Minnesota Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Minnesota
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It takes years of study and practical experience to learn the plumbing trade. The work can be complicated and difficult, and doing it right is absolutely essential for everyone’s health and safety.That’s why in most states plumbers are licensed to ensure competency not only in the technical aspects of the job but the codes that regulate the trade. Minnesota has strict licensing standards beginning at the apprentice level.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,900 plumbers nationwide and Minnesota employs 8,450 of them. That number is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030, adding 23,400 to the ranks across the country. In Minnesota, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is 13% for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, and even higher at 17% for helpers of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.
And, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, contractors are hiring. In the 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. and 46% of firms in Minnesota had unfilled hourly craft positions.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Minnesota
Is a license required for plumbers in Minnesota? Yes.
It is illegal to perform any plumbing work without a license in Minnesota. To join this workforce legally, you must begin by registering as an unlicensed individual (formerly known as an apprentice). After four years of documented work under a licensed journeyworker (the term used instead of journeyman in Minnesota) or licensed master plumber, you can apply to take the journeyworker plumber examination to earn your license. After working as a licensed journeyworker plumber for another year — so five years total — you can apply to take the master plumber examination to be licensed as a master plumber in Minnesota.
Statewide regulations for electricians and plumbers are set by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The DLI website states: “ A Minnesota plumbing license demonstrates that the plumber has years of practical, hands-on training, and a proven knowledge of plumbing codes, materials and approved construction methods.”
The Twin Cities — Minneapolis and St. Paul — both require plumbers to be certified at the local level as well as the state level before being allowed to work in either jurisdiction. The Minneapolis Construction Code Service and the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspection issue certificates of competency, or Comp Cards, at the journey and master level. The two cities have reciprocal agreements, so if you’re certified in one you can get your certification in the other without having to retest. Always be sure to check with the municipality for local requirements where you intend to work.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in Minnesota
What are the different types of plumbing licenses in Minnesota?
You must first register with the Department of Labor and Industry as a Registered Unlicensed Individual (formerly known as an apprentice). After accumulating the four years of experience needed while registered at that level, there are two levels of plumbing licenses that you can pursue in Minnesota, and each has specific requirements:
Journeyworker Plumber — requires four years (7,000 hours) of practical experience as a DLI-registered unlicensed individual.
Master Plumber — requires one year (1,750 hours) of practical experience as a licensed journeyworker plumber.
Steps to Get a Plumber’s License in Minnesota
You must be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate or have a GED equivalent.
Register with DLI as a registered unlicensed individual and perform work only under the direct supervision of a licensed journeyworker plumber or a licensed master plumber.
Accumulate four years of documented experience, which must include at least 2,000 hours of water distribution system installation; 2,000 hours of drain, waste, and vent system installation; and 1,000 hours of fixture installation. This may also be accomplished by completing a DLI-approved plumbing apprenticeship.
Apply to take the journeyworker plumber examination and pay fee.
Pass the exam and pay initial journeyworker plumber licensing fee.
Work indefinitely as a licensed journeyworker plumber; or
Work as a licensed journeyworker plumber for another year and apply to take the master plumber examination and pay fee.
Pass the exam and pay initial master plumber licensing fee.
If you wish to own your own business as a plumbing contractor after earning your master license, you’ll need a state-issued business license, general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and a $25,000 surety bond filed with the Department of Labor and Industry.
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Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Minnesota
There are many benefits to getting your Minnesota plumbing license:
Most important, it is required by law in Minnesota 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 serve as the responsible individual for a plumbing contractor business before that business can advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, or 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 Minnesota?
The annual mean salary for a plumber in Minnesota is $77,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That salary increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $21.21 per hour in Minnesota and $5,500 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyworker plumber is $28.74 per hour in Minnesota and $6,750 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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in Minnesota?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you choose to start with a college program, you can expect to pay about $5,500 for in-state tuition at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. The school says the average cost after aid is $11,000 per year for full-time students. Northwest Technical Institute will run you about the same — $5,654 for in-state tuition, and the average cost after aid is $12,000. In fact, Minnesota State Community and Technical College has a plumbing technology program that some employers will pay for using tuition reimbursements through a Business and Industry Partner Sponsorships program.
There are different fees associated with the various license classifications in Minnesota. There is a $14 fee to register as a Registered Unlicensed Individual, and you must renew that registration for $19 by June 30 of every year while you gain the required work experience to test for a journeyworker license. The examination fee for both the journeyworker and master level is $50. Once you pass the exam, you will need to pay the initial journeyworker license fee of $38; your initial master license fee will be $68. The cost to renew the journeyworker plumber license is $43, and the master plumber license is $73 every two years. The cost to apply for a plumbing contractor license is $128.
How to Get a Plumbers License in Minnesota
To enter the plumbing field in Minnesota you need to learn and gain work experience. Minnesota has specific requirements for licensure. You’ll need to acquire some kind of combination of classroom training and hands-on work experience.
To begin performing plumbing work in Minnesota, you must be at least 18 years old or a high school graduate. Those aged 16 and 17 who have not graduated from high school may perform plumbing work only if they are employed and supervised by a parent and registered with DLI as a registered unlicensed plumber.
As a registered unlicensed plumber or if you are enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program, you may perform only work that falls under the scope of work your employer is authorized to perform, and your work must be directly supervised by a licensed journeyworker or master plumber.
EDUCATION/WORK EXPERIENCE: Through Minnesota’s Career and Technical Education system, some high schools offer vocational programs for sophomores, juniors and seniors combining the trade education with high school curriculum. That’s one way to get started gaining the required hands-on experience and classroom instruction. You could also attend community college and earn an Associate Degree in Applied Science or complete a shorter certificate/diploma program to get the foundational knowledge you need to get started. Employers often state a preference for candidates who have graduated from a relevant trade school or technical college because they have been educated in key skills needed for the job.
APPRENTICESHIP: Another way to enter the field is through an 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 full-ride scholarship to college. Minnesota has 10 UA local chapters that offer plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC and welding apprenticeships. UA Local 6 based in Rochester offers apprenticeships for plumbers, pipefitters, Service Technicians, Welders and HVAC/R Service. Apprentices are mentored on the job by journeyworkers and go to school to learn trade specific subjects. Local 15 of the United Association Plumbers and Gasfitters serves the area of Minneapolis and St. Cloud and offers a plumbing apprenticeship that meets both U.S. Department of Labor standards and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry standards.
WORK EXPERIENCE: If you don’t get one of those sought-after union apprenticeships, you can try to find an entry-level plumbing job on sites like Indeed and Zip Recruiter. Employers will often give you the opportunity to earn while you learn as long as they see you are committed to getting licensed. In fact, Minnesota State Community and Technical College has a 36-credit plumbing technology diploma program that is designed for apprentice plumbers and counts toward applicable hours on your apprenticeship card when you graduate. As stated earlier, Minnesota requires anyone doing any kind of plumbing work to register first as a Registered Unlicensed Individual with the Department of Labor and Industry. The DLI requires four years of documented experience, which must include at least 2,000 hours of water distribution system installation; 2,000 hours of drain, waste, and vent system installation; and 1,000 hours of fixture installation. Minneapolis also requires four years of documented on-the-job experience and proof of completing four years (576 hours) of related education before taking the city-mandated exam. Plumbing experience must be certified by the licensed master plumber responsible for the work performed.
Some employers will act as a sponsor in a registered apprenticeship through the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, 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 TO TAKE JOURNEYWORKER LICENSE EXAM: To qualify for the journeyworker plumber exam, an applicant must have:
At least four years of recorded practical plumbing experience as a DLI-registered unlicensed plumber; or
Completed a DLI-registered apprenticeship program; or
A current plumber’s license from another state where the licensing jurisdiction requires at least four years of practical plumbing experience and an examination to qualify for licensure.
APPLY TO TAKE MASTER LICENSE EXAM: To qualify for the master plumber exam, an applicant must have:
At least one year of practical plumbing experience as a licensed journeyworker plumber; or
A current master plumber license from another state where the requirements of the licensing jurisdiction are equivalent to those of Minnesota as determined by DLI.
Once you’ve met the requirements, you can apply for the examination online at a cost of $50. If you pass, you will be notified and will need to pay the initial licensing fee of $68.
CONSIDER BECOMING A PLUMBING CONTRACTOR: If you wish to operate a plumbing contractor business, you’ll need a state-issued business license, general liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and a $25,000 surety bond filed with DLI.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in Minnesota?
It takes four years to qualify to take the Journeyworker License Exam and another year working with that license to qualify to take the Master License Exam in Minnesota. The good news is that you can be working and earning money from the start.
Minnesota 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 Minnesota. You can choose to attend a community or technical college and earn a certificate or degree in plumbing. St Cloud Technical & Community College offers both a 37-credit diploma program and a 60-credit Associate of Applied Science Degree. Hennepin Technical College has a Plumbing Pre-apprenticeship program that’s 36 credits. You can expect to pay about $7,000 for the course.
As stated earlier, many employers hiring entry level plumbers helpers follow an apprentice model — pairing new employees with others who are licensed to begin hands-on training while requiring the beginner to attend classes. Employers will often help pay for the instruction or reimburse you if you maintain a certain grade point average.
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 three great lists to the best plumbing colleges and universities in Minnesota:
Universities.com: Best Plumbing Colleges in Minnesota
Niche: 2022 Best Colleges with Plumbing Degrees in Minnesota
Prepler: Best Plumbing Colleges & Universities in Minnesota
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Apprenticeship: Again, there are also apprenticeships through unions or local trade associations. The Associated Builders and Contractors Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter can be a resource. Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 34 out of Saint Paul offers a competitive apprenticeship program that takes five years (8,500 hours) and begins with a pre-apprenticeship course at St. Paul College. The course starts in January of each year and costs $650. Local 11 and 589 Northern Mechanical & Iron Range Plumbing & Pipefitting Joint Apprenticeship trains pipefitters, steamfitters, plumbers, and HVAC technicians. The program consists of five years of on-the-job training and at least 144 hours per year of related classroom instruction.
Applicants are required to:
Be at least 18 years of age.
Be a high school graduate, or have a GED, or equivalent.
Fill out and return the application to the apprenticeship office before the deadline.
Submit a transcript of the applicant’s high school record or the GED scores and technical college transcripts (for HVAC Service Apprentices).
Must be physically able to perform the work of the trade.
HVAC candidates must submit a photocopy of a valid driver’s license at the time of application and have a clean driving record. Any applicant who is found not able to be insured by a union contractor due to a poor driving record will not be placed in the program.
Pass a drug and alcohol screening test and a criminal background check as may be administered by an employer.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs of tuition and book fees but the apprentice 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 but can range from $3,000 at a community college to $40,000 at a state or private school for an associate degree or bachelor degree in engineering.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.
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.
Minnesota Plumber Licensing Exam Details
Applicants for either plumbing license must meet license experience requirements. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Construction Codes and Licensing Division allows qualified applicants to schedule the exam online. Only applicants who received a notice informing them they are qualified to take the required plumbing exam and were instructed to schedule an exam date online may schedule an exam date. The exam at either the journeyworker or master level costs $50.
An applicant must take their exam within one year of the date on the qualification notice or reapply and pay the $50 exam fee again.
Exam sessions are available at different locations and dates throughout the year. To schedule an exam, you must provide your application number (found on the qualification notice) and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Once you’ve entered that information, you can choose a date and location for your exam. DLI will send you an email confirmation when you have been scheduled for the requested exam session.
The plumbing examinations are based on the 2015 Minnesota Plumbing Code. There is a Licensing Examination Guide online to help you prepare. According to the guide, licensing examinations are designed to assess higher-level skills and the ability to apply the competencies they gained from their education, training, and experience in the practical installation of plumbing. Applicants are allowed to use the 2015 Minnesota Plumbing Code Chapter 4714 and an electronic calculator during their entire examination. Both the Journeyworker and Master Plumber examinations have a time limit of 5½ hours. You will need a score of 70% to pass, and the results will be mailed to you within two weeks.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Minnesota?
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry issues the state-level plumbing licenses in Minnesota. However, many municipalities have their own licensing requirements. Be sure to check with local governments to know what is required in the area you intend to work. If you own your own plumbing business in Minnesota, you’ll need a state-issued business license from the Secretary of State’s Office and workers’ compensation insurance. The process is explained on the Department of Labor and Industry website, and there’s another page that offers advice about starting a business.
Does My Minnesota Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
The state of Minnesota has reciprocity for plumbing licenses with North Dakota and South Dakota only.
Applicants may obtain a Minnesota journeyworker plumber or master plumber license without examination if they obtained their journeyworker plumber license or master plumber license by examination in either North Dakota or South Dakota. To do so you must contact your state plumbing board to receive a Certificate of State Endorsement.
Every state has different licensing requirements. Some will have minimum work experience thresholds, and many will require that you document that experience and pass a licensing exam. Be sure to check those mandates before beginning work as a plumbing professional in another state, even if you’ve been doing plumbing work in Minnesota.
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.
Minnesota requires 16 hours of continuing education for journeyworker plumbers and master plumbers in each two-year licensing period. Registered unlicensed plumbers must complete two hours of continuing education before they can renew.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Construction Codes and Licensing Division encourages initial applications, license payments, and renewal applications to be submitted online. Registered unlicensed individuals must renew their registration by June 30 of each year. The cost is $19. Journeyworker plumbers licenses must be renewed by Dec. 31 of odd- numbered years for $43. Master plumbers licenses must be renewed by Dec. 31 of even- numbered years for $73. Plumbing Contractor licenses are good for two years and must be renewed online as well at a cost of $128.
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