South Carolina Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in South Carolina
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It takes time, effort, and patience to learn how to be a skilled plumber, but it offers a promising career using knowledge that will always be in demand. Governing bodies throughout the country recognize that the health and safety of the public is safeguarded when plumbing work is done correctly, so they require a minimum amount of training and education to qualify for a license.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there is a strong demand for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters throughout the country. The Bureau also reports there are 469,000 plumbers nationwide and South Carolina employs 4,210 of them. Employment nationwide is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031. That growth rate is expected to be more than triple that in South Carolina — projected at 7%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.
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And there’s more good news if you’re interested in this profession. The Associated General Contractors of America says contractors are hiring. In the 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions.
The licensing requirements for plumbers and contractors vary from state to state and from locality to locality. South Carolina makes it relatively easy, providing one of the shortest routes to qualifying for a plumbing contractor’s license.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in South Carolina
Is a license required for plumbers in South Carolina? Yes.
But not right away. To be a commercial plumbing contractor in South Carolina or a residential plumbing contractor, you must be licensed through the state. However, when you start out as an entry-level plumber’s helper, you do not need to be licensed. You just need to work for someone who is!
Plumbing contractor licenses are issued on a statewide level through two different entities. The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation oversees both the Contractor’s Licensing Board, which licenses commercial contractors, and the Residential Builders Commission, which licenses residential plumbers.
There are also certifications you can earn through the Municipal Association of South Carolina, but those are not required by law and do not satisfy the statewide licensing requirement. Rather, they demonstrate proficiency to employers.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in South Carolina
What are the different types of plumbers licenses in South Carolina?
There are two statewide license classifications for Plumbing Contractors in South Carolina.
Mechanical Contractor — This license is required for anyone performing commercial construction over $5,000 and is issued by the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board. To qualify, you must pass a required technical examination and Business Management and Law exam and be able to document two years of experience within the last five years.
Residential Specialty Plumbing Contractor — This license is required for anyone performing residential installations and repairs that exceed $200. It is issued through the Residential Builders Commission. To qualify, you must pass a required technical examination, Residential Business Management and Law exam, and be able to document one year of experience within the last five years. A Residential Specialty Contractor is an independent contractor who is not a licensed residential builder but who contracts with licensed residential contractors, general contractors, or property owners to perform plumbing installations or repairs of more than $200.
Steps to Get a Plumber’s License in South Carolina
There is no age requirement in South Carolina to get started as a plumber. Nor is there a high school diploma or GED required for licensing, but you will need these if you choose to pursue a secondary degree or certificate. Your journey begins with work experience or classroom instruction.
Gain work experience through an entry-level position, earn a certificate or diploma through a community or technical college program, or join an apprenticeship program.
Get licensed or certified.
Either of the state-level contractor licenses requires you to take a trade exam and Business Management and Law exam.
You can choose instead to earn a Journeyman or Master certification through the Municipal Association and work for a licensed contractor. Either of those certifications requires you to pass a trade exam as well. You cannot work independently on commercial projects over $5,000 or residential projects over $200 without a state-issued contractor’s license.
For either of the state-level licenses, you must demonstrate financial stability through either submitting a financial statement or surety bond.
Pay all application, exam, and license fees.
Business corporations, nonprofit corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships must register with the Secretary of State. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not required to register.
Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in South Carolina
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your plumbing contractor license in South Carolina:
Most importantly, it is required by law in South Carolina to be licensed through the state to legally perform plumbing work unless you are an employee of a licensed plumber.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
Only licensed plumbing contractors can: operate a business and advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, bid on public and government projects.
Having a license protects your company and customers.
A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market.
It also increases your earning potential.
What Is the Mean Salary for a Plumber in South Carolina?
The annual mean wage for a plumber in South Carolina is $48,680, 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 salary for an apprentice plumber is $17.91 per hour in South Carolina and $5,500 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $23.47 per hour in South Carolina and $6,750 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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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Location-specific service history, including recorded calls, accessible from the mobile app.
Required forms that ensure every job is done right, driving consistency.
The ability to build multi-option proposals with photos, on-site, in minutes.
Sales presentations that make conversations with customers easier and drive average ticket.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in South Carolina?
If you choose to start with some sort of technical or community college program, you can expect to pay $4,000 to $5,000 per year for in-state tuition. Apprenticeships are considerably less costly and often your employer will pay that fee as long as you maintain a B average or better and you will be earning a wage from the first day in the field.
Certification through the Municipal Association of South Carolina costs $25 for the application fee and $100 for the exam through Prov, an examination service that prepares, schedules, proctors, and grades all examinations for the Municipal Association. Renewal for a Journeyman certification is $20 annually and Master certification can be renewed every two years for $50.
The General and Mechanical Contractor’s Licensing fee schedule varies according to when you apply and is prorated from $175 to $350. The fee schedule is at the top of page three of the application. The statewide exams are given through PSI Testing. The business management and law exam and the Plumbing Contractor exam each costs $75. For mechanical contractors, all licenses expire on October 31 of every odd-numbered year and must be renewed for $350.
The Residential Specialty Contractor Plumbing license application fee is $100. The exams again are offered through PSI. The business management and law exam costs $75. The Residential Plumbing exam is also $75, but if you take both together, it’s $90. The License fee is $160 if the license is issued on or between July 1, odd-numbered year to June 30, even-numbered year and $80 if the license is issued on or between July 1, even-numbered year to June 30, odd-numbered year and expires on June 30 of every odd-numbered year. It must be renewed every two years and costs $160.
How to Get a Plumbers License in South Carolina
The first step to getting your Contractor’s License in South Carolina is to get the education and experience you need. You can start with an entry-level job if you can find an employer willing to train you from scratch or you can enroll in a certificate or degree program to prepare you for the job market, or you can seek out an apprenticeship that will fully prepare you for certification or licensing.
WORK EXPERIENCE: Before you can apply for licensure through the state, you must document work experience in the plumbing field. To apply to test for the Residential Specialty Contractor Plumbing License, you must demonstrate at least one year of work experience in the last five years. To apply for the commercial Mechanical Contractor License, you must have a minimum of two years of work experience in the last five years. If you choose to pursue certification through the Municipal Association of South Carolina to gain journeyman and eventually master certification because you don’t plan to work independently as a contractor but want to demonstrate your proficiency to employers, you will need a minimum amount of work experience as well.
For journeyman testing, submit documentation of two full years of experience. Completion of a two-year degree from an accredited technical college can be counted as one year of experience. For master testing, an applicant must be a journeyman and submit documentation of four full years of experience. If an applicant can submit documentation for 10 years of experience in the trade, the journeyman requirement can be waived.
TAKE EXAMINATION: Once you’ve fulfilled the work experience requirements, you may apply to take one of the licensing exams and pay the appropriate fees. The Contractors Licensing Board and the Residential Builders Commission that offer the statewide licenses have contracted with PSI Testing Services. The Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) administers its certification exams through Prov.
APPLY FOR LICENSE OR CERTIFICATION: After successfully passing the exam, you may apply for your state-issued license or your recognized certification as either a journeyman or master. Again, that designation does not alone satisfy the legal requirement to be licensed. MASC provides an examination and certification program for master and journeyman tradesmen in the electrical, plumbing, heating and air, sheet metal, pipefitting, and gas fitting fields that may be used as an indication of skill level in South Carolina cities that require trades certification before issuing licenses and permits. You can apply for Master Plumber and Journeyman Plumber certification using this link to the application and detailed instructions.
The Master Plumber certification through MASC is accepted in place of testing for the state-issued contractors' licenses. If you plan to work exclusively on residential projects, you can apply for a Residential Specialty Contractor License. You will mail this Residential Specialty Contractor Plumbing License Application along with a check or money order for $100 payable to SCRBC. There is a checklist of items at the top of the application that you must include. The mailing address is:
South Carolina Residential Builders Commission PO Box 11329 Columbia, SC 29211-1329
To apply for a Commercial Mechanical Contractor License through the Contractor’s Licensing Board you will need to complete the initial application-Doc #165 and submit it with the fee explained at the top of the application along with the appropriate financial statements based on the dollar amount of the projects you plan to pursue, a work experience affidavit, and either a PSI Exam score or one of the other demonstrations of proficiency like the Master Plumber Certification through the Municipal Association. You will mail all of these to:
South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board PO Box 11329 Columbia, SC 29211
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in South Carolina?
South Carolina has one of the fastest routes to a plumbing license. If you only plan to work on residential projects, you can apply for your state Residential Specialty Contractor License after only one year of work experience. For a commercial Mechanical Contractor License, you must have two years of work experience before applying.
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South Carolina 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. For the most part, there are two ways to get the practical experience and the formal education you need to qualify to take any mandated plumber license exam. You can either go to college or technical school and then get an entry-level job to gain practical experience or you can join an approved apprenticeship program.
There are very few community or technical college programs to get the training you need to become a plumbing professional in South Carolina. A certificate program can take a matter of months or you can get a one or two-year degree. Technical College of the Low Country, located in Beaufort at the southern tip of the state, offers a 22-credit-hour certificate program in residential plumbing that could give you the base of knowledge to get started. Or just over the border in North Carolina, two Community Colleges offer plumbing training programs. Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock has a Plumbing Technology Certificate and Associate Degree option. Cleveland Community College in Shelby has a 31-credit-hour Plumbing Diploma program.
You may also choose to gain the necessary experience through an apprenticeship program. UA Local 421 offers a five-year apprenticeship for plumbing. A lot of employers also offer apprenticeships to entry-level employees looking to learn the trade. Plumbers are in demand, so many employers will pay for your classroom instruction as long as you maintain a certain grade point average.
Whether through a college degree program or apprenticeship, you’ll learn about plumbing systems including:
Underground water supply systems
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.
Tuition: The Cost of Tuition depends on the program you choose. In-state students can expect tuition to be in the $4,000 to $5,000 range per year. The cost for an online training program can be significantly less.
As a full-fledged employee of the sponsoring company, a Registered Apprentice completes a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical instruction for each year of apprenticeship.
Apprenticeship terms are occupation specific, but the average term is four to five years.
Successful completion of the Registered Apprenticeship Program earns the apprentice nationally recognized certification as a journeyperson.
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 mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.
South Carolina Plumber Licensing Exam Details
The state has contracted with PSI Testing services for all South Carolina HVAC Contractor exams. The Residential Builders Commission Offers the Residential Plumbing Exam and the Residential Business Management and Law Exam. The Candidate Information Bulletin explains the application and examination process.
The Business Management and Law Exam has 50 questions and a time limit of 120 minutes. It covers:
Licensing Laws and Rules
Estimating and Bidding
Contracts and Agreements
Insurance and Bonding
Safety Recordkeeping and Reporting
Labor Laws and Employment Regulations
Environmental Laws and Regulations
The Residential Plumbing Exam has 65 questions and a time limit of 180 minutes. It covers:
General Plumbing Knowledge and Regulations
Piping, Valves, and Controls
Fixtures and Equipment
Drain, Waste and Vent and Sewers
Each exam costs $75 separately or you can take both for $90.
The Contractor’s Licensing Board offers several SC Commercial Contractor exams and the Business Management and Law exam. The Candidate Information Bulletin explains the application and examination process.
The Business Management and Law Exam has 50 questions and a time limit of 125 minutes. It covers:
Estimating and Bidding
Contracts and Agreements
Insurance and Bonding
Safety Recordkeeping and Reporting
Labor Laws and Employment Regulations
Environmental Laws and Regulations
The Plumber Exam has 80 questions and a time limit of four hours. It covers:
General Plumbing Knowledge
General Plumbing Regulations
Hangers and Supports
Joints and Connections
Fixtures and Equipment
Water Supply and Distribution
Sanitary Drainage Systems
Indirect and Special Waste
Traps and Interceptors
Storm Piping Systems
Plumbing - Developed Length
DWV Isometric Analysis (Isometric Based)
Water Supply Isometric Analysis
Roof Drain Isometric Analysis
The exams for the Municipal Association of South Carolina are administered through Prov. The Candidate Information Bulletin provides you with information about the testing and application process for becoming certified. The tests for the plumber exams are based on the International Plumbing Code 2015, International Fuel Gas Code 2015 and Plumbing Basics for Contractors, 3rd Edition 2014. The Master Plumber exam is made up of 100 questions and has a time limit of four hours. There are 100 questions on the Journeyman Plumber exam and you are allowed three hours to complete it. Both cost $100.
Who Issues Plumbers Licenses in South Carolina?
Plumbing licenses are issued by the state through the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. The Contractor’s Licensing Board licenses commercial contractors and the Residential Builders Commission issues licenses for all residential work over $200.
Does My South Carolina Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
South Carolina does have reciprocal agreements with two other states for the Mechanical Contractor License — Plumbing classification. Those states are Ohio and Tennessee. Also, the Municipal Association of South Carolina Master Plumber certification acts as a waiver for examination for the state 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.
Other Requirements Unique to South Carolina
To keep your state-issued license current, you must renew it.
Your Residential Specialty Contractor license must be renewed every two years at a cost of $160. Your Commercial Mechanical Contractor’s license must be renewed every two years for a $350 fee.
Renewal for a Journeyman certification through MASC is $20 annually and Master certification can be renewed every two years for $50. The Municipal Association will send a renewal notification 60 days prior to the certification card’s expiration date.
There is no continuing education requirement for licensed Plumbing Contractors in South Carolina at this time.
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