In order to become a licensed plumber in California, you will need to obtain a contractor’s license from the Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB)
What follows are the current requirements to become a licensed plumber in California.
Completing your high school education
Any path to a plumbing license in the state of California requires a high school diploma. If you haven’t finished high school, you can obtain your GED (General Education Development) certificate, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma.
Obtaining an apprenticeship
Once your diploma or GED is obtained, you will need to complete vocational training as an apprentice. An apprenticeship is also known as “journeyman job experience.” This means that you are working as a tradesman in the field in which you wish to obtain a license. An apprenticeship also requires some educational classroom time on top of the on-the-job training.
There are many opportunities for apprenticeships, but here are a few places to apply as a starting point:
Apprentice and Journeyman Training Trust Fund
18931 Laurel Park Road, Compton, CA 90220
1111 James M. Wood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015
3710 Broad Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
UA Local 114
93 Thomas Rd Buellton CA, 93427
Plumbers and Steamfitters 342
935 Detroit Avenue, Concord, CA 94518
Pipe Trades Training Center
780 Commercial Street, San Jose, CA 95112
Licensing requirements in the state of California
In order to be eligible for a plumbing contractor license in California, you must be at least 18 years old with a GED or high school diploma. You must also have 4 years of “Journey-level experience,” which is defined by the California Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB) as “Journey-level experience applies to a person who has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform a specific trade without supervision. However, that person does not have a license and is not able to contract for jobs that are more than $500 in labor and materials.”
For further information on what qualifies as “Journey-level experience” as an apprentice, you can read here: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/contractors/journeymen/journeymen_faqs.aspx. Ultimately, the CSLB must determine if your work as an apprentice qualifies you as eligible for a license.
Finally, you must pass two exams in order to obtain your plumbing contractor license. The “trade” exam is the C-36 Plumbing exam. Unlike some other states, however, California also requires that you pass the “law and business” (LAW) exam as well.
The topics covered by the C-36 Plumbing exam are:
- Planning and Estimating
- Rough-in Plumbing Systems
- Finish Plumbing Installations
- Service, Repair, and Remodel Plumbing Systems
- Worker and Job Site Safety
The topics covered by the LAW exam are:
- Business Organization
- Business Finances
- Employment Requirements
- Bonds, Insurance, and Liens
- Contract Requirements and Execution
- Licensing Requirements
Study guides for both of these exams can be found here: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/Contractors/Applicants/Examination_Study_Guides/
How to apply for a plumbing license in the state of California
In order to apply for a plumbing contractor license, you must first determine if you’re eligible according to the requirements set by the California Contractor State Licensing Board mentioned earlier in this article. Once you meet those pre-requisites, you must complete and submit an application for licensure. You must also pay the licensing fee of $330 at the time of your application submission.
Next, you will need to submit your fingerprints for a criminal background check. You will be responsible for paying for the background check. The cost of this background check will depend on where in the state you applying for your license.
Following the application and background check submissions, you may need to provide documentation proving your work experience as an apprentice. While applicants are randomly selected to provide this documentation, it is always good to have it organized and prepared if you should be required to provide it.
Finally, you will need to schedule your exam times for both the written plumbing exam and the written law and business exam. If you pass the exam, an initial licensing fee of $200 will be assessed before you are granted your license.
The path to a plumbing contractor license in California can be a lot to handle. However, here are links to almost all of the information required for you to apply and obtain your license.
Application for Contractor License ($330): https://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/WebApplication/InteractivePDFs/ApplicationForOriginalContractorsLicense.aspx
Certification of Work Experience: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/OnlineServices/WebApplication/InteractivePDFs/CertificationOfWorkExperience.aspx
Owner Builder B-Building Construction Project Experience:
This form is required if your Journey-level experience is acquired through working on your own home through renovation or building projects.
Construction Project Experience:
This form is a supplement to the aforementioned “Certification of work experience” if required by the CSLB.
How to find a job as a California plumber
Once you have your license, you will obviously have many more opportunities for employment as a plumbing contractor. However, jobs still won’t randomly fall into your lap – you will need to go out and find employment.
One of the best ways to find a job after you’ve become a licensed plumbing contractor is to stay in contact with your apprenticeship employer. The work you do and the relationships you make with the employer during your journey-level work experience will help spring you forward into a promising career as a fully licensed plumber in California.
You can also start your own company. While someone without a license can take small jobs, as a licensed contractor you will be able to take any plumbing job that comes your way. Starting a new company can be incredibly rewarding, as you can net more of the payment from each job.
Of course, there are always companies looking to hire licensed plumbing contractors. Job boards and word-of-mouth will be your best bet in finding one of these opportunities.