Montana Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Montana
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Learning the plumbing trade is not easy or quick. You can’t speed up the process, but the skills you learn are essential and last a lifetime. Almost every state in the country requires plumbers to be licensed because it’s complicated work that affects everyone’s health and safety.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,900 plumbers nationwide and Montana employs 1,650 of them. The national number is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030, adding 23,400 of these skilled workers to the ranks. In Montana, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is more than triple that at 17% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters and five times higher than the national growth projection at 25% for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.
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Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVACR 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 jobs to choose from.
Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and, in some cases, from municipality to municipality. Montana has strict, statewide standards for working in the plumbing business beginning at the apprentice level.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Montana
Is a license required for plumbers in Montana? Yes, and it is encouraged from the very beginning.
Montana licenses plumbers at the state level as they do electricians through the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, Business Standards Division. Specifically, the Montana Board of Plumbers licenses and regulates the industry. The state encourages but does not require registration at the apprentice level, but does require that anyone working in the field that is not licensed be supervised at all times by a licensed plumber. The Big Sky state requires licensure at the journeyman and master levels. While there is no contractor license, plumbing contractors must, like apprentices, be registered with the state.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in Montana
What are the different types of plumbing licenses in Montana?
The state of Montana begins regulating this workforce at the apprentice level. Plumbing apprentices are required to:
Register with the State of Montana Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship if enrolled in an approved training program. Or:
Those plumbers’ helpers not in a registered apprenticeship must work under the supervision of an active licensed master plumber or contractor to gain the necessary experience and document it.
To qualify for a Montana Journeyman Plumber license applicants must:
Document at least five years (7,500 hours) of experience in the field of plumbing, or complete an apprenticeship program that meets Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program standards or U.S. Department of Labor Apprentice standards. And:
Pass both the journeyman written and practical examination with a score of 70% or higher on both parts.
To qualify for a Montana Master Plumber license applicants must:
Document four years of legally obtained experience as a licensed journeyman with three of the years working either in a supervisory capacity or with a licensed master plumber or document nine years of experience verified by notarized statements or letters. And:
Pass the Montana master plumber examination with a grade of 70% or higher.
An individual who wishes to be a plumbing contractor must hold a master level license and also be registered as a contractor with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Contractors must apply for either Construction Contractor Registration (CCR) or an Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate (ICEC). The CCR requires proof of workers’ compensation insurance if you have any employees. The ICEC is for sole proprietors who do not have employees and wish to take contract work and not be bound by Montana’s workers’ compensation laws, opting out of coverage for themselves.
Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Montana
Typically be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent unless beginning as a high school student through a Career and Technical Education program.
Must enroll in a Montana Registered Apprenticeship or a U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship or work under the supervision of a licensed master plumber.
Complete registered apprenticeship or document at least five years (7,500 hours) of experience in the field of plumbing (up to two years of experience can be accepted for accredited trade school experience).
Apply to the board to take the Montana Journeyman Plumber Examination and pass with a grade of 70% or higher.
Pay $270 application fee or $400 Reciprocity/Out of State application fee and provide all documentation including Experience Verification Affidavit, Verification of Licensure and/or copy of Apprenticeship Completion Certificate.
Upon approval from the board, pay a testing fee and pass the plumbing exam to be awarded your journeyman level license.
Work indefinitely as a licensed journeyman by completing continuing education and renewing annually. Or:
Document four years of legally obtained experience as a licensed journeyman with three of the years in a supervisory capacity or with a licensed master plumber or document nine years of experience verified by notarized statements or letters.
Apply to the board to take the Montana Master Plumber Examination.
Pay $380 application fee and provide all documentation, including Experience Verification Affidavit and Verification of Licensure.
Upon approval from the board, pay a testing fee and pass the master plumber exam with a grade of 70% or higher.
If you wish to own your own plumbing contracting business, register as a contractor with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance coverage or apply for the independent contractor exemption certificate if you will not have any employees. Register your business with the Secretary of State’s Office and pay all related fees.
Benefits of Getting a Plumber’s License in Montana
There are many benefits to getting your Montana plumbing license:
Most important, it is required by law in Montana to be licensed through the state to 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 Montana 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.
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What Is the Mean Salary for a Plumber in Montana?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for plumbers nationally as $63,350 and lists Montana’s mean salary at $63,480. The salary for plumbers increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $19.28 per hour in Montana and $5,563 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyman plumber is $26.11 per hour in Montana and $6,813 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 Plumbing License in Montana?
It can cost very little to get started as a plumber in Montana. 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. If you have graduated from high school, you will need to find an apprentice position or program. There are apprenticeships through the local unions like UA Local 30 out of Billings, UA Local 41 out of Butte, or UA Local 459 out of Missoula. Or you can find a job with a plumbing contractor who is willing to sponsor you in a Montana Registered Apprenticeship. 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 may have to pay for classes, or your apprentice sponsor may cover those costs for you. Eventually, after meeting the eligibility requirements you’ll need to pay an application by examination license fee of $270 to the Board of Plumbers and pay $175 for the written and $75 for the practical exam to the testing agency, IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials). After acquiring the additional four years of experience as a licensed journeyman, you can apply for a master plumber license by examination, pay $380 to the board and the test through IAPMO for $175.
How to Get a Plumbers License in Montana
Becoming a plumbing professional in Montana isn’t fast, but it’s very straightforward. To enter the plumbing field you need to learn and gain work experience. Montana offers a few options to meet the rigid requirements to test for state licensing. Either learn on-the-job working for a master plumber for at least five years and 7,500 hours of experience, complete a registered apprenticeship, or get a degree from an accredited trade school to count as two years of the required experience, and work for three more with a licensed plumber to meet the five-year threshold before taking the state-mandated written and practical exam.
APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: A combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training are the two components of any U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship, and a Montana Registered Apprenticeship meets these standards. Apprenticeships are sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. You can apply for one of the coveted apprentice openings through your local United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs. Montana has three UA local chapters: UA Local 30 out of Billings, UA Local 41 out of Butte, and UA Local 459 out of Missoula. They offer apprenticeships for plumbing, HVACR, steamfitting, and welding. The apprenticeships are five-year programs in which apprentices are mentored on the job by journeymen and go to school to learn trade-specific subjects.
The Montana Registered Apprenticeship website offers apprenticeship information to job seekers as well as employers to help apprentices find openings and help employers find apprentices. The site includes a list of current registered apprenticeship programs, and among them are hundreds of plumbing openings. Many employers will also sponsor you in an apprenticeship or provide you with the opportunity to get that minimum five years of experience under the guidance of a master plumber. You can seek them out through job boards like Indeed and Zip Recruiter in addition to the state apprentice website.
EDUCATION/WORK EXPERIENCE: You can also attend an accredited trade school (Wahpeton in North Dakota, Northern in Havre, Flathead Community College are approved by the Board of Plumbers at this time.) Montana State University Northern offers a Plumbing Technology Associate of Applied Science degree (Plumbing AAS) and also a Plumbing Certificate. Up to two years of trade school can count toward your experience requirement for licensing.
APPLY FOR JOURNEYMAN EXAMINATION: Once you’ve met the education/experience requirement, you will need to apply to the board to take the Montana Journeyman Plumber Examination using this application. You will need to send it along with all of the supporting documentation — Experience Verification Affidavit, Verification of Licensure and/or copy of Apprenticeship Completion Certificate — and the application by examination fee of $270. Checks or money orders should be made payable to the Montana Board of Plumbers. You will need to mail the completed application and the rest to:
Montana Board of Plumbers
PO Box 200513
Helena, MT 59620-0513
The board provides a checklist for licensing requirements and application for the Journeyman Plumber by examination. It clearly spells out all the requirements to apply and exactly what you need to include.
Likewise, there’s a checklist online for application by reciprocity too. If you are applying by reciprocity, the fee is $400 and a temporary work permit will cost $100. Applicants who do not qualify for reciprocity will be required to sit for the examinations.
TAKE AND PASS EXAMINATIONS: The Montana Board of Plumbers has contracted with IAPMO to conduct testing. Once you are notified by the state plumbing board that you are approved to test, you must pay $175 for the written portion of the exam and $75 for the practical and pass with a grade of 70% or higher on each. We’ll have more on the exam details below. Once you are licensed as a journeyman plumber, you may practice indefinitely as long as you keep your license current by completing continuing education and renewing annually.
WORK EXPERIENCE/APPLY FOR MASTER EXAMINATION: After working as a licensed journeyman plumber for four years with three of those years either in a supervisory capacity or with a licensed master plumber or documenting nine years of experience verified by notarized statements or letters, you may apply to sit for the Master Plumber Examination. The Master Plumber application details the procedure, which is similar to the journeyman application. You will need to send it along with all of the supporting documentation — Experience Verification Affidavit and Verification of Licensure — and the application by examination fee of $380. There’s a checklist for the Master Plumber Application as well. Once you are notified by the board that you are approved to test, you must pay $175 for the master exam. Once you are licensed as a master plumber, you may practice indefinitely as long as you keep your license current by completing continuing education and renewing annually.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own plumbing contracting business, you need to register as a contractor with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. If you intend to work alone and not hire any staff, you can apply for an Independent Contractor Exemption Certificate (ICEC) and waive the workers’ compensation coverage. If you plan to have employees, you must obtain a Construction Contractor Registration (CCR) and provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for your employees required under the Montana Workers’ Compensation Act. As stated on the website, a construction contractor is defined, simply, as anyone who adds to or takes away from a structure, project, development, or improvement attached to real estate. You will need to complete and submit an application form with a non-refundable $70 fee to the Department of Labor and Industry for your CCR or submit the ICEC with a $125 fee. Applications must be mailed to:
Montana Department of Labor & Industry
PO Box 8011
Helena, MT 59604-8011
You can enclose a check for the amount due payable to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) or you can submit your payment online.
You will also need to register your business through the Montana Secretary of State website and pay the business registration fees.
RENEW: You will need to maintain your registration as well, renewing it every two years by the same method as the original application.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in Montana?
It will take at least five years to complete an apprenticeship or get the requisite work experience to get approval from the board to take the Journeyman Plumber Examination. To become licensed as a master plumber, it will take another four years before you qualify to sit for that exam. On the bright side, no matter how you go about it, you’ll be earning while learning.
Montana 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 all of the mechanics that go into that. They also must know plumbing code. Montana encourages aspiring plumbers to get the training they need through a traditional apprenticeship model that combines classroom education with on-the-job mentoring by a licensed journeyman or master. However, the state allows you to count up to two years of college education toward the required five years of experience. Therefore you may begin your plumbing journey at an accredited trade school or you may choose to pursue a four-year engineering degree before you start getting the required additional hands-on experience. There are currently three trade schools accredited by the Montana Board of Plumbers — Wahpeton in North Dakota, Northern in Havre, Flathead Community College. The plumbing program at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton is a certificate program that provides theory, code and hands-on training to prepare students for work in the plumbing field. The program also provides training in blueprint reading, drafting and electricity as well as a course that focuses on workplace safety. It is 37-credit hours, and the total cost of the program is estimated at $15,780.23.
Montana State University Northern offers both a Plumbing Associate of Applied Science degree and a Plumbing Certificate through its College of Technical Sciences. The estimated cost of attendance, tuition and fees, for a resident is about $3,000 per semester and $9,300 per semester for non-residents. MSU Northern also offers a Related Training correspondence education option for the individual apprentice working for an approved plumbing or electrical firm in Montana. Through the successful completion of these 15 courses, the student can fulfill the education requirements of their plumbing or electrical apprenticeships. The courses are recognized by the State of Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Apprenticeship Training Program. Once you have passed all the courses and completed your journeyman’s exam, MSU-Northern can grant up to one year credit toward your associate’s degree.
If you choose to get a four-year degree before pursuing a plumber's license, there are many colleges and universities in Montana that offer engineering degrees. Here’s a link to a list of the best engineering schools in Montana, according to Universities.com.
Apprenticeship: Union and non-union apprenticeships are the ideal training programs to learn the plumbing trade, and it is the path most strongly encouraged in Montana.
The Montana Registered Apprenticeship website is a great resource with its list of current registered apprenticeship programs. There are hundreds of plumber apprentice openings on the site. Of course, the United Association local chapters in Billings, Butte, and Missoula offer comprehensive formal apprenticeships that will prepare you for the journeyman exam and a career as a plumbing professional.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs for books or tools, 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 as noted for the schools above can range from a few thousand dollars for an online program or at a community college to tens of thousands of dollars per year at a state or private school.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED and demonstrate mastery of basic high school math. You may also need a driver’s license and a clean driving record.
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.
Montana Plumber Licensing Exam Details
The Montana Board of Plumbers has contracted with IAPMO (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials) to conduct its testing. You need permission from the board before you can register for an exam. Specifically, the IAPMO website asks that you wait until the Friday after you receive approval to register for your exam. You have two testing options.
Online proctored exams via IAPMO's FLEX testing platform (click for more information).
In-person exams at physical locations in several cities across the state.
Both the Journeyman Plumber Examination and the Master Plumber Examination are open-book. You are allowed to bring only an original copy of the Uniform Plumbing Code (2018), a copy of the Montana Amendments to the Uniform Plumbing Code, and a simple, non-scientific calculator into the testing center.
In-person exams will be scheduled in the following cities once or twice per year.
The Journeyman Plumber Practical Exam costs $75. The Journeyman Plumber Written Exam costs $175. The Montana Master Plumber Exam costs $175.
A passing score is 70% or higher on each of these exams.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in Montana?
The Montana Board of Plumbers licenses journeyman and master plumbers. Plumber apprentices are required to register with the Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program. Plumbing contractors must be registered with the Department of Labor & Industry (DLI).
Does My Montana Plumber’s License Work in Any Other State?
Montana has reciprocal agreements with four states — Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota — for journeyman licensure ONLY. The license must be active with no current complaints filed against it. Applicants who do not qualify for reciprocity will be required to sit for the examinations. There is no reciprocity offered for Master Plumber licenses. All applicants for a master level license must take and pass the Montana Master Plumber Examination to be licensed.
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.
Montana requires four hours of continuing education in a board-approved course every year for each active licensee to be eligible for renewal. New licensees are exempt from the CE requirements for their first renewal. Licensees changing from journeyman to master plumber licenses are not exempt from CE requirements. Courses approved by reciprocal states are acceptable. Code-related courses taught by IAPMO are acceptable. Licensees are responsible for maintaining copies of their certificates of completion.
Montana Plumbing licenses expire every year on Sept. 1. Renewal opens 60 days prior to that. On the Forms page of the Montana Board of Plumbers website, you will find links to both the Journeyman renewal form and the Master renewal form. You can also renew online anytime. The renewal fee for a Montana Journeyman Plumber license is $160. Late renewal postmarked after Sept. 1 is $320. The renewal fee for a Montana Master Plumber license is $265. Late renewal postmarked after Sept. 1 is $530.
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