Reliable plumbing isn’t just a matter of convenience. It’s essential for everyone’s health and safety. Officials nationwide agree that to keep the public safe, there should be a minimum amount of education and competency required for all plumbers. Becoming a plumber in New Jersey follows a pretty straightforward process, using the apprenticeship model employed by many other states.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 469,900 plumbers nationwide and New Jersey employs 9,740 of them. That number is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030, adding 23,400 to the ranks across the country. In New Jersey it’s more than double that. According to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, the projected growth rate is 13% for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters and 16% for their helpers.
The licensing requirements for plumbers and contractors vary from state to state and, in some cases, from locality to locality. In New Jersey, licensing is uniform statewide.
Licensing Requirements for Plumbers in New Jersey
Is a license required for plumbers in New Jersey? Yes. You must possess a New Jersey master plumber license or be registered as an apprentice or journeyman training under direct supervision of a licensed master plumber to legally perform any plumbing services in the state. An apprentice or journeyman plumber can assist a master plumber, but only a master plumber can design a new system. There is also a designation of supervisor journeyman plumber for an individual who has completed an apprenticeship program approved by the United States Department of Labor and has completed three additional years as a journeyman plumber.
The state of New Jersey licenses plumbers as they do electricians and HVAC professionals through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Specifically, the State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers licenses and regulates the industry. On the website, it is stated that the purpose of the board is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of New Jersey, regulate the practice of plumbing, and ensure that it is performed in compliance with state law.
Types of Plumbers Licenses in New Jersey
What are the different types of plumber licenses in New Jersey?
The Master Plumber License is the only license required by the state. However, apprentices and journeymen must be registered with the Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers. There are specific license requirements to qualify to test for the Master Plumber license:
- Must be 21 years of age or older and a citizen or legal resident of the United States.
- Must have been engaged or employed in the plumbing trade for a period of five years preceding the date of application for a state license. One of the five years must have been as a journeyman plumber. Four years of the five years must have been spent in a United States Department of Labor approved plumbing apprenticeship program, which includes education in propane services, with proof of successful completion of this program while engaged or employed as a plumbing apprentice; or
- Must have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, plumbing or sanitary engineering from an accredited college or university in the United States that the board finds acceptable, which includes education in propane services, and in addition have been engaged or employed in the practical work of installing plumbing systems for one year as an apprentice or journeyman plumber.
Steps to Get a Plumber’s License in New Jersey
- Must be at least 18 years old and have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
- Enroll in an approved formal apprenticeship program or employer-sponsored program and register as an apprentice for the four years you train under a master and pay the application fee; or
- Attend a four-year degree program in mechanical, plumbing or sanitary engineering.
- Once you’ve completed either of those four-year paths, you must register as a journeyman for the one year you train under a master and pay the application fee.
- After meeting the educational/experience requirements stated above and are at least 21 years old, you can apply for examination for the Master Plumber License.
- Apply online, pay an application fee and receive board approval to take the master plumber exam.
- Pay testing fees and pass the NJ Master Plumber, NJ Plumber Trade Practical and NJ Business and Law exams.
- Once you pass the exam, you must pay the licensing fee and secure a $3,000 surety bond to be awarded your NJ Master Plumber License.
- If you want to be a plumbing contractor and work independently, you will also need general liability insurance and a Federal Tax Identification Number.
Benefits of Getting Your Plumber’s License in New Jersey
There are many benefits to getting licensed in the plumbing field in New Jersey:
- Most important, it is required by law in New Jersey to be licensed through the state to perform plumbing work.
- You have the opportunity as an apprentice to earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.
- A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
- By meeting the high standards set in New Jersey, you will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.
- Having a license protects your company and customers.
- A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and increases your earning potential.
- You can own your own business and be your own boss.
What Is the Mean Wage for a Plumber in New Jersey?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for plumbers nationally as $63,350 and in New Jersey it is considerably higher at $82,740. That salary increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
Apprentice: The average wage for an apprentice plumber is $21.97 per hour in New Jersey and $5,563 overtime per year.
Journeyman: The average wage for a journeyman plumber is $29.77 per hour in New Jersey and $6,813 overtime per year.
Pay 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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Plumbers License in New Jersey?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you figure out this is your intended path while you’re still in high school, you can begin free of charge as a student through the Career Technical Education System. If you’re a high school graduate or you’ve gotten your GED, you can choose to start with a college program. The cost associated with the schooling to train to be a plumber varies widely—from a few thousand dollars at some trade schools to upwards of $50,000 per year for longer, more comprehensive bachelor’s programs in mechanical engineering. The cost of union and trade apprenticeships also vary. You may have to pay dues to the union, but many times the training costs are completely covered and you earn while you learn. That’s also true of employer-sponsored apprenticeships. Remember that if you take an entry-level position, your employer must register you as an apprentice with the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship for it to count toward New Jersey’s licensing requirements. Employers will often pay for your required classroom instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average, or will reimburse you after a certain amount of time on the job.
There are different application fees, too, as you register first as an apprentice, then as a journeyman, and finally as a master. The apprentice registration fee is $50; the journeyman registration fee, $75; the master application fee, $100. If you are deemed eligible to take the exam, each part has a different cost. The NJ Master Plumber Trade exam is $83. The NJ Plumber Trade Practical exam is $103. The NJ Business and Law exam is $43. If you pass the exams, you will need to pay $160 for your Master Plumber’s License and then pay that same amount every two years when you renew the license. There’s also the cost of the $3,000 surety bond and, if you are self-employed, general liability insurance too.
How to Get a Plumbers License in New Jersey
To enter the plumbing field in New Jersey you need to learn and gain work experience. New Jersey offers options for doing this but has rigid requirements before permitting applicants to test for licensure.
EDUCATION/APPRENTICESHIP: If you decide young that this is your path, you can get a jump on that instruction. Through New Jersey’s Career and Technical Education, some high schools offer vocational programs combining the trade education with high school curriculum. The New Jersey Council of County Technical Schools’ website has answers to many of the most frequently asked questions and guides you to getting started in your county. The Bergen County Technical School Green Building Trades program is just one example. It incorporates the latest sustainability practices in plumbing, construction, electrical design, masonry and HVAC. Monmouth County Vocational School District offers both high school and adult education in plumbing. The high school program prepares students to practice as licensed plumbers, teaching safety and the technical knowledge and skills to lay out, assemble, install and maintain plumbing fixtures and systems for natural gas, hot water, heating, drainage, and industrial processing systems in home and business environments. Somerset County Vocational-Technical has a four-year program in Plumbing Technology, which provides students with instruction in a variety of areas including fresh and wastewater plumbing as well as natural gas and HVAC in both a residential and an industrial setting.
Whether you get started in high school or begin your training to be a plumber later, state law requires that you meet specific age, education, and experience requirements before being permitted to test for the New Jersey Master Plumbers License. There are options to do this.
Option 1: You can complete a four-year apprenticeship program approved by the United States
Department of Labor, which includes education in propane services, and after the end of the apprenticeship get one year (at least 1,200 hours) of practical hands-on experience as a journeyman plumber in New Jersey; or
Option 2: You can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, plumbing or sanitary engineering from an accredited college or university, which includes education in propane services and, after completion of the bachelor’s degree, get one year (at least 1,200 hours) of practical hands-on experience as a journeyman plumber in New Jersey.
Apprenticeships are sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. If you get one of the coveted apprentice openings through your local United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs it’s like getting a scholarship to college. New Jersey has seven UA local chapters that offer plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC and welding apprenticeships. UA Plumbers Local 24 is based in Caldwell. Local 322 is based out of Winslow and serves Southern New Jersey; students who apply through UA Local 9 will work primarily in Central New Jersey. UA apprenticeships are five years long, but in the final year you are considered a journeyman and so are satisfying that requirement to test.
Associated Builders and Contractors of New Jersey also offers a registered apprenticeship program for plumbing. Apprenticeships through union and trade organizations require you to be 18 with a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver’s license, and a clean drug test.
If you don’t get one of those sought-after union or trade apprentice openings, and you want to get started working right away rather than going to trade school, you can try to find an apprenticeship through the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development Office of Apprenticeship or you can apply for entry-level work. There are plumbing apprentice jobs listed on Indeed and Zip Recruiter and other job boards. You’ll need to request that your employer act as your apprentice sponsor. Your employer must agree to register you with the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship. The Plumbing Board only accepts approved U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeships. Employers who agree to sponsor an apprenticeship, should email the United States Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship representative servicing the county in which the company is located. The list of U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Apprenticeship staff can be found here:
Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you. You will be required to attend classes at night or on weekends to get the requisite theoretical training, but you’ll be getting your academic instruction in tandem with your practical experience, and you probably won’t be paying for all of it. Employers often pay for your required classroom instruction if you achieve a certain grade point average, or sometimes reimburse you after a certain amount of time on the job.
No matter who you apprentice for, you MUST be registered with the board to get credit for the time.
REGISTER AS A JOURNEYMAN PLUMBER: After earning your four-year degree or complete four years of your apprenticeship, you must register as a Journeyman Plumber to receive the credit for the one year of experience required as a journeyman to test for a Master Plumber License.
APPLY FOR EXAMINATION/LICENSE: Once you meet the age requirement of 21 years old and education/experience requirements outlined above, you may apply online to take the three-part examination. More on the exam itself is below. With the application, you’ll need to provide documentation of your education and work experience. There is a work experience certification form, which must be completed by your employer(s). There’s a criminal history background check. You must provide your Social Security number, a passport-sized photo and the application fee of $100 in the form of a check or money order. The state Attorney General’s Office has posted an instruction sheet for the process. If you pass the exam, you will need to pay a $160 license application fee and provide proof of a $3,000 surety bond.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to be an independent plumbing contractor in New Jersey, you will also need $500,000 in general liability insurance and a Federal Tax Identification Number.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Plumbers License in New Jersey?
It will take you a minimum of five years to qualify to take the New Jersey Master Plumber Licensing exam. As you are gaining the required education and experience, you will be working under the supervision of a licensed master. As an apprentice, you will gain new skills each year and your pay will likely increase with your expertise.
New Jersey 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 gases, so they must know more than just the mechanics. They must know plumbing code. There are a lot of plumbing apprenticeship programs offered in New Jersey.
Passaic County Technical-Vocational Schools and Essex County are just two of the many vocational technical schools throughout the state that offer adult education plumbing apprenticeship programs.
You’ll learn about plumbing systems including:
- Underground water supply
- Storm water
- Sewer drainage
- Fixture installation
- Waste and vent piping, both inside and outside of buildings
- Residential and service plumbing
Any program should also cover OSHA safety training, detailed instruction in chemistry, mathematics, physics, blueprint reading and drafting, in-depth examination of state codes, and advanced training about water treatment systems, water heaters, plumbing appliances and plumbing fixtures.
If you’re looking for an online option, New Jersey’s Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors offers an e-learning Apprenticeship Academy. The tuition for the plumbing program is $1,895 for members and $2,455 for nonmembers. This could be an option for you if you are working for an employer who is sponsoring you in a U.S. Department of Labor approved apprenticeship, but it doesn’t offer classroom instruction. Also, the Ho-Ho-Kus School of Trade & Technical Sciences Paterson Campus of Eastwick College offers a nine-month Plumber Apprenticeship diploma program that prepares graduates to enter the NHPCC’s apprenticeship program as second-year apprentices. This kind of program can give you an advantage in your job search over other candidates who don’t have any post-secondary training in the field.
Bachelor’s Degree: If you choose to go for your bachelor’s degree rather than completing an apprenticeship, Rutgers University offers a Mechanical Engineering degree, as do Princeton and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs for books and/or tools but the apprentice will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage rate and will receive periodic wage increases as they meet program requirements. The cost of tuition at a vocational school or college depends on the program you choose.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job you will need to have 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.
New Jersey Plumber Licensing Exam Details
The New Jersey State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers has contracted with PSI testing services to administer the examination. Upon approval from the Board, you will be sent an Examination Eligibility Notice, along with instructions for paying for and scheduling the examination. The Business and Law exam is $43. The Master Plumber Trade exam is $83, and the Trade Practical exam is $103. If you are taking the examination for the first time, you will be required to take all three portions on the same day. You must pass them all to qualify to be licensed as a New Jersey Master Plumber. If you fail any part, you may retest on an unlimited basis. However you must wait six months between each attempt.
To prepare PSI suggests:
- Start with a current copy of the Candidate Information Bulletin and use the examination content outline as the basis of your study.
- Read/study materials that cover all the topics in the content outline and take practice tests.
- Take notes on what you study. Putting information in writing helps you commit it to memory, and it is also an excellent business practice. Discuss new terms or concepts as frequently as you can with colleagues. This will test your understanding and reinforce ideas.
- Your studies will be most effective if you study frequently, for periods of about 45 to 60 minutes. Concentration tends to wander when you study for longer periods of time.
Each exam is described in detail including the number of questions and the time limit to complete it.
Both the NJ Master Plumber Trade, and Business and Law exams are open book. The trade exam is made up of 100 questions and has a time limit of 195 minutes. It covers:
- General Knowledge
- Materials, Uses, and Specifications
- Traps, Interceptors, and Backflow Prevention
- Plumbing Fixtures, Fixture Fittings, and Plumbing Appliances
- Water Supply Systems
- Drains and Waste
- Specialty Plumbing
- Vent Systems
The Master Plumber Practical exam has a time limit of 130 minutes and 25 questions covering:
- Isometric Analysis
- Figure Analysis
The Business and Law exam is made up of 50 questions with a time limit of 130 minutes. It covers:
- Business Organization
- Estimating and Bidding
- Contract Management
- Project Management
- Risk Management
- Labor Law
- Financial Management
- Tax Law
- Lien Law
The Bulletin will also specify which reference materials you may use and what items are not allowed in the testing center. There are 10 PSI testing centers in New Jersey: in Brick, Cherry Hill, Hamilton Square Area, New Brunswick – Georges Road, New Providence, North Brunswick, Northfield Area (Linwood), Rochelle Park, Parsippany, and Secaucus.
Who Issues Plumbing Licenses in New Jersey?
The State Board of Examiners of Master Plumbers issues Master Plumbers licenses in New Jersey and renewals of those licenses. The board falls under the purview of the Division of Consumer Affairs and makes sure that plumbers meet all educational requirements for licensure and investigates and prosecutes plumbing contractors who have broken the state’s consumer protection laws.
Does My New Jersey Master Plumbers License Work in Any Other State?
New Jersey does not have reciprocal agreements with any other states. However, regulations allow for individuals in other states to apply through reciprocity. The licensure standards of other States must be equal to or comparable with, those of the State of New Jersey, and the State must reciprocate with the State of New Jersey. A list of states the Plumbing Board has previously reviewed can be found here:
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.
All licensed master plumbers must fulfill the five-hour Continuing Education (CE) requirement for every two-year licensing cycle. Continuing Education sponsors have been approved by the state Board of Examiners to provide the instruction. Be sure to get your CEs from an approved provider.
Master Plumber Licenses must be renewed every two years — by June 30 of odd-numbered years. The Board will send you a renewal notice about 60 days prior to the deadline. You will renew your license online. You will need to show proof of completing your continuing education requirement, pay the $160 licensing renewal fee and secure a surety bond for the same period.
Other Requirements Unique to New Jersey
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs created a document of Top Tips for License Applicants. You will probably want to review it to avoid the most common mistakes. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions page on the website that can help too.