How to Become a Plumber in Washington

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The state of Washington has determined rules and regulations for becoming a plumber.

The general process starts from trade school to trainee and finally to journeyman and the skills that you have to learn during this procedure as a plumber include: 

  • Installing and repairing supply and distribution pipes;
  • Installing and repairing drainage and vent pipes;
  • Installing plumbing fixtures and traps.

Specialties within the field are available such as medical gas installation and residential installation.

All requirements for licensure must be approved by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Washington Plumbing License Reciprocity

Washington only has a reciprocity agreement with the state of Idaho, meaning that if you are licensed there, you will be allowed to perform your work in Washington as well.

When the plumbers from all other states are in question, they can be considered for reciprocity upon meeting these requirements:

  • Filling out an application;
  • Passing an exam, with a non-refundable fee of $151.90;
  • Showing equivalent experience in another state or while serving in the military.

Applications must be sent online or by mail at least two weeks prior to the exam to give the L&I time to process it.

Washington Plumbing License Requirements

In order to become a licensed plumber in Washington, you need to meet state requirements, that is:

  • Journeyman: 8,000 hours of work experience, which includes 4,000 hours of commercial or industrial work.
  • Residential: 6,000 hours of work experience.
  • Complete a Journeyman & Residential Plumber Application
  • Pay the $151.90 exam fee
  • Pass the exam

Specialty Plumbing Contractors

There are a few specialty fields of plumbing in Washington State, and you need to get acquainted with each of them, being that they hold their own requirements and fees:

Medical Gas – for people planning to work with medical gas piping systems that carry chemicals such as oxygen and nitrogen.

Medical gas plumbers typically work in hospitals or dentist offices, and to  become one you need to meet the following requirements:

  • No less than 32 hours of classroom training on medical gas piping systems in an L&I approved course;
  • Have an active journey-level plumber certification;
  • Provide a copy of an active National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation (NITC) or Medical Equipment and Training Certification (METC) card;
  • Apply for endorsement.

Residential – for individuals planning to work exclusively in domestic contexts and buildings, duplexes, and apartments no higher than three floors.

To obtain this certification, an applicant must have no less than 3 years of experience (6,000+ hours).

Pump & Irrigation and Domestic Well – Pump & Irrigation plumbers work on equipment that acquires, stores, and moves water, while Domestic Well plumbers are restricted to pumps not exceeding 100 gallons per minute.

For pump & irrigation plumbers, these are the requirements:

For domestic Well plumbers, the requirements are:

  • No less than 1 year (2,000+ hours) of experience;
  • Electrical certification in Washington State.

Backflow plumbers maintain and repair unwanted flows of water and they can neither install nor replace backflow prevention systems.

An active Backflow Assembly Tester Certification (BAT), which is to be given by the Washington State Department of Health is the requirement that must be met to obtain this certification.

Washington Plumbing Journeyman License Requirements

To obtain this certification the following requirements must be met:

  • No less than 4 years (8,000+ hours) of experience under the supervision of a licensed journey-level plumber;
  • No less than 2 (of those 4) years spent working in commercial or industrial installations;
  • No less than 16 hours of classroom training.

For general contractors, certification must be renewed every other year, while specialty contractors who hold electronic certification, renewal is needed every three years.

Plumbing Journeyman Exam

Affidavits of experience and continuing education requirements must be received prior to taking the plumber journeyman exam via your application.

You cannot sit for the exam if your application is not approved.

Applications can be sent to the L&I for approval either online or by mail at least two weeks prior to the exam date.

The exam portion costs $151.90 and you can take the Washington plumbing exams in Tumwater, Everett, Yakima, Spokane, and Tukwila.

This is not an open book exam and you should prepare well for it by taking a look at the following:

  • 100 Uniform Plumbing Code questions with State Amendments taken from Chapters 1-10 and 15-17.
  • Waste and vent pipe size drawing based on sizing and design methods from chapter 7.
  • Water pipe sizing drawing based on sizing and design methods from chapter 6.

Washington plumber exam covers the following subjects that you should pay attention to when preparing the exam:

  • Administration
  • Definitions
  • General Regulations
  • Plumbing Math
  • Fixtures, Faucets, and Fixture Fittings
  • Water Heaters
  • Water Supply and Distribution
  • Sanitary Drainage
  • Indirect and Special Waste
  • Vents
  • Traps, Interceptors, and Separators
  • Storm Drainage
  • Appendices
  • Hands-On Practical Application
  • Plumbing Trainee Requirements

You have to meet the following criteria so as to become one:

  • Be 16 or older;
  • Apply for plumber trainee certification;
  • Possess an electrical trainee card, if working on irrigation or pump devices;
  • Take 8 hours of continuing education courses yearly;
  • Meet a certain number of hours of experience.

Washington Plumbing Apprenticeship/Trainee Requirements

Apprentices or trainees in Washington work under the direct supervision of either a journeyman or master plumber.

It is required that each trainee keeps a log of their supervised work in order to file affidavits of experience, a requirement specific to Washington State.

Each person learning the plumber trade must receive a training certification from the L&I prior to beginning work and these certifications must be renewed annually.

If you are looking for an apprentice job, Washington State has a lot of resources on obtaining an apprenticeship within the state and you can use the state’s job search to find an apprenticeship that matches your interests and needs.

Plumbing Trade Schools in Washington

Attending trade school is not a requirement for plumbers in the state of Washington, but we highly suggest attending one, as schools can offer guidance for those who wish to take their first steps in the field.

Below are a few options of plumbing-specific programs:

Renton Technical College

  •  Program: Property Maintenance for Multi-family Residences;
  • Cost: $1,845.24 (in-state);
  • Location: Renton, WA;
  • Type of School: Career/Technical College.

Seattle Area Pipe Trades Education Center

  • Program: Commercial or Residential Plumbing;
  • Cost: TBD;
  • Location: Renton, WA;
  • Type of School: Apprenticeship Program.

Salary

The average Plumber salary in Washington is $61,390.

Annual Salary Range:

$53K
$61K
$70K

Average Salary of Plumbers in Washington

City NameSalary
Seattle$62,884
Spokane$57,021
Tacoma$61,280
Vancouver$59,926
Bellevue$62,884
Everett$61,505
Federal Way$61,280
Kent$61,158
Yakima$56,893
Bellingham$58,688
* Salary information last updated 2020

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