How to Become a Plumber in Iowa


If you want to make a career in plumbing in the state of Iowa, you need to be approved by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board as well as by the Iowa Workforce Development Division of Labor.

The Board is in charge of issuing trade licenses to various kinds of professional installations including plumbing. If you’re caught practicing the trade without a license, the Board will be responsible for taking action against you.

The Division of Labor is in charge of regulating contractors involved in any kind of construction work including plumbing if they earn more than $2,000 per year from construction.

So if you’re a large-scale businessman contractor whose contracts include plumbing and who earns more than the stipulated amount, you’d need to register with the Division. On the other hand, if you’re a single plumber employed by various contractors and earning less than the stipulated amount, you need not register.

Read on to know how to start your journey towards obtaining a license in plumbing in Iowa.

Required Qualifications to Be a Plumber in Iowa

  • Enjoy hands-on practical work
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Good mobility
  • Ability to work at heights
  • Ability to work in different weather conditions
  • Ability to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • Good communication skills

Application Form

  • Apprentice: You’re considered an apprentice if you’re being trained under the guided supervision of a professional plumber and enrolled in a 4-year plumbing training course in a recognized institution.

  • Journeyman: A journeyman plumber is a certified professional who works without the guidance of a master plumber. Instead, they’re able to hire apprentices to work under their supervision.

  • Master: This is the highest form of plumbers. They are certified professionals who are responsible for planning and supervising large plumbing projects in business and/or residential settings.

Background Check

  • Master’s License: This is the highest form of plumbing licensure in Iowa. Master plumbers are involved in the planning and supervision of large-scale plumbing projects.
  • Journeyman and Apprentice License: A journeyman and an apprentice work under the supervision of a master plumber.

Work Experience

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Must furnish clean records of past criminal offenses
  • Must pass the license examination
  • Must submit a post-examination application

Written Exam

To practice plumbing professionally, you need to pass the licensing exam conducted by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board in various fields of plumbing and installation professions such as:

  • Master’s and Journeyperson Plumbing
  • Master’s and Journeyperson Hydronics
  • Master’s and Journeyperson HVAC/Refrigeration
  • Master’s and Journeyperson Mechanical
  • Journeyperson Sheet Metal

Topics Covered

  • Knowledge of the Uniform Plumbing Code
  • Drainage, Wastage, and Vent Systems
  • Water Supply and Distribution
  • Fuel Piping

Of these subjects, general knowledge of the ‘Uniform Plumbing Code’ carries the maximum weightage of 31% while ‘Fuel Piping’ carries the least weightage of 11%.

The exam comes at a fee of $35 which the applicant has to pay during online registration with Prometric. Within an hour, the applicant will receive a confirmation email with their usernames and passwords. The applicant should keep these login details handy while taking the exam at their selected test centers.

Applicants for the master’s and journeyman exams must present a valid identification form at the test center. This could include your driver’s license, passport, or any other state-sponsored identification forms. They should arrive in advance of 30 minutes to allow time for logging in for the test.

Exams of certain subjects are open-book exams. For example, the Journeyman along with the gas exam and the Master Plumber with the gas exam are open-book exams. The former consists of 75 questions to be completed in 3 hours, while the latter consists of 125 questions to be completed in 5 hours.

Applicants can choose test centers from the following list according to their convenience:

  • Ankeny, IA
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Dubuque, IA
  • Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Council Bluffs, IA
  • Creston, IA
  • Estherville, IA
  • Fort Dodge, IA
  • Ottumwa, IA
  • Marshalltown, IA
  • Mason City, IA
  • Sheldon, IA
  • Sioux City, IA
  • Tipton, IA
  • Waterloo, IA

Iowa Plumbing License Reciprocity

Iowa recognizes journeyman and master’s licenses issued by other states such as Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. This recognition is called License Reciprocity.

Journeyman or master’s plumbers with a license issued by any of these states may start practicing in Iowa without taking the exam. However, the issuing state should also certify the individual as a bonafide plumber.

Requirements for Plumbing Apprenticeship in Iowa

Ensure the program you want to write your test in is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. Like the master’s and the journeyman licenses, the apprenticeship license too is issued by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board.

An apprentice license will allow you to work only under the guided supervision of a journeyman and/or a master.

Criteria for Plumbing Apprenticeship Are as Follows

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must not have any past criminal offenses
  • Must be working under a licensed journeyman or a master
  • Must be enrolled in a U.S. Labor Office recognized apprenticeship program

Prominent Plumbing Trade Institutions in Iowa

For an apprentice, it is important to enroll in a recognized institution. Following are the two most prominent community colleges teaching plumbing in Iowa:

  • Kirkwood Community College
    • Program Duration: 35 credits
    • Tuition Fee: $176 per credit hour
  • Hawkeye Community College
    • Program Duration: 144 hours (Level 1)
    • Tuition Fee: $925 (Level 1)

Course Description

The course covers the basics of the daily duties that you will perform after you graduate. You’ll have to take lessons in science and mathematics to grasp the basics of a plumbing job. Daily duties of a plumber include:

  • Interpreting and drafting blueprints
  • Learning the pipe system, and sprinkler installation
  • Learning the water system, and maintaining waterworks
  • Knowing how and when to repair the piping system
  • Taking safety measures
  • Fulfilling building criteria
  • Using suitable devices of different plumbing jobs

Salary Expectations in the State

The average salary of a plumber in Iowa is $54,914.

Your experience and expertise level will decide how much you can earn as a plumber in Iowa. An experienced master-level plumber in Iowa can earn up to $62,000 in a year, while an apprentice can start from $47,000.

Certain cities in Iowa, like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Iowa City, Council Bluffs have a higher average of up to $54,000 per year. Other cities such as Sioux City have a relatively lower average of about $47,000 per year.

So, your salary will also depend on the city of your residence, besides your experience and expertise level.

Organizations to Know

Before you decide to join a workers’ union, you need to remember that any union works for collective benefits and not for individual benefits. You may not agree with certain decisions the union collectively takes. But as a member of that union, you need to honor any decision it takes regardless of your personal opinion on them.

By joining a workers’ union, you can have the following benefits:

Career Outlook

Job prospects of a plumber are on the rise. It is projected that plumbing jobs will rise by 16% in the next ten years. As global capital markets will grow over time needing more office spaces and buildings, so will the need for plumbers.

In terms of job satisfaction, it is fairly high for the plumbers. Though, beyond the master’s level, there’s limited upward mobility leading to stagnation—and that comes with the silver lining of lower stress and more time for home.

Hence, a plumbing job may be a good career choice for those looking for a stable home and work-life balance.

More Information

A post-examination licensure application needs to be submitted after your successful completion of the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Board Systems of the licensure process. This application can be made online. Online applications are recommended as they are much faster to process. You’d get your journeyman or master’s license sooner.

What Are the Three Different Types of Plumbing Licenses Issued in Iowa?

Apprentice, Journeyman, Master.

What Are the Two Types of Plumbing Licenses in Iowa?

The two types are unlimited residential license and unlimited commercial license.

For How Long Is My Iowa Plumbing License Valid?

Your Iowa plumbing license will be valid for 3 years.

Leave a Comment