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Wisconsin Plumbing License: How to Become a Plumber in Wisconsin

category-iconPlumbing, WI

Table of Contents
  1. Licensing Requirements for Plumbers

  2. Types of Plumbers Licenses in Wisconsin

  3. Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License

  4. Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License

  5. What Is the Median Salary for a Plumbers?

  6. How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License?

  7. How to Get a Plumbers License in Wisconsin

  8. How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License?

  9. Wisconsin Plumber Training programs and schools

  10. Wisconsin Plumber Licensing Exam Details

  11. Who Issues Plumber’s Licenses in Wisconsin?

  12. Does My License Work in Any Other State?

  13. Plumbing Certifications

  14. Continuing Education

  15. Renewal

Learning the many skills required to be a plumber takes time, hard work, and patience. You can’t rush the process, no matter how much you might like to speed through it. In Wisconsin, you can expect it to take multiple years of classroom training and experience. But that time and effort can lead to a career that is long-lasting, lucrative, and fulfilling. Almost every state requires plumbers to be licensed because it’s complicated work that affects the health and safety of our society.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 490,200 plumbers nationwide, and Wisconsin employs 7,970 of them. That national number is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 across the country, but in Wisconsin, the projected growth rate is significantly higher at 12% for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters and at 13% for Helpers of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.

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Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen such as plumbers, electricians, and HVAC or mechanical professionals. On June 30, 2020, 60% of firms in the U.S. and 50% of firms in Wisconsin 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 find that those hard-earned skills are in demand.

Licensing requirements for plumbers vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. Wisconsin has strict, statewide standards for working in the plumbing business, beginning at the apprentice level.

Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in Wisconsin

Is a license required for plumbers in Wisconsin? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.

In Wisconsin, you must be licensed to legally perform plumbing work of any kind. Wisconsin refers to its licenses and certifications as credentials and issues them at every level of this workforce, including apprentice, journeyman, master and contractor. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) — Trades Credentialing Division requires individuals to complete an approved apprenticeship program and demonstrate competency in the field after a specified number of hours of classroom education and work experience by passing a state-administered exam before becoming licensed journeyman plumbers and then requires more years of experience to earn a master plumber license.

Types of Plumbers Licenses in Wisconsin

What are the different types of plumbers licenses in Wisconsin?

There are nine different plumbers licenses in Wisconsin. Three each at the apprentice, journeyman, and master level.

Apprentice

  • Plumbing Apprentice

  • Plumbing Learner Restricted Appliance

  • Plumbing Learner Restricted Service

Journeyman

  • Journeyman Plumber

  • Journeyman Plumber Restricted Appliance

  • ·Journeyman Plumber Restricted Service

Master

  • Master Plumber

  • Master Plumber Restricted Appliance

  • Master Plumber Restricted Service

Each license has specific requirements for licensure. 

LICENSE REQUIREMENTS:

Plumbing Apprentice

  • Must be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate or GED equivalent.

  • Must be registered with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

  • Must be enrolled in a plumbing apprenticeship program recognized by the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards or the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship.

  • May perform work only under the supervision of a licensed master plumber. 

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • The apprentice license must be renewed annually.

Plumbing Learner Restricted Appliance and  Plumbing Learner Restricted Service

  • Must be at least 16 years old and a high school graduate or GED equivalent.

  • Must be employed by an acceptable business engaged in the installation of plumbing.

  • The Master Plumber you work for is responsible for your training and education.

Journeyman Plumber

  • Must have completed a plumbing apprenticeship program recognized by the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards or the United States Department of Labor. Approximately five years in length with more than 800 hours in classroom instruction.

  • Must submit a copy of a letter from the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards stating that you have satisfied the requirements of a plumbing apprenticeship program in order to take the exam.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must take and pass the state exam.

Journeyman Plumber Restricted Appliance

  • Must have at least 1,000 hours of experience in one continuous year as a registered Plumbing Learner Restricted Appliance.

  • Must submit evidence of shop training and instruction in at least all of the following: plumbing code, blueprint or blueline reading, appliance and equipment servicing.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must take and pass the state exam

Journeyman Plumber Restricted Service

  • Must have at least 1,000 hours of experience in one continuous year as a registered Plumbing Learner Restricted Service.

  • Must submit evidence of completion for the following educational coursework:

    • 40 credit hours of plumbing code

    • 20 credit hours of blueprint or blueline reading

    • 10 credit hours of transit or builders level

    • 20 credit hours of plumbing related mathematics

    • 10 credit hours of first aid and safety.

  • Must  file an application and submit appropriate fees.Must take and pass the state exam.

Master Plumber

  • Must have at least 1,000 hours of experience as a licensed Wisconsin Journeyman Plumber per year for at least three years; OR

  • Must have graduated from an accredited engineering university or college with a degree in civil engineering, mechanical engineering or other approved engineering curriculum related to plumbing.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must pass the state exam.

Master Plumber Restricted Appliance

  • Must have at least 1,000 hours of experience as a licensed Wisconsin Journeyman Plumber Restricted Appliance or Journeyman Plumber per year for at least two years.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must pass the state exam. 

Master Plumber Restricted Service

  • Must have at least 1,000 hours of experience as a licensed Wisconsin Journeyman Plumber Restricted Service or Journeyman Plumber per year for at least two years.

  • Must file an application and submit appropriate fees.

  • Must pass the state exam.

Steps to Getting a Plumber’s License in Wisconsin

  1. For apprenticeships required for non-restricted licenses, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

  2. Enroll in an apprentice program approved by the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards or the United States Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.

  3. Apply for an apprentice registration with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services meeting all requirements and paying a fee. Receive apprentice registration and renew annually for the duration of apprenticeship.

  4. Complete an approved apprenticeship, all of which  are approximately five years in length.

  5. Apply for, take, and pass the journeyman plumbing exam.

  6. After passing the exam, pay prorated fee to receive your Journeyman Plumber credential.

  7. Gain three years of verifiable work experience as a licensed journeyman.

  8. Apply for, take, and pass exam for Master Plumber credential.

  9. After passing the exam, pay a prorated fee to receive your Master Plumber credential.

  10. Work indefinitely for a licensed contractor.    OR

  11. If you want to own your own business, you must be both licensed as a Master Plumber by DSPS and also hold a Dwelling Contractor certification. 

  12. To meet the Dwelling Contractor requirements, you must have worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment compensation insurance, and provide proof of financial responsibility in the form of liability insurance or a surety bond.

Benefits of Getting a Plumbers License in Wisconsin

There are many benefits to getting your Wisconsin plumbing license:

  • Most important, it is required by law in Wisconsin 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 Median Salary for a Plumber in Wisconsin?

The annual mean wage for a plumber in Wisconsin is $67, 210 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as compared to the national average of $61,000. You can expect that salary to increase as you acquire more experience, according to indeed.com.

Apprentice: The average hourly wage for an apprentice plumber is $21.78 per hour in Wisconsin and $5,429 overtime per year.

Journeyman: The average hourly wage for a journeyman plumber is $30.93 per hour in Wisconsin and $10,331 overtime per year.

Salaries 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 Plumbers License in Wisconsin?

The cost to get started as an apprentice in Wisconsin is fairly low. The apprentice application fee is $15, and there’s a $15 credential fee to be paid every year to renew your credential until your apprenticeship is complete.  Apprentice programs have different tuition costs associated with them. The Associated Builders of Wisconsin plumbing apprenticeship, for instance, costs about $3,000 per year for five years. Apprentices are earning as they learn though.

The application fee for any of the Journeyman Plumber credentials is $10, and the exam fee is $20. Upon passing the exam, you will pay a $180 prorated credential fee, based on a four-year term from March 31.

 For any of the Master Plumber licenses, the application fee is $20 and the exam costs $30. After passing the exam, you’ll pay a $500 prorated credential fee, based on a four-year term from March 31..

How to Get a Plumbers License in Wisconsin

Becoming a plumbing professional in Wisconsin isn’t fast, but it’s straightforward.

APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: In most cases you will need to be at least 18 years old and have graduated from high school or earned a GED equivalent. (The state does allow for 16-year-olds to begin working as plumbing learner restricted apprentices, as long as they have completed the 12th grade or its equivalent.)  Wisconsin requires everyone who wants to pursue an unrestricted plumbing license to complete an apprenticeship program recognized by the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards or the United States Department of Labor. To get that recognition, the apprenticeship must include 7,428 hours on the job and 572 hours of classroom instruction for a total of 8,000 hours, plus 260 hours of extra training in: Plumbing Applications Lab, Plumbing Blueprint Reading, Plumbing Repair, Transition to Trainer, Isometric Interpretation & Drawing, Transit/Level/Laser, Welding, Safety/OSHA, First Aid/CPR. Transition to Trainer during final year.

 The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Division of Employment & Training manages the state’s apprenticeship website. Registered apprenticeships for construction occupations such as plumber apprenticeships are sponsored by local apprenticeship committees, not individual employers. Therefore, applicants apply directly to their local committee for the specific occupation. After securing an apprentice position, you must apply for registration with DSPS and pay a $15 application fee and a $15 credential fee. The registration must be renewed every year, and you will pay a $15 fee each time until your apprenticeship is complete.  The applications for Plumbing Learner Restricted Appliance and  Plumbing Learner Restricted Service are different from the Plumbing Apprentice application.

 TAKE LICENSING EXAM: After completing the apprenticeship, which will take about five years, apply for, take, and pass the exam for the Journeyman Plumber license. DSPS details the exam process on its website. The Journeyman Plumber Application requires you to pay both the $10 application fee and a $20 exam fee. Again, the application for Journeyman Plumber Restricted Appliance and Journeyman Plumber Restricted Service are different from the Journeyman Plumber application.

 PAY FOR LICENSE: After successfully passing the exam, you’ll pay a $180 prorated credential fee to receive your Journeyman Plumber license or restricted license based on a four-year term from March 31.

 ACCUMULATE MORE WORK EXPERIENCE: Gain three years of verifiable work experience as a licensed journeyman.

TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Apply for, take, and pass exam for the Master Plumber license. You will pay a $20 application fee and $30 exam fee when you submit your Master Plumber application, Master Plumber Restricted Appliance application, or Master Plumber Restricted Service application.

 PAY FOR LICENSE: After passing the exam, you will pay a $500 prorated credential fee to receive your Master Plumber license or restricted license based on a four-year term from March 31.

You can work indefinitely for a licensed contractor.    OR

 CONTRACTOR REQUIREMENTS: If you want to own your own business, you must be both licensed as a Master Plumber by DSPS and also hold a Dwelling Contractor certification. 

To meet the Dwelling Contractor requirements, you must have worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment compensation insurance, and provide proof of financial responsibility in the form of liability insurance or a surety bond. The Dwelling Contractor application details the amounts required for each.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in Wisconsin?

It will take about five years to complete a registered apprenticeship and then become certified as a journeyman plumber in Wisconsin. It will take an additional three years to meet the eligibility requirements to test for a master plumber license. If you choose to become a contractor, the application process will take additional time. The great news is that as an apprentice you begin earning a wage from the very beginning, and that compensation goes up each year as you acquire more training and knowledge until you are a fully licensed journeyman. Then it goes up again when you acquire your master license. 

Wisconsin 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. Since the state of Wisconsin requires plumbing professionals to train as registered apprentices, you most likely will not choose to get a post-secondary degree. However, if you want to build your knowledge before beginning as an apprentice, there are several certificate programs through the Wisconsin Technical College System intended to prepare you for an apprenticeship in plumbing. Milwaukee Area Technical College, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Nicolet Area Technical College, and Mid-State Technical College all offer a Plumbing Technology certificate. The average annual tuition for these pre-apprenticeship programs is $4,230.  

Apprenticeship: The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Division of Employment & Training manages the state’s apprenticeship website. Registered apprenticeships for construction occupations are sponsored by local apprenticeship committees, not individual employers. Therefore, applicants apply directly to their local committee for the specific occupation such as plumbing.

Program Prerequisites: For any of these paths, you need to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED (General Educational Development) degree. All applicants should have a driver’s license or letter verifying reliable transportation to work, must pass a drug test, and have passed high school algebra or its equivalent.

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.

Wisconsin Plumber Licensing Exam Details

DSPS administers the exams for all credentials. Each has a different time limit and number of exam questions.

The examination for Master Plumber takes all day. It is broken into two parts, each with a time limit of four hours. Part 1 is taken in the morning session and comprises 110 questions; Part 2 has 132 questions and is taken in the afternoon session. The exams for Master Plumber Restricted Appliance and Master Plumber Restricted Service are each three hours and contain 70 and 90 questions, respectively. All of them are open-book exams, and the passing score is 70%. The master exam fees are $30.

The Journeyman Plumber exam is also two parts. Each part is three hours in length. Part 1 has 87 questions; part 2 has 120. The exams for Journeyman Plumber Restricted Appliance and Journeyman Plumber Restricted Service are each three hours and contain 70 and 90 questions, respectively. All of them are open-book, and the passing score is 70%. The journeyman exam fees are $20.

Exams are offered in Brookfield, Madison, Appleton, and Eau Claire multiple times throughout the year. Dates and locations are listed on the website. Morning sessions start at 8 am. Afternoon sessions start at 1 p.m. You can arrive at the exam site 30 minutes ahead of time. You will receive an exam result letter in the mail within 21 calendar days of testing. If you did not pass the exam, there will be instructions in the result letter for setting up a new exam date. Examination reviews are offered on a monthly basis at the DSPS office in Madison for those who were unsuccessful. The one-hour review costs $15, and you will be able to view your examination and an exam analysis of which questions were answered incorrectly.

Who Issues Plumber’s Licenses in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services — Trades Credentialing Division issues certification to individuals who demonstrate competency in the field through training, experience and successfully passing an exam. DSPS also issues Dwelling Contractor Credentials required for any plumbing business to operate legally. Local governments where you intend to work may have other rules, so make sure you meet any additional licensing or permitting requirements.

Does My Wisconsin Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?

No. Wisconsin does not have reciprocity agreements with any other state. Reciprocal licensing is granted to those individuals who have been licensed in states with substantially similar licensing requirements, meet minimum experience requirements, and pass the Wisconsin examination. The Master Plumber application states that you must hold a current plumbing license and have completed at least eight years of plumbing experience. Of those eight years you need at least 1,000 hours per year for at least three years that meet the legal requirements of the state, city, town, or village where you were practicing. You must attach a copy of a state verification or current license and complete the Experience Table on Page 2 of the application.

Plumbing Certifications

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.

Continuing Education

Wisconsin law requires plumbers to obtain continuing education as a condition of license renewal. For the master and journeyman plumber credential, you will need 24 continuing education units (CEUs) before you can renew every four-year term. For all of the restricted plumber licenses, you will need 12 CEUs. Continuing education must be done through an approved provider.

Renewal 

All the plumber credentials are good for four years and must be renewed by March 31 at the end of that four-year term. You can renew your credential online or mail your Renewal Reminder/Application to: 

Department of Safety and Professional Services

Trades Credentialing Unit

PO Box 78780

Milwaukee, WI  53293-0780

The renewal fees are different at each level of licensure.

  • Plumbing Apprentice - $15

  • Journeyman Plumber (and both restricted) - $180

  • Master Plumber (and both restricted) - $500

Resources

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