Becoming a plumber can be a very rewarding career path for many people. It is an honorable profession and one that stays in demand year-round.
The path to becoming a licensed plumber is not very difficult, provided you are prepared to put in the work. You need to complete an apprenticeship with a licensed plumber before you can get certified yourself.
There are different requirements for becoming a plumber in different states. Read on to find out everything you need to know about becoming a plumber in Illinois.
There are 3 different kinds of plumbing licenses you can apply for. They are, in order of seniority, the apprentice license, plumber license, and contractor license.
There is currently no reciprocity of plumbing licenses in Illinois with other states, so plumbers certified in other states will need to get certified by the Department of Public Health in Illinois if they wish to ply their trade in Illinois.
The only exception is for Chicago plumbers—they can submit an application for reciprocity in Illinois and they won’t need to go through the certification process in Illinois. It costs $150 to submit the application.
Here are the basic requirements for each level of plumbing certification in Illinois:
An apprenticeship program is the first step towards becoming a certified plumber. Being an apprentice means that you are learning the skills required to become a plumber by working under a licensed plumbing professional.
You cannot be an apprentice for more than 6 years. A licensed plumber needs to sponsor you for you to be eligible for an apprenticeship. If you have a plumber’s sponsorship and fulfill the following requirements, you can start your plumbing apprenticeship:
- Be 16 years of age or older
- Have sponsorship proof
- Filled out the apprentice plumber licensing form
- Pay the $100 fee through money order or check
After completing your apprenticeship, you can sit for the licensing exam to become a licensed plumber. You need to give the exam within 6 years of starting your apprenticeship, otherwise, your apprenticeship will be revoked.
Most states in America have a journeyman’s license and master certifications for plumbers, but Illinois does not offer any such certification. Once an apprentice meets the following requirements, they can obtain a plumbing license:
- Be a citizen of the United States or be in the process of becoming one
- Have at least 4 years of experience working as an apprentice
- Possess proof of their apprenticeship
- Have finished a minimum of 2 years of high school or hold equivalent qualifications
- Have attended an accredited plumbing course at a trade school, college or university
- Filled out the application for the plumber’s license examination
- Paid the $175 application fee
According to the Department of Public Health, you only need 4 years of experience as an apprentice to be eligible for the plumber licensing exam.
However, if you are part of a union, you need at least 5 years of apprenticeship experience. Apprentices also need to complete over 1,200 classroom hours according to union laws in Illinois.
Illinois residents pay a $175 fee, but if you reside outside of Illinois, the application will cost you $225.
Chicago is the only state with a plumbing license reciprocity in Illinois. Since the journeyman certification is acceptable in Chicago, licensed journeyman plumbers can work here.
Plumbing contractors are plumbers qualified to work more complex plumbing jobs. They can install or construct water systems, act as consultants for planning structural changes in the plumbing system and supervise plumbers.
They usually have many licensed plumbers and apprentices working for them. If you plan on establishing a plumbing company or wish to enter into a partnership with other plumbers, you need a contractor’s license.
The following requirements are necessary for obtaining a plumbing contractor’s license in Illinois:
- Be a licensed plumber
- Fill out the registration application for plumbing contractors
- Pay the $150 application fee
Plumbers who want to retire from the trade can acquire a retired plumbing license. Having a retired plumbing license means that you are still state-certified and considered competent for plumbing jobs.
If you ever want to renew your plumber’s license to reinstate yourself as a plumber, you will be able to do so at a reduced cost. It makes a lot more sense to get a retired plumbing license than to renew an expired plumbing license.
It is important to note that retired plumbing licenses are only proof of competence, it does not mean that you can sponsor apprentice plumbers or supervise plumbing jobs.
Individuals who are 62 years of age or older or those physically unable to work as a plumber can apply for a retired plumbing license. You will be asked to surrender your plumber’s license to obtain a retired plumbing license.
Plumber licenses are not valid indefinitely. They need to be renewed every year by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
April 30th of every year is the last date to renew plumbing licenses. The good news is that the renewal of licenses can be done online, which saves everyone a lot of trouble.
Plumbers must keep in mind that they are required to state whether they have defaulted on child support payments or not—even if they don’t have any children. This information is mandatory for the license renewal application.
There are several different trade schools and colleges in Illinois that offer plumbing courses. Citizens of Illinois can also enroll in distance learning programs to complete the requisite classroom hours.
Here are the main subjects covered in plumbing courses:
- Proper safety regulations for plumbing
- The plumbing code
- Different connectors and piping
- Cost estimation for different projects
- Handlings tools and welding
- Water, gas and waste disposal system frameworks
- Reading and creating blueprints
The following schools in Illinois offer plumbing courses:
- Illinois Plumbing Consultants: They have a 2-semester course that combines practical training with classroom knowledge. You get trained by licensed and practicing plumbers. The program costs $1,300.
- City College of Chicago – Kennedy-King: They offer a Plumbing and Fire program that spans 1 semester. It makes you eligible for entry-level jobs in the plumbing industry and costs $146 for locals.
- UA Local 130: They offer a 5-year apprenticeship program where you undergo practical training and complete classroom coursework too. By the end of the course, you will be ready to apply for your plumber’s license.
- Building and Fire Code Academy: They have a 4-year apprentice program that will prepare you for the plumbing exam while equipping you with extensive technical knowledge.
- Southwestern Illinois College: They offer 2 different plumbing degree programs and the college is located in a large suburb. Check out their website for course details.
- Parkland College: This is a large public college that offers 2 plumbing courses. More information can be found on the college website.
There are a few different specialties within the plumbing profession. These include:
- Gas Plumbing: Gas plumbers are trained to repair and maintain gas systems in addition to plumbing. They have knowledge of gas lines and know-how to repair and install different gas fixtures.
They often work with emergency services too. In addition to being licensed plumbers, they undergo special training to be able to work as gas plumbers.
- Residential Plumbing: Residential plumbing is a very common specialty among plumbers. They specialize in household repairs and have extensive knowledge of common residential water, waste and seepage systems.
Residential plumbers need to meet all the requirements of licensing for plumbers as specified by the Department of Public Health in Illinois.
It takes a lot of training and experience to become a plumber, but it is a lucrative trade with constant demand.
It is important to know the earning potential of a career path before you decide to jump into it. There are many different factors that can affect your earning potential as a plumber.
On average, this is what plumbers make in Illinois:
- Apprentice plumbers make $47,000.
- Licensed plumbers make $57,000.
- Plumbing contractors make $76,000.
These are the state averages, actual earnings could be more or less than these figures. However, they are a good ballpark to base your decision on.
The following factors can impact your earnings as a licensed plumber in Illinois:
- Your experience and reputation
- Whether you have specialized by seeking further education and training
- Competition and prevailing rates in your area
- Your exact location—states like Chicago with higher competition have higher hourly rates
Becoming a plumber can be a viable career option for many people. All you need is a GED and you can begin your training to become a licensed plumber.
Several trade schools and colleges in Illinois offer plumbing programs and apprenticeship programs to make the training part of the job easier for you.
It can take you 4 to 5 years to become a licensed plumber, but you start earning as an apprentice, which means that you will be able to sustain yourself while getting trained as a plumber.