of the state.
Benefits of Getting a Plumbing License in Kentucky
There are many benefits to getting your Kentucky Plumbing Contractor license:
Most important, it is required by law in Kentucky to be licensed through the state to legally perform 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. It also increases your earning potential.
What Is the Mean Salary for a Plumber in Kentucky?
The annual mean wage for a plumber in Kentucky is $57,630 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salary for a plumber in Kentucky increases as you might expect as you acquire more experience.
Apprentice: The average salary for an apprentice plumber is $15.31 per hour in Kentucky and $5,500 overtime per year, according to Indeed.com.
Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $25.55 per hour in Kentucky and $6,750 overtime per year, according to Indeed.com.
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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbing License in Kentucky?
The cost of getting a plumbing license in Kentucky is relatively low. There is no fee to begin your training as an apprentice. The annual fee for a Journeyman Plumber license is $60, and the annual fee for a Master Plumber license is $250. You’ll need to renew it every year by the end of your birth month.
You can also expect to pay $50 for the journeyman plumber licensing exam and $150 for the master plumber license exam.
How to Get a Plumbing License in Kentucky
Kentucky follows the apprenticeship model of many other states. For every licensing level, you must be at least 18 years old.
WORK EXPERIENCE: The state requires apprentices to document two years of experience before applicants can take the journeyman licensing examination. That documented work must be under:
The direct supervision of at least one journeyman plumber; and
The general supervision of a master plumber
You can begin the process by finding a program sponsor as an apprentice/entry-level worker or through a vocational school or community college. Completion of a two-year plumbing course counts as one year of experience. Sponsors of both full-length traditional programs and shorter programs can be found on the Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet’s Apprenticeship page. There are also spreadsheets through this link that will help you identify possible apprentice opportunities.
Certification tests are rigorous and thorough, so additional formal education at a college or trade school may be a more helpful first step in your training to be a plumber. Employers often state a preference for apprentices who have graduated from a relevant trade school or technical college.
TAKE LICENSING EXAM AND PAY EXAM FEE: After getting the documented work experience as an apprentice, you can register to take the plumbing examination. You must include the exam fee of $50 for the journeyman plumber examination payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer, and provide a passport-sized color photograph taken within the past six months.
APPLY FOR LICENSE: Once you’ve successfully passed your exam and have all the other documentation of the required work experience, you may apply for your journeyman license. The annual fee for a journeyman license is $60. All licenses expire at the end of the license holder’s birth month. You can work as a journeyman indefinitely. You simply need to renew your license every year and work under the supervision of a master plumber.
ADDITIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE FOR MASTER LICENSE: A candidate for master plumber must have had a valid journeyman plumber license for two years within the five years preceding the exam and have been employed in the plumbing trade for the past two years or be a registered mechanical engineer.
TAKE LICENSING EXAM AND PAY EXAM FEE: After getting the documented work experience as a journeyman, you can register to take the plumbing examination. You must include the exam fee of $150 for the master plumber examination payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer, and provide a passport-sized color photograph taken within the past six months.
APPLY FOR MASTER PLUMBER LICENSE: Once you’ve passed the exam and have all the other documentation you need for demonstrating you’ve fulfilled the work experience requirements, a journeyman can apply for a master plumber license. The annual fee for a master license is $250. All licenses expire at the end of the license holder’s birth month. You will need to renew your license every year.
PROVIDE PROOF OF INSURANCE: Master plumbers must provide proof of general liability insurance of at least $250,000, and submit proof of compliance with workers' compensation and unemployment insurance laws of the Commonwealth.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbing License in Kentucky?
It will take a minimum of four years to qualify to take the master plumber license exam in Kentucky and a minimum of two years to qualify to take the journeyman exam. However, you will be working and accumulating the necessary experience—and can be earning money—the whole time.
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Kentucky 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. There are many programs to get the training you need to become a plumbing professional in Kentucky. You’ll need two years as an apprentice.
You can find a contractor or company with an opening or enroll in a trade school or union apprenticeship program. Those programs can often help connect you with a licensed master plumber to oversee your apprenticeship after you’ve completed the course work for a certificate or associate’s degree. It’s not unusual for community colleges to offer plumbing degree programs in combination with a closely related field like gas technology or heating. Completion of a two-year plumbing course counts as one year of experience.
You’ll learn about plumbing systems including:
Underground water supply
Waste and vent piping both inside and outside of buildings
Residential and service plumbing
Any program should also cover OSHA safety training, detailed instruction in chemistry, mathematics, physics, blueprint reading and drafting, in-depth examination of state codes, and advanced training about water treatment systems, water heaters, plumbing appliances, and plumbing fixtures.
Here are two great lists of the best plumbing colleges and universities in Kentucky:
Niche: 2023 Best Colleges with Plumbing Degrees in Kentucky
Prepler: Best Plumbing Colleges & Universities in Kentucky
Trade schools and certificate programs are plentiful and can be found by doing a simple internet search. Many community colleges and community and technical colleges offer these programs throughout Kentucky. Twenty of them are listed here along with tuition on the website of Community for Accredited Online Schools. There is also financial aid available for most schools.
Tuition: The cost of tuition depends on the program you choose and varies widely. The good news is that in many programs you’ll be earning while you’re learning. Tuition for a trade school can be as little as $1,250 to $3,000 for a certificate program; an associate’s degree runs about $4,500 per year for in-state students and about $15,000 for out-of-state students, according to collegetuitioncompare.com.
Program Prerequisites: Most programs require you to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED (General Educational Development) degree. Many require you to pass a physical and a drug test.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.
Kentucky Plumbing Licensing Exam Details
Applications for the licensing examination must be completed correctly and in the Division of Plumbing Frankfort office no later than three weeks prior to the exam date. The address is:
Office of Housing, Building and Construction Division of Plumbing 500 Mero Street Frankfort, KY 40601
Check in for examination at 7:30 a.m.; examinations start at 8 a.m.
A maximum of 2 1/2 hours is allowed for completion of the exam.
Must earn at least an 80% on all parts of the exam to pass.
Check in for examination at 7:30 a.m.; examinations start at 8 a.m.
A maximum of 2 1/2 hours is allowed for completion of the written portion and 2 1/2 hours is allowed for the completion of the practical portion of the examination.
Must earn at least a 75% on all parts of the exam to pass.
The State Plumbing Examining Committee designs the exam requirements. All examinations include:
Written questions pertaining to basic principles of plumbing.
Inserting the proper pipe size on a prepared drawing that indicates all stacks, wastes, and vents and the connected plumbing fixtures.
The proper sizing of main stacks are given more importance than other piping.
Deductions are taken for oversized piping and for undersized piping.
The journeyman's license examination includes a practical section during which you’ll need to demonstrate the ability to properly install plumbing, including making proper connections of various plumbing materials.
Applicants for a journeyman plumber's license examination must furnish the plumbing materials required for the practical examination.
The department will notify the applicant at least one week prior to the date of examination as to what plumbing materials are needed.
The examination requirements are more complex for the master plumber’s license examination and typically involves questions of law and business because master plumbers are responsible for permitting, contracting, and supervising the work.
Regular examinations for a master plumber’s license or a journeyman plumber’s license are conducted yearly during the months of February, May, August, and November.
A special examination may be conducted during other times of a year as the department directs.
Notice of the time and place of examination is given by the department at least one week prior to the date of examination.
Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in Kentucky?
The Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction — Division of Plumbing issues and renews all plumbing licenses. Application forms for a Kentucky Plumbing License can be obtained from the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction at the address below or from their website.
Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction Division of Plumbing 500 Mero Street Frankfort, KY 40601
Does My Kentucky Journeyman or Master Plumber License Work in Any Other State?
Kentucky does not have any reciprocity agreement with any other state for plumbers. Instead, Kentucky decides on a case-by-case basis if a licensed plumber from another state qualifies for licensure in Kentucky. The factors considered are if:
That state has a statewide plumbing code.
The other state's examination is at least equal to that of Kentucky; and
The other state agrees to reciprocate with Kentucky.
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.
Other Requirements Specific to Kentucky
To keep your state-issued plumber’s license current, Kentucky requires you to renew it before it expires at the end of your birth month every year. The fee for renewal is $60 for a journeyman and $250 for a master made payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer.
To make sure plumbing professionals in Kentucky stay current on all laws, codes, and regulations and that they are up to date on emerging technology in the field, Kentucky requires continuing education to renew your license. You must complete six hours of continuing education from an approved provider each year before your license expires at the end of your birth month. A calendar of upcoming continuing education opportunities is on the website as is a list of approved online providers.
You can stay up to date on all plumbing industry news in several ways: