Becoming a Master Plumber

Keep this information in mind if you’re a journeyman thinking about taking the next step

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

You’ve been in the plumbing game for a while now. You have your journeyman’s license, know the trade inside and out, and are thinking of making the move to master plumber.

After all, although journeyman plumbers make decent money, there’s nothing like being the boss, and the only way that happens is by becoming a master plumber yourself.

Is it the right call? And what do you need to do to take that next step?

Here’s information from to help guide you.

To Test or Not to Test?

Depending on your state, becoming a master plumber may or may not require sitting for an exam. You should check your state’s guidelines and see if that’s a necessity.

Also, consider if you live in an area of the country where you can work in more than one state. For example, plumbers in the Upper Ohio Valley can easily work in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It would be wise for any plumber in that particular region to find out the requirements to become a master plumber in those three states.

Identifying an Expertise

What kind of plumber do you want to be? There are five main categories: General plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters, sprinklerfitters and pipeliners.

  • General plumbers work on commercial and residential pipes to kitchens and bathrooms. They also install fixtures such as bathtubs, showers and sinks, repair pipes, remove clogs and perform other duties that have to do with commercial and residential pipes and plumbing.
  • Pipefitters install and maintain pressurized pipes used for boilers, furnaces, water tanks and other pressurized equipment. They also install and monitor the controls for these pressurized systems.
  • Steamfitters install pipes through which high-pressure gases and liquids travel.
  • Sprinklerfitters are specialized plumbers who install fire sprinkler systems in buildings. They have to closely follow code regulations, such as the space between sprinklers, the proper size pipe and the amount of water pressure each pipe can handle.
  • Pipeliners dig trenches and lay pipe of all sorts of materials such as concrete, cast iron and metal. These pipes are used for sewer lines, natural gas or oil pipelines, or large waterlines. Once the trench is dug, pipeliners lay the pipe and make the connections.

Know What You Need to Know

Whether you’re required to sit for a master plumber exam or not, you’ll still have to demonstrate that you have the knowledge a plumber needs to be classified and licensed as a master. Master plumbers are generally well versed in these and other areas:

  • Building codes at both the state and local levels
  • The ability to handle large, complicated installations
  • The ability to manage a crew
  • Possess the required equipment and tools

There are several websites that can help you determine where you might have knowledge gaps before you apply to become a master plumber or decide to sit for the exam. Here are two examples: and

Do You Have the Required Length of Experience?

To become a master plumber, a person should work as a journeyman for two to five years. This requirement varies by state, but once you have three years as a journeyman, you should be able to apply to become a master and achieve that with little difficulty.

Is It Really Worth It?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yes. A master plumber with several years of experience can make upward of $37 per hour. The BLS also states that demand for plumbers is going to increase over the next decade. This means there will be plenty of work for plumbers, regardless of their area of expertise.

And the additional good news is that this isn’t a geographical issue. Demand is increasing in all 50 states. So not only can you make a good living and enjoy job security, you can also achieve that wherever you want in the country.

Some plumbers focus on just one area, such as general plumbing, while others choose to branch out and cover several areas. Whichever area you choose, getting the required experience and then either sitting for an exam or providing the appropriate documentation and proof of knowledge to become a master means additional income and an increase in demand for your services.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.