West Virginia Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in West Virginia
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Learning the plumbing trade is no quick or easy feat. It takes years to learn how to do the job right, and almost every state has deemed that necessary to protect the health and safety of its people. That’s why most states require plumbers to train for several years, gain plumbing experience, and demonstrate through testing that they are competent to be licensed
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,000 plumbers nationwide and West Virginia employs 1,450 of them. That number is projected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031 across the country. In West Virginia that rate is a little higher for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters at 7%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.
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Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians, and HVAC professionals. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions.
Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state, and in some cases, from locality to locality. In West Virginia licensing is uniform statewide and begins at the apprentice level.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in West Virginia
Is a license required for plumbers in West Virginia? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.
In the state of West Virginia,you must be licensed to legally perform plumbing work of any kind. The state licenses every level of this workforce — apprentice, journeyman, master, and contractor. The West Virginia Division of Labor is responsible for the licensing and regulation of plumbers, HVAC technicians, and contractors. The State Legislature passed a bill effective June 15, 2021, that ultimately makes these duties the responsibility of the West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board. However, the Division of Labor will continue to perform administrative and enforcement duties for the Contractor Licensing Board for 24 months beyond that date and then they will become the Board's responsibility.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in West Virginia
What are the different types of plumber licenses in West Virginia?
There are four plumber licenses issued in West Virginia:
Plumber in Training
Each license has specific requirements for licensure.
LICENSE REQUIREMENTS: Anyone performing plumbing work in the State of West Virginia is required to have a Plumber Certification, regardless of the dollar amount of the job or the individual’s affiliation with a licensed contractor.
Plumber in Training — Must be at least 18 years of age and work under the direct supervision of a licensed master or journeyman plumber.
Journeyman Plumber — Must be at least 18 years of age, and submit a copy of the required journeyman plumber written examination scores reflecting a score of at least 70%, and be competent to instruct and supervise the work of a plumber in training.
Master Plumber — Must be at least 18 years of age, submit a copy of the required master plumber written examination scores reflecting a score of at least 70%, be competent to design plumbing systems and to instruct and supervise the plumbing work of journeyman plumbers and plumbers in training. The master plumber written examination may not be taken until one year after passage of the journeyman plumber examination.
Plumbing Contractor — Plumbing work on $5,000 or more on a residential project or $25,000 or more on a commercial project (material & labor for the entire project, not just the plumbing work) requires a Contractor License with a classification that covers plumbing work. To receive a Plumbing Contractor license, you must either be a licensed Master Plumber yourself or hire a licensed Master Plumber to serve as the qualifier (the person who meets both the experience and exam requirement). If you have employees (other than yourself, partners, members or officers) you must have workers' compensation and unemployment coverage. All companies engaged in construction, mining, or the transportation of minerals within the state of West Virginia must register a wage bond with the Division of Labor. A wage bond is a guarantee issued to the West Virginia Division of Labor to protect the wages and benefits of employees. The bond is maintained by the Division’s Wage & Hour Section, which is also responsible for the investigation of employee wage complaints. After an investigation, any wages (or fringe benefits) that remain unsatisfied after the employer has been afforded due process will be paid to the employees from the proceeds of the bond. The bond can also be used to satisfy a legal judgment relating to earned wages and/or fringe benefits for work performed in West Virginia.
Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in West Virginia
You must be at least 18 years of age.
Enroll in a plumbing-related training program acquired through career technical education provided by the state’s public schools or an apprenticeship program or an employer- sponsored training program;
Apply for a Plumber in Training license with the West Virginia Division of Labor.
Work under the direct supervision of a licensed master or journeyman plumber. Though as of June 15, 2021, there is no specific experience requirement for the journeyman license, you still must master the information necessary to pass the statewide exam.
Apply for, take, and pass license exam for journeyman plumber license.
Apply for license and pay licensing fee.
You may work indefinitely as a licensed journeyman; OR
At least one year after passing the journeyman plumber examination, take and pass the license exam for master plumber license.
You may work indefinitely as a licensed master; OR
If you want to own your own business and become a contractor yourself, you must take and pass both the trade and business and law contractor licensing exams.
Obtain a business registration tax number and provide proof of Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and a wage bond with your completed contractor license application.
All licenses must be renewed annually.
Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in West Virginia
There are many benefits to getting your West Virginia plumbing license:
Most importantly, it is required by law in West Virginia to be licensed through the state to legally perform any plumbing work.
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 and increases your earning potential as you acquire more experience.
What Is the Mean Wage for a Plumber in West Virginia?
The annual mean wage for a plumber in West Virginia is $53,470 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That salary increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average salary for an apprentice plumber is $15.78 per hour in West Virginia and $5,500 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average salary for a journeyman plumber is $22.17 per hour in West Virginia 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.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in West Virginia?
How you get started in the field determines your upfront costs. If you simply learn on the job as an entry level employee, you won’t have significant initial costs, but you will also likely receive a lower wage. You’ll only have to pay the fee for the Plumber in Training license, which is $25 for the initial application and for each renewal. The cost to get started as an apprentice in West Virginia is fairly low. Apprenticeship programs are operated on a voluntary basis by employers, employer associations, or management and labor groups (unions) and have different tuition costs associated with them. All have some fees for books and tools, but much of the cost is absorbed by the provider, meaning the individual employer, employer association or union.
If you attend a vocational school or technical or community college for a certificate program, you’ll have to pay tuition, but you may qualify for financial aid.
Once you have acquired the skills you need through apprenticeship or entry-level employment under the supervision of a licensed master or journeyman plumber, you need to pass the journeyman examination. A year after passing it, you can take the master plumber examination. If you choose to own your own business. You’ll have to take and pass both the business and law and the plumbing contractor trade examinations, too. The fee for each exam is $51.95. The license application and renewal fee for both the master and journeyman license is $75. The contractor application and renewal fee is $90.
How to Get a Plumbers License in West Virginia
Legislative changes that took effect on June 15, 2021, in West Virginia have removed the requirement for 8,000 hours of plumbing work experience as a plumbers apprentice before being eligible to test for a journeyman plumber license, but you still have to have the knowledge to pass the statewide trade exam. The bottom line remains the same. You have to learn how to be a plumber before being legally licensed to do it. Becoming a plumbing professional in West Virginia is pretty straightforward — learn, test, get licensed.
APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: You must be at least 18 years old to get started. There is no specific experience requirement, you just need to be able to pass the exam. You can get that training several ways. You can opt to get some post-secondary education at a community or technical college, or even get started in a plumbing program while you’re still in high school. Alternatively, you could begin with a union or trade association apprenticeship that will combine hands-on training with classroom instruction and usually takes four to five years. Or, you could simply take an entry-level position with a plumbing contractor to learn the ropes. Be sure to apply for a Plumber in Training license with the West Virginia Division of Labor before beginning work under the direct supervision of a licensed master or journeyman plumber.
TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Next, you’ll need to apply for, take, and pass the exam for the Journeyman Plumber license. The Division of Labor has contracted with PSI Exams to administer all of the exams and each costs $51.95. More details on the exams below.
APPLY FOR LICENSE: Once you’ve passed the exam with a score of at least a 70%, you can apply for the Journeyman license. You’ll use the same application that you filled out for your plumber in training license. You can mail the application or bring it to:
Division of Labor
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
State Capitol Complex - Building 3, Room 200
Charleston, WV 25305
Each level of licensing requires you to pay an initial fee and then that same amount every year when you renew your license. Once you’re licensed you may legally perform plumbing work for any licensed plumbing contractor as long as you keep your license current through renewal.
If you choose to pursue a master plumber license, you will have to wait a year after passing the journeyman exam to register for the master plumber examination. Once you pass that test, you can apply for your master license.
CONSIDER BECOMING A PLUMBING CONTRACTOR: You may work indefinitely as a licensed master or journeyman plumber, OR if you choose to apply to be a contractor, you will need to pay the fee and meet several additional requirements that are explained in detail on this page of the Division website. One of those requirements is that you must take and pass the contractor licensing exam, including the West Virginia Business and Law exam.
You’ll also need to obtain a business registration tax number and provide proof of Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and a wage bond with your completed application. The affidavit in it must also be notarized.
All licenses must be renewed annually, which can be done through an online portal on the Division of Labor website.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in West Virginia?
Because the Journeyman Plumber License no longer has a minimum experience requirement, the time it takes to become licensed is entirely up to you. It will take as long as it takes you to master the information you’ll be tested on in the exam. Plumbing work is complicated business, though, so most aspiring plumbers complete some type of formal education like a degree or certificate program at a community or technical college or an apprenticeship. Many certificate programs take about a year; an associate degree usually takes two years. Plumbing apprenticeships take four to five years. The master plumber license can’t be rushed, either. The new law eliminated the previous 12,000-hour work experience requirement, but does require you to wait one year after passing the journey-level exam before you can take the master plumber written examination.
West Virginia 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. The WV Joint Labor Union and Management Apprenticeship and Training Advisory Council maintains a website just for apprenticeship opportunities. There are many JATCs of Plumbers & Pipefitters who offer apprenticeships through the site. Or you could simply apply for one of the apprentice positions listed on Zip Recruiter, Indeed, or another job board to see if an employer will sponsor you instead.
The two-year plumbing program at the Carver Career and Technical Education Center is for high school students. It’s meant to prepare students to enter the plumbing field and gives them a head start on certifications.
Putnam Career and Technical Center has a two-year program for students too, but also offers it as an adult full-time program that’s 10 months (1,080 clock hours). The tuition is $3 per clock hour.
West Virginia Plumber Licensing Exam Details
To be certified as a Master or Journeyman Plumber or Plumbing Contractor in West Virginia, you must take an examination. They are all administered by PSI Exams services. The Candidate Information Bulletin for each provides you with information about the examination and application process. Each allows you to use authorized references, including the International Plumbing Code and the International Fuel Gas Code, meaning they are open book. For each, the exam fee is $47.50.
There are 80 questions on the Journeyman Plumber exam and you’ll be allowed three hours to finish it. The Master Plumber exam is 100 questions long and again you are given three hours to complete it. They each cover the same subject areas:
Fixtures & Fittings
Fuel Gas Systems
Water Supply and Distribution
Drain, Waste and Vent Systems
Certain contractor classifications including plumbing require that you pass a trade exam. The Candidate Information Bulletin for Contractor Examinations explains the process and content of both the trade and Business & Law exams. Each will cost $47.50, so together they will be $95.
There are 100 questions on the Plumbing Contractor exam and a time limit of three hours. Those questions will cover the same subject areas as the Master and Journeyman examinations.
The Business & Law exam is required as well. It’s three hours long and covers basic business management skills necessary to run a construction business. It also addresses the legal requirements of establishing a business, including taxes, laws, and regulations governing construction. There are 50 questions covering the following subject areas:
Estimating and Bidding
There are six exam sites throughout the state and they are listed in the information bulletin.
Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in West Virginia?
The West Virginia Division of Labor issues plumbing and contractor licenses. The West Virginia State Legislature passed a bill effective June 15, 2021, that transfers these duties to the Contractor Licensing Board. However, the Division of Labor will continue to perform administrative and enforcement duties for the Contractor Licensing Board for two years, so they will become the Board's responsibility in June of 2023.
Does My West Virginia Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
West Virginia does have reciprocity agreements with two other states for plumbing licenses. If you are licensed in Ohio or Tennessee you’re in luck! Here’s a list of the reciprocity agreements that the Contractor Licensing Board approved for West Virginia.
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.
West Virginia law does not require continuing education of its licensed plumbers or contractors to renew their license. Licenses are good for one year. The expiration date is listed on your certification card. You will receive a renewal reminder about 45 days before it expires. The renewal cost is the same as the initial application fee.
Plumber in Training — $25
Journeyman Plumber — $75
Master Plumber — $75
Plumbing Contractor — $90
There is a late fee of $25 for any license that has expired past 15 days.
Other Requirements Unique to West Virginia
There is a helpful page of Frequently Asked Questions for both the Plumber Certification (FAQ) and the Contractor Licenses (FAQ). If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, there’s also Licensing Contact Information on the website.
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