New York Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in New York
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A career in plumbing offers you the opportunity to have a rewarding profession helping others and learning essential skills that last a lifetime. In New York, it can also be very lucrative. It takes focus and perseverance to learn how to design and install these increasingly complex systems. Most states insist on years of training for plumbers to ensure competency, not only in the technical aspects of the job but the codes that regulate the trade. New York does not license plumbers at the state level, but city and county governments are required to do so to protect the health and safety of the population.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,900 plumbers nationwide and New York employs 25,800 of them. That makes it the state with the third most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in the nation. The national number is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030, adding 23,400 to the ranks across the country. In New York, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is significantly higher at 14% for plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters and their helpers.
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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 53% of firms in New York had unfilled hourly craft positions.
The licensing requirements for plumbers and contractors vary from state to state and, in New York, from locality to locality.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in New York
Is a license required for plumbers in New York? Although New York does not license plumbing professionals at the state level, state law requires that city and county governments be responsible for oversight and licensing. There is a uniform Building Code that was passed in 2020 that regulates the plumbing requirements throughout the state. So the quality of the work performed should be universal to meet plumbing code even though licensing procedures may vary. Where you intend to work will determine how rigorous the process of becoming a licensed master plumber is.
New York City is by far the largest city in the state. In fact, nearly 43% of New York state’s population lives in New York City. The licensing of plumbers in the Big Apple comes through the City Department of Buildings (DOB). The government agencies for other cities and counties around the state have similar but perhaps not as exacting licensing or registration procedures. The experience requirements may be slightly different and the examinations are not uniform, but they cover similar topics.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in New York
Because there is no statewide license for plumbers in New York, each city or municipality licenses plumbers or plumbing contractors a little differently. You will absolutely have to check with the city or county office(s) where you will be practicing the trade to find out the plumbing license requirements. Here are a few examples from throughout the state of the types of licenses issued.
NYC Department of Buildings: Plumbing licenses are grouped with Fire Suppression licenses. To perform plumbing work unsupervised in NYC you must have a Master Plumber’s License.
Master Plumber License Requirements:
Be at least 18 years old.
Be able to read and write the English language.
Be fit to perform the work authorized by the license.
Have good moral character so as not to adversely affect your fitness to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Master Plumber
In addition, all applicants must meet one of the following levels of experience:
Have at least seven years of total experience within the 10 years prior to application in the planning or design, and installation of plumbing systems under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Master Plumber in the United States; at least two years of this required practical experience must be obtained as a Department of Buildings’ registered Journeyman Plumber.
Have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or appropriate engineering technology from a college or university registered by the New York State Department of Education and have at least five years of total experience within the seven years prior to application in the planning or design, and installation of plumbing systems under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Master Plumber in the United States. At least two years of this experience must be in New York City.
Be a New York State-licensed professional (Registered Architect or Professional Engineer) and have at least three years of experience within the five years prior to application in the planning or design, and installation of plumbing systems in the United States under the supervision of a licensed Master Plumber. At least one year of this experience must be in New York City.
Have at least seven years of total experience within the ten years prior to application with at least two years of experience working in the planning or design, and installation of plumbing systems under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Master Plumber in the United States; at least two years of this required practical experience must be obtained as a Department of Buildings’ registered Journeyman Plumber. The balance of experience may be obtained by performing maintenance, replacement and repair plumbing work on existing buildings while working for a New York City agency as long as the work is under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Master Plumber supervisor employed by the city agency.
Have experience as an employee of a government agency, private inspection agency or other entity accepted by the Buildings Commissioner whose duties primarily involve the inspection of plumbing work for compliance with the New York City Plumbing Code and/or other laws relating to the installation, alteration or repair of plumbing systems and this experience combined with your work experience equals seven years of work experience required within the ten years prior to application.
A Journeyman Plumber must be registered with the DOB and work under the supervision of a licensed Master Plumber.
Journeyman Plumber Registration Requirements:
Be at least 18 years old.
Be able to read and write the English language.
Be fit to perform the work authorized by the license.
Have good moral character so as not to adversely affect your fitness to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Master Plumber.
Have a progressive understanding, proficiency and competence in the plumbing or fire suppression piping trade, including:
A working familiarity with the Code and technical standards and the ability to apply the Code requirements correctly
The application of basic plumbing/fire suppression theory and using trade skills on the job site
A working knowledge of the tools of the trade and the ability to properly use them
An ability to draft simple diagrams and interpret drawings for the plumbing/fire suppression work in which the applicant is engaging
In addition, all applicants must meet one of the following levels of experience:
Have at least five years of full-time experience performing plumbing under the direct and continuing supervision of a licensed Master Plumber with at least one year of experience in New York City.
Have satisfactorily completed a New York State registered training program with one year experience in New York City.
The Examining Board of Plumbers in Albany examines the qualifications and fitness of each applicant for a license to do any type of plumbing work in the city. It issues a Class A Plumber License for those who work consistently in the jurisdiction and offers a Class B License for onetime individual projects for those plumbers who can prove they are knowledgeable in the trade but licensed elsewhere. A combination of at least five years of education and experience working under the supervision of a licensed master plumber are required to take the licensing exam. The Board also issues apprentice training and journeyman identification cards.
Ithaca issues only a Master Plumber License. These licenses are only issued to the majority owner of a plumbing business. A person owning 51% of a plumbing business in Ithaca will need to take and pass an examination required by the Examining Board of Plumbers. Ithaca does not license or test journeymen plumbers but rather requires masters to register yearly all journeymen or apprentices who work for them, and master plumbers are held responsible for the quality of the work done under their license. No one can perform any plumbing work in the city of Ithaca without having a master plumber’s license or working under the supervision of a licensed master plumber.
Buffalo issues three types of plumbing licenses.
Master Plumber License: Minimum qualification is 6,000 hours working as a Journeyman Plumber as an employee of a licensed Master Plumber, not working for yourself. Must pass an examination to be licensed.
Journeyman Plumber License: Minimum qualification is 8,000 hours working with a licensed master plumber. Must pass an examination to be licensed.
Journeyman Repair License: Minimum qualifications 3,000 hours working for a Master Plumber.
All municipalities in Onondaga County, including Syracuse, have a central agency called Plumbing Control that issues licenses for master plumbers and journeymen and registers apprentices. The requirements here are more rigorous.
Master Plumber applicants must have at least 10 years of experience as a journeyman or five as an apprentice and five as a journeyman before being permitted to sit for the exam.
Journeyman plumbers must be registered and must have documented proof of at least five years of experience in the plumbing trade before being allowed to take the exam for a Certificate of Competency. Education can satisfy a portion of that time.
Apprentice plumbers must be registered and work under the supervision of a licensed master plumber.
This is just a sampling from throughout the state and you can see how varied the specific requirements can be, so be sure to check with each municipality in the areas of the state where you will be working to meet any of the licensing or permitting requirements for those jurisdictions.
Steps to Get a Plumber’s License in New York
Typically you must be at least 18 years of age to meet employer/apprenticeship requirements. Although high school students may begin younger through BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs.
You need to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent unless you begin your training while still in high school.
You must get the proper training either through a formal union or trade organization apprenticeship, college degree program, or as an entry-level employee training under a master plumber for a minimum number of years of experience depending upon the jurisdiction where you are employed.
Check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. There is no statewide licensing process for plumbers, so it’s all about meeting municipal regulations and applying for your license where you will be working.
Earn additional certifications to improve your marketability and pay.
If you wish to own your own plumbing business in New York after you’ve accumulated significant experience, you’ll need a state-issued business license, workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance, unemployment insurance and possibly either a cash deposit or surety bond. Check with your municipality for specific requirements.
Benefits of Getting a Plumber’s License in New York
There are many benefits to getting your plumbing license in New York:
New York has one of the highest annual mean wages for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in the country.
It is required by law to be licensed in the city or county where you intend to work.
You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.
The certifications and local licenses you earn are proof of your knowledge, experience, and expertise.
You will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.
Being a skilled tradesman gives you a competitive advantage and job security.
You will be embarking on a career, not just doing a job.
You can eventually own your own business and be your own boss.
What Is the Mean Wage for a Plumber in New York?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean pay for plumbers nationally as $63,350 and in New York it’s $77,490. That increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $22.44 per hour in New York and $5,563 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyman plumber is $30.41 per hour in New York and $7,500 overtime per year.
Pay ranges 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.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumber’s License in New York?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you figure out this is your intended path while you’re still in high school, you can begin your education free of charge as a student through the Career Technical Education System. Some of those same training centers also offer fairly affordable adult education classes in the evenings. Erie BOCES has a 100-hour Plumbing course offered Monday and Wednesday evenings with a tuition of $1,300. Nassau BOCES has a Plumbing Technician Program that consists of five courses including an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) class to earn a 30-hour Construction Safety Certification Completion Card. The whole program costs $3,975 and gives you a competitive advantage against an applicant without training for an apprentice level position with a plumbing company.
And that’s another way to start. If you’re a high school graduate or you’ve gotten your GED, you can look for entry-level work doing plumbing jobs. You will not command as high a salary as someone who has completed a college program or has gone through an apprenticeship program, but it’s a way to start right away and earn as you learn.
You can also choose to start with a college program. You can expect to pay less at a SUNY (State University of New York) school as a New York resident than students from out of state, but it can still be pricey. At SUNY Delhi or SUNY Canton, for example, tuition for full-time in-state students is just over $7,000. At Jamestown Community College in Western New York, in-state students can expect to pay $5,200 in tuition; at Dutchess Community College north of NYC tuition is $2,225 per semester. There will also likely be a license fee from your locality and an exam fee or fees associated with local and national certification exams. In New York City, the application fee is $200; the written test there is $525, and the practical exam is $350.
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How to Get a Plumbers License in New York
To enter the plumbing field in New York, you need to learn and gain work experience. Cities and counties throughout New York have individual license boards, each with specific requirements for licensure. Licensees will likely need to acquire some kind of combination of classroom training and hands-on work experience. Some municipalities, however, do not require any classroom instruction and will accept more practical experience for applicants to test for their license.
To begin performing plumbing work in New York you must be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate unless your employment is part of an approved BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) CTE program.
EDUCATION: Through New York’s Career and Technical Education system, some high schools offer vocational programs for 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.
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. New York has 13 UA local chapters all over the state that offer plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC and welding apprenticeships. UA Local 81, located between Ithaca and Watertown, has a five-year apprenticeship school for plumbing, pipefitting, and welding. It is a United States Department of Labor accredited program. Apprentices are mentored on the job by journeymen and go to school to learn trade-specific subjects in the evening. The cost of that training is paid for by the members who pay into the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee; apprentices are paid on a graduated scale with increases every year until they are making a full journeyman wage.
WORK EXPERIENCE: If you don’t get one of those sought-after union apprentice openings, you can apply for entry-level work and treat it as an informal apprenticeship to begin getting the practical experience you need. You can also choose to attend classes at night or on weekends to prepare for the trade-specific certifications and licenses. Employers will often give you the opportunity to earn while you learn as long as they see you are committed to getting licensed.
Some employers will act as a sponsor in a registered apprenticeship through New York’s Office of Apprenticeship, 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 FOR EXAMINATION/LICENSE: Once you’ve completed the license requirements in terms of the amount of training and education for your locality, you may apply for examination for licensure. Again, you’ll need to check with your specific local licensing agency for the requirements in the area where you intend to work before you are eligible to sit for any exam. In New York City, to be awarded a Master Plumber License you must sit for a written exam and also take a practical exam. There is a New License Application Step-by-Step Guide on the website. The application is very specific about the documentation you need to upload, including a notarized background investigation questionnaire, a notarized affidavit indicating whether you have any other employment, an insurance certificate made out to the DOB, three passport-size photos and more.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own business in the plumbing field in New York after you’ve accumulated significant experience and local licensing and certifications, you’ll need a state-issued business license from New York’s Department of State Office, workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance and unemployment insurance. You may also be required by your municipality to post a cash deposit or get a surety bond prior to obtaining licensing.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumber’s License in New York?
It takes five years to complete most formal plumbing apprenticeships in New York. The work experience requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically you will be at an apprentice level for four to five years and then may need several years on-the-job as a journeyman before being eligible to apply for a master plumber license. The good news is that you can be working and earning money from the start.
New York 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 New York, and they are located all over the state,
Again, if you figure out this is what you want while you are still in high school, you can begin your education in plumbing through one of the BOCES Career and Technical Education classes offered throughout the state. The program through Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES prepares students to work as plumbers, HVAC technicians, HVAC installers, and entry-level electricians. The program serving the Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES (often referred to as Jefferson-Lewis BOCES) is also a two-year program for juniors and seniors. The course is also open to adults, but high school students are given first priority for enrollment. Adults can get training through one of these programs throughout the state at a relatively affordable price. Erie BOCES offers a 100-hour plumbing course that covers design, layout, and installation of residential plumbing and piping at the Potter Career Center in West Seneca for tuition of $1,300. The Plumbing Technician Program offered at Nassau BOCES Adult Career and Technical Education center in Westbury on Long Island costs $3,975.
There are several Associate of Applied Science degree options through the SUNY College System too. SUNY Delhi offers a Plumbing and Refrigeration AAS as well as a Plumbing and Electrical Instrumentation AAS. There’s a Heating and Plumbing Certificate program at SUNY Canton and so many other plumbing programs throughout the SUNY system. You will need to check with the colleges in your area to see what degree or certificate programs they offer.
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.
Apprenticeship: As mentioned earlier, the alternative to a college education program is to look for an apprenticeship. There are several formal apprenticeship opportunities to get the training you need in New York. Many are through local United Association unions. Local 22, just outside of Buffalo, offers an apprenticeship that is five years long and includes 1,230 hours of classroom instruction and 10,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Have a High School Diploma or equivalent.
Be at least 18 years of age.
Must have a valid NYS driver’s license to operate any company vehicle and have reliable transportation to/from worksites and school.
Attest that he/she can physically perform the work.
Pass WorkKeys® achievement tests in Applied Math, Workplace Documents & Graphic Literacy (must obtain a minimum score of 4 out of 7 in each category to be selected for interview).
Be a resident of the jurisdiction of Local 22 (specified on the website).
Pass a drug screen test (at the expense of Local 22) after selection.
There are UA locals all throughout the state. If you are serious about plumbing, this is a great way to get the training you need, and these apprenticeships allow you to earn while you learn at no cost.
Tuition: Tuition at the various community colleges, state universities, and private institutions are wildly different in New York. Shop around and really weigh your options. It’s possible to get started in the plumbing trade without any formal college education if you find a master plumber willing to train you from scratch. You could also take just a few classes or go on to earn your bachelor degree in engineering, which will obviously be a much larger expense,
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.
New York Plumber Licensing Exam Details
Because there is no statewide licensing of plumbers in New York, there is not one universal test given throughout the state. Every city or county has a different system for examination. The contents of the plumbing exams, however, will be fairly similar because they are based on statewide construction codes. Every test throughout the state should be based on the 2020 New York Plumbing Code. In New York City, to be awarded a Master Plumber License you must pass a written exam ($525) and practical exam ($350) and pay a License Fee of $200. Renewal Fee is $150 every three years. There’s also a Plate Fee of $75; renewal is $100. A Seal Fee is $50, and renewal for it is $75. Both of those renewals are also every three years. There is no examination for a journeyman plumber license in NYC, but some localities do require journeymen to pass both a written and practical test. Again, those nuances depend on where you are planning to work.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in New York?
Individual cities or sometimes counties issue all plumber licenses in New York. There is no statewide license available. Some require a journeyman license. Others only issue a master license or a plumbing contractors license. The plumbing code is universal throughout the state, though, so all properly trained plumbers should be offering the same quality of work.
Does My New York Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
Since every city or local jurisdiction has its own process for licensing, there are no blanket reciprocal agreements between New York and any other state. 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 New York.
As for reciprocity between municipalities, that seems to be handled on a case by case basis. In most localities, if you can demonstrate the requisite experience and pass a comparable test, you will qualify for a plumber’s license at your current level. New York City appears to be an exception and will most likely require you to work for at least one year within the city before testing for a master plumber’s license.
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.
Some cities/counties in New York require continuing education for plumbers before they can renew their license. In New York City, master plumbers must complete seven hours of approved continuing education before being permitted to renew their license. Many other smaller cities do not have this requirement but do expect their licensed plumbers to stay up to date on changes to the plumbing code.
Licensing periods vary from place to place. In New York City, the licensing period is three years. In both Ithaca and Onondaga County, plumbers must renew licenses and registrations annually. The fees vary from place to place.
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