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Massachusetts Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Massachusetts

category-iconPlumbing, MA

Table of Contents
  1. Licensing Requirements for Plumbers

  2. Types of Plumbers Licenses in Massachusetts

  3. Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License

  4. Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License

  5. What Is the Mean Salary for a Plumber?

  6. How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumber’s License?

  7. How to Get a Plumbers License in Massachusetts

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

  9. Massachusetts Plumber Training programs and schools

  10. Massachusetts Plumber Licensing Exam Details

  11. Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in Massachusetts?

  12. Does My License Work in Any Other State?

  13. Plumbing Certifications

  14. Continuing Education

  15. Renewal

  16. Other Requirements Unique to Massachusetts

There’s no shortcut to learning the plumbing trade. It takes years to learn how to do the job right, and almost every state has deemed that necessary to protect the health and safety of its people. That’s why most states require plumbers to train for several years, gain plumbing experience, and demonstrate through testing that they are competent to be licensed. Massachusetts is no different.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 490,200 plumbers nationwide and Massachusetts employs 11,750 of them. That number is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029 across the country, but in Massachusetts that projected growth rate is a little higher at 8%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website. The news is even better for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters in Massachusetts with a projected growth rate of 10%.

Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVAC professionals. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions.

Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and in some cases, from locality to locality. In Massachusetts, licensing is uniform statewide and begins at the apprentice level.

Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Massachusetts

Is a license required for plumbers in Massachusetts? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.

In the state of Massachusetts, you must be licensed to legally perform plumbing work. The state licenses every level of this workforce — apprentice, journeyman, and master. The Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure issues all the professional licenses in the commonwealth for everyone from healthcare workers to cosmetologists to electricians. The state regulates plumbers through the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters.

Types of Plumbers Licenses in Massachusetts

What are the different types of plumber licenses in Massachusetts?

There are three plumber licenses issued in Massachusetts:

  • Apprentice Plumber

  • Journeyman Plumber

  • Master Plumber

Each has specific requirements to test for licensure.

LICENSE REQUIREMENTS:

Apprentice Plumber

  • Must fill out a board-approved application.

  • Must be enrolled as a secondary student in a Public Comprehensive High School Career/Vocational Technical School Program; or

  • Be employed by a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber;

  • Apprentices must begin their education program within nine months of the initial issuance of their apprentice license.

Journeyman Plumber — must complete the following education and experience criteria to be eligible for admission to the journeyman plumber examination:

  • Have received a high school diploma or the equivalent.

  • Fill out a board-approved application.

  • Provide proof of having completed at least 6,800 hours of work experience as a licensed apprentice working as an employee under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber or under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber who is in the employ of a master plumber.

  • Provide proof of having successfully completed 550 clock hours of plumbing and gas-fitting theory, culminating in a school- or instructor-designed examination to ensure competency. This education must take place over a period of no less than four years and must be from an approved provider.

  • For each calendar year, no more than 165 hours of education may be credited for licensure purposes.

Master Plumber — must complete the following education and experience criteria to be eligible for the master plumber examination:

  • Fill out a board-approved application.

  • Provide proof of having completed at least one year (minimum of 1,700 hours) of practical experience as a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber and demonstrating that he or she has been actively engaged in or working at the business of installing repairing, or maintaining plumbing and gas-fitting systems, apparatus, devices, fixtures or other appliances typical to the discipline of the plumbing and gas-fitting industry only.

  • Provide proof of having successfully completed the 110 hour Tier Five of the five-tier Plumber Educational Program as approved by the Board.

  • Individuals who completed this education as an apprentice are not required to complete any additional education.

Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Massachusetts

Enroll as a secondary student in a Public Comprehensive High School Career/Vocational Technical School Program; or

Be employed by a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber.

Apply for your Commonwealth of Massachusetts Apprentice Plumber License and begin your education program within nine months of the initial issuance of apprentice license.

Complete at least 6,800 hours of practical work experience as a licensed apprentice working as an employee under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber or under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber who is in the employ of a master plumber. Complete 550 clock hours (four years) of plumbing and gas-fitting theory from a board-approved provider, culminating in a schoo-l or instructor-designed examination.

Apply for your Commonwealth of Massachusetts Journeyman Plumber License and pass the state-mandated journeyman exam.

Complete at least one year (minimum of 1,700 hours) of practical experience as a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber actively engaged in or working at the business of installing repairing, or maintaining plumbing and gas-fitting systems, apparatus, devices, fixtures or other appliances typical to the discipline of the plumbing and gas- fitting industry only.

Successfully complete the 110-hour Tier Five of the five-tier Plumber Educational Program as approved by the board, unless already completed as an apprentice.

Apply for your Commonwealth of Massachusetts Master Plumber License and pass the state-mandated exam.

Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Massachusetts

There are many benefits to getting your Massachusetts plumbing license:

  • Most important, it is required by law in Massachusetts to be licensed through the state to legally perform plumbing work.

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

  • Only licensed master plumbers 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 Massachusetts?

The annual mean wage for a plumber in Massachusetts is $80,860 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That salary increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.

Apprentice: The average salary for an apprentice plumber is $20.70 per hour in Massachusetts and $6,375 overtime per year.

Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $32.68 per hour in Massachusetts 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.

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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumber’s License in Massachusetts?

How you get started in the field determines your upfront costs. If you begin in one of the approved Career/Vocational Technical programs while in high school, you may complete a maximum of the first three tiers, comprising 330 hours of educational theory credit from that program without paying tuition. When you start working for a licensed master plumber, you’ll need to pay the Apprentice Plumber Application Fee of $14 and renewal fee of $40 every two years. Tuition costs for the required five-tier plumbing education will vary from program to program at community or technical colleges. They can run from $1,000 to $2,000 per year. Apprenticeship programs are operated on a voluntary basis by employers, employer associations, or management and labor groups (unions) and have different tuition costs associated with them. All have some fees for books and tools, but much of the cost is absorbed by the provider, meaning the individual employer, employer association or union, if you maintain good grades. There are also testing and application fees.

Journeyman Plumber Fees:

  • License/Application $31

  • PSI Testing $80

  • License $52

  • Renewal $52

Master Plumber Fees:

  • License/Application $31

  • PSI Testing $80

  • License $78

  • Renewal $78

How to Get a Plumbers License in Massachusetts

The path to a plumber’s license in Massachusetts typically takes five years. It’s very straightforward — learn, test, get licensed. 

APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: You can begin while you are still a high school student by enrolling in a Public Comprehensive High School Career/Vocational Technical School Program; or you can start as an entry-level employee for a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber. You’ll need to apply for your Commonwealth of Massachusetts Apprentice Plumber License and pay the $14 license/application fee. Begin your education program within nine months of getting that initial apprentice license. You'll need to complete and submit the application online. Applications mailed to the board will be returned. This link explains how to do it online. Then you’ll need to complete at least 6,800 hours of practical work experience as a licensed apprentice working as an employee under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed master plumber or under the direct supervision of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber who is in the employ of a master plumber. You’ll also need to complete education requirements — 550 clock hours (four years) of plumbing and gas-fitting theory from a Board approved provider and pass the school- or instructor-designed examination. 

APPLY FOR JOURNEYMAN LICENSE: Once you’ve met those requirements and have the appropriate documentation, you can apply for your Commonwealth of Massachusetts Journeyman Plumber License. The application to become a licensed journeyman plumber in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is available online through the Massachusetts E-Licensing and E-Permitting Portal, or ePLACE. You will complete it by paying the $31 license/application fee and including the following information:

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Once your application for examination is accepted you can register to take the exam. It is administered by PSI Exams. You will need to pay $80 directly to PSI to take the test. After receiving a passing score on the exam, you’ll pay the $52 license fee at the test center to receive your license.

APPLY FOR MASTER LICENSE: Before you can apply for examination for a master plumber license, you must complete at least one year (minimum of 1,700 hours) of practical experience as a Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensed journeyman plumber actively engaged in or working at the business of journeyman plumbing — installing repairing, or maintaining plumbing and gas-fitting systems, apparatus, devices, fixtures or other appliances typical to the discipline of the plumbing and gas-fitting industry only and successfully complete the 110-hour Tier Five of the five-tier Plumber Educational Program as approved by the Board unless already completed as an apprentice. Again, the application to become a licensed master plumber in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is available online through the Massachusetts E-Licensing and E-Permitting Portal, or ePLACE. You will complete it by paying the $31 license/application fee and including the following information:

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Once your application for examination is accepted by the board, you can register to take the exam and pay PSI its $80 fee. After receiving a passing score on the exam, you’ll pay a $78 master license fee at the test center to receive your master plumber's license.

CONSIDER OPENING YOUR OWN PLUMBING BUSINESS: You may work indefinitely as a licensed master or journeyman plumber, OR you can apply for a Plumbing Corporation or Plumbing Business License. To  apply for a plumbing corporation license you'll need: 

  • A completed plumbing license application filled out by a master plumber of record who will serve as an officer of the corporation, which includes:

  • A stamped copy of the Articles of Organization from the Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which certifies your business as a Limited Liability Corporation. If you haven't already, you can file online for Articles of Organization through the Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

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

It takes five years to complete the entire five-tier Plumber Educational Program as approved by the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters before being permitted to test for your master plumber license. However, you will be working as an apprentice during that time, allowing you to earn while you learn. Your wage will be a percentage of a journeyman’s wage and will increase each year as you progress in your training and education.

Massachusetts 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. There are many programs to get the training you need to become a plumbing professional in Massachusetts and they are located all over the state.

Training can begin during high school. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers Career/Vocational Technical Education that counts toward the required education of licensed plumbers. The Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters allows “an applicant who, as a secondary school student, successfully completes/graduates from a Public Comprehensive High School Career/Vocational Technical School Program following the CVTE (Career Vocational Technical Education) educational standard framework whose program is approved by the Board may be granted a maximum of the first three tiers, comprising 330 hours of educational theory credit from that program. Additionally, secondary students may accrue a maximum of 1,700 hours of experience credit while enrolled in a Board approved Massachusetts Public Comprehensive High School Career/Vocational Technical School Program.” The education and experience standards provides also that those hours may be accrued:

a)    In a "shop" or "laboratory" facility at the school where students are under the direct supervision of one or more licensed plumbers who meet the educator licensing requirements of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education;

b)    In a Board-approved, off-campus construction and/or maintenance project overseen by the school; or

c)     After obtaining an apprentice license, in a school-arranged co-op employment relationship with a master plumber. 

All plumbing apprentices are required to get the five-tier education that is approved by the board. You can find those board-approved programs throughout the state. If you begin the process after high school, there are technical college programs, union and nonunion apprenticeships or private employer programs that are approved. Here’s a list and links to a few of them:undefined

Tuition: A formal apprenticeship is sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. The Massachusetts Building Trades unions and their contractor partners operate over 30 joint apprenticeship training centers (JATCs) across Massachusetts and, according to the website, many of the apprentice programs offer college credit too. There are also opportunities through the Merit Apprenticeship Program of the Massachusetts Associated Builders and Contractors, the largest construction trade association in the Commonwealth, representing over 460 local general contractor, subcontractor, supplier and associate companies. Earning a spot as an apprentice in one of these programs is the equivalent of getting a full-ride scholarship to college.

Apprentices will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage rate and will receive periodic wage increases as they meet program requirements. The cost of tuition at a vocational school or college depends on the program you choose and can vary widely. The cost of the Five Tier Plumbing Program at The Peterson School is $8,250. The estimated expenses of the Plumbing Apprenticeship Program at Southeastern Technical Institute are tuition, $9,000; books, $433; program/student fees, $1,875; uniforms/equipment, $150.

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. 

Massachusetts Plumber Licensing Exam Details

To be licensed as a Journeyman Plumber or Master Plumber in Massachusetts you must take an examination. To be approved for examination by the State Board of Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters, you must have the required or equivalent apprenticeship experience and education. Once your application for examination is approved, the Board will notify PSI exams, a third-party testing service, and PSI will contact you to schedule the exam. The Candidate Information Bulletin provides you with information about the examination and application process. The exams are conducted at the Massachusetts PSI Examination centers in Auburn, Boston, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield, and in Cranston, Rhode Island.

All of the examinations are closed book and based on state plumbing code. There’s a written and practical exam for each the Journeyman and Master level.

Journeyman/Master Plumber Part I - Written: 80 questions, 160-minute time limit

Subject areas:

  • General Regulations, Inspections, and Permits

  • Gas Piping, Equipment, and Appliances

  • Venting

  • Traps and Cleanouts

  • Fixtures, Equipment, and Clearances

  • Water Heaters

  • Piping, Valves, and Controls

  • Water Supply

  • Hangers and Supports

  • Drain, Waste, and Vent

  • Separators, Interceptors, and Grease Traps

  • Joints and Connections

Journeyman/Master Plumber Part II - Practical: 40 questions, 160-minute time limit

Subject areas:

  • Isometric Analysis

  • General Trade Calculations

  • Gas Piping

  • Gas Venting

A score of 70% is required to pass any of the exams. You will be told onsite if you have passed or failed. The MA License Fee is charged to the candidate at the Test Center upon passing the examination. Be prepared to pay this fee at the test center to obtain your license. Payment may only be in the form of (VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover), money order, cashier's check or company check. Cash and personal checks are not accepted. Make the money order or check payable to PSI.

Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure issues all the professional licenses in the commonwealth. The state regulates plumbers through the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters.

Does My Massachusetts Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?

Massachusetts does not have reciprocity agreements with any other states for plumbing licenses, but will recognize another state’s license if the issuing jurisdiction’s requirements for obtaining and maintaining the license are substantially equivalent to the requirements in Massachusetts. The applicant must also be able to demonstrate through documentation that the out-of-state license has been active for at least three years immediately preceding the date of application to the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters.

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

Massachusetts law does require continuing education of its licensed plumbers to renew their license. Journeyman and Master Plumbers are required to attend one six-hour course annually — 12 hours of board-approved continuing education in the two-year renewal period. Here is a link to the Approved Continuing Education Providers for Licensees.

Renewal

Licenses are good for two years. There are pages on the state website dedicated to how to renew your Journeyman Plumber License and renew your Master Plumber License. The fee for Journeyman renewal is $52; the fee for Master renewal is $78.

Other Requirements Unique to Massachusetts

The Division of Occupational Licensure (DOL) offers licensing benefits to active duty & reserve members of the military, relocated military spouses, and veterans pursuant to the Veterans’ Access, Livelihood, Opportunity and Resources Act (VALOR Act) and the VALOR Act II.

Under the original VALOR Act, DOL and its 39 professional licensing boards offer the following benefits to qualified individuals:

  • Each of DOL’s 39 boards of registration accepts relevant education, training, and service completed by an applicant for licensure as a member of the armed forces or the military reserves, toward the qualifications required for licensure.

  • The license of a member of the military who is on active duty will remain valid until he or she is released from active duty, and for 90 days thereafter.

  • DOL expedites the licensure process for active duty service members and military spouses who are licensed in other states and have left employment there to accompany a spouse relocated to the Commonwealth due to a military transfer.

Under VALOR Act II, DOL will also waive the Commonwealth’s portion of the initial licensure fee for veterans and individuals who qualify for benefits through one of the categories listed above. Applicants are advised that they may still be required to pay fees charged by private vendors who assist DOL in processing license applications or administering exams.

To apply for any of these benefits, interested parties must self-identify as an active duty/reserve member of the military, military spouse, or veteran, by downloading and completing the appropriate affidavit form listed below, and returning it to the appropriate DOL licensing board along with other requested documents:

  • Active Duty Military Affidavit Form

  • Relocated Military Spouse Affidavit Form

  • Veteran Affidavit Form

For more information, please contact the Valor Act Liaison at DOLValoract@mass.gov.  

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