If you live in Pennsylvania and are looking to become a plumber or are curious about changing careers, you are in the right spot. This article has what you need for learning what it takes to get your plumbing license in PA to the right school for you.
We will look at all the aspects of plumbing training, from apprenticeship to the best trade schools in PA, showing you everything you need to do. Not only to get a job as a plumber but to succeed in your new career.
Becoming a licensed plumber in Pennsylvania isn’t a difficult task, though it can be a long one. Almost every plumber goes through training (either through a college, trade school, or apprenticeship class) and works their way from apprentice level to journeyman and eventually on to a master plumber.
To even qualify, you must meet a few requirements. First, you must have a high school diploma or GED. You must also be at least 18 years old and capable of legally working in the United States.
From there, the qualifications are relatively simple. You can enter training through a trade school first or jump directly into an apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you must register with the state, but you have no license requirements beyond that. PA only licenses journeyman and master plumbers.
After completing training and the apprenticeship, where you meet the minimum requirements of 4-years on-the-job (OJT) training plus at least 546 hours in a classroom, you can sit for the exam.
After you are approved to take the exam, pay your fees, and pass (70% or higher), you will gain your journeyman license. At this point, you can work on your own, though you cannot start your own company or hire other plumbers to work for you. All work must also be written off by a master plumber.
How To Become A Master Plumber in Pennsylvania
Once you have the journeyman license, you only need to hold it for 1-year before you can qualify for the master plumber’s license. However, unlike other states, Pennsylvania also requires you to be at least 21 years of age.
The exams aren't uncommon, and you must pay the exam fees plus pass the exam (70% or higher). The catch is that you must qualify, pay exam fees, and register at least 45 days before the exam takes place. Failure to submit proof of work experience or register after 45 days, and you must wait for the next cycle.
After you pass the exam, you will be granted a Pennsylvania state master plumber's license, which gives you all the benefits of working as a plumber, including starting your own business.
Quick Guide in Choosing Your Plumbing Trade School
Choosing the right training for your new career starts with trade schools. While you can find an apprenticeship that offers the classroom portions of the license requirements, it is generally easier and faster to attend a trade school while using the apprenticeship as the hands-on portion of the training.
The location of the school is fairly important. You will want one that is close by so you can attend regularly. However, it is just as important to think about where you will be coming from when heading to class.
Night classes, for example, may see you leaving from work, which means it may be wise to find a campus closer to work than home. The opposite is true if you will be coming from home to attend classes.
Being an accredited school means that the school adheres to all governing bodies' requirements for minimal education standards. While most schools are above and beyond these minimal standards, it is important to find out.
A school that is not accredited will have credits that won't transfer, a diploma or certificate that won't support anything in the future. Many employers won't count the classes toward experience, licensing, or employment ability.
Offers Quality Education
To figure out the quality of the education the school offers, it is best to head to the campus in person before you enroll. Find out what type of books, software, and training tools are used. You can even speak to staff and current students to find out what they think or feel about the level of education.
Being on campus and seeing the classrooms, labs, and interacting with the persons there will give you the best sense of how well the school will fit your needs.
Offers Hands-on Training
While you will get plenty of OJT through the apprenticeship, the school's lab is where you will want to spend most of your time. The school must offer at least a 50/50 split between the classroom and the lab.
The exceptions to this are trade school courses that work with the apprenticeships. These are designed to offer you the classroom portion with minimal interference in the apprenticeship's hands-on training program.
Connects you to an Apprenticeship/Internship Program
If you are not already enrolled in an apprenticeship, find a school that offers post-grad programs. These programs will help you with job placement, internships, and apprenticeships. They will help you gather all required documents, fill out applications, and getting your forms to the right people.
In a world where it is better who you know rather than what you know, taking advantage of these free programs is only beneficial to your future career as a plumber.
Offers Customer Service Skills Training
Customer service is an essential aspect of any plumber's career. As you will deal with customers on an on-going and daily basis, it is important to know how to handle them. This includes keeping calm, being able to communicate effectively, and handling rough situations with professionalism.
If you do not have prior customer service training, you should ensure that your chosen school offers at least one class devoted to the subject.
The price of tuition, books, tools, and materials is always going to be a concern. Most trade schools, colleges, and universities will accept student loans, scholarships, or grants. Each school is different, though, so you need to check before you enroll.
Some schools even offer sponsorships or tuition reimbursement programs. If your chosen school is on this list, check with the front office to see what you need to do to qualify, apply, or accept the awards.
10 Best Plumbing Trade Schools in Pennsylvania
Below you will find the best plumbing trade schools in PA. Each school is separated by region or city, reviewed and explained. Read through the list to find a plumbing trade school that suits your needs the best.
Orleans Technical College
2770 Red Lion Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19114
As the top plumbing trade school in Pennsylvania, Orleans Technical College has the courses and education you need to make a promising career. This 6-month course takes you through a complete bathroom install from fixtures and piping to drainage, troubleshooting, and repair.
With almost the entire course taking place in the lab, you will have plenty of hands-on training. You also get instruction and one-on-one time with some of the most knowledgeable trainers in the field. Financial and post-graduate systems are also there to help students achieve their goals.
Best Choice For: Hands-on “learn-by-doing” plumber training
3815 Otter Street, Bristol, PA 19007
Pennco Tech is another hands-on primary learning institution. This course takes you through all aspects of plumbing and pipefitting, including theory, current codes and standards, as well as best practices.
You also get certification training in OSHA-10 and state-approved apprenticeship classroom hours. Students who complete this course successfully are well on their way to obtaining the journeyman license in PA and are able to apply for entry-level job placement opportunities.
Best Choice For: Apprenticeship qualifying training
UA Local 520 Plumbers & Pipefitters Training Center
7193 Jonestown Rd, Harrisburg, PA 17112
For some students, there is nothing better than jumping in with both feet and learning to swim by trying to catch the boat. For you, the Apprenticeship program from the UA Local 520 is the place to be. Every step of the licensing process is catered to and followed to the letter.
You will get every hour of classroom time through the UA instruction, paired with a master plumber to work on real-life in-the-field jobs for hands-on hours, and you will get access to all the resources needed to take and pass the license exams.
Best Choice For: Full apprenticeship training
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
750 E King St, Lancaster, PA 17602
For one of the best all-around plumbing educations, look no further than Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. This course is all-inclusive, taking you through identification, understanding, and practical application.
You will learn what the tools of the trade are and how to use them. You will learn to read blueprints, install plumbing equipment, and learn customer service skills. Everything you need to start your career is taught right here. You can even use the hours towards your apprenticeship goals and be one step closer to a journeyman license upon graduation.
Best Choice For: Beginner to advanced learning
Berks Career & Technology Center-West Campus
1057 County Road, Leesport, PA 19533
At Berks Career & Technology Center, you will get hands-on and classroom education on all aspects of plumbing. From identification to installation and repair, the lab-focused course is all about becoming certified.
Not only will you gain OSHA-10 certification, but you can also take the core exams for the ABC certification of building contractors and earn carryover credits for continuing on to a college for a degree in building management of HVAC & Heating.
Best Choice For: Certification training and advancement
Career Institute Of Technology
5335 Kesslersville Road, Easton, PA 18040
At CIT, your high school student can take advanced classes for the HVAC & P courses. This is geared towards high school students with a penchant for hands-on training and an education with a career goal in mind.
The training is intense and full-featured, including pipefitting, steam fitting, plumbing, and Heating & Air Conditioning programs. All of the courses earn credits with apprenticeships that you can qualify for after graduation.
Best Choice For: High school students looking to jump-start a career
Career Technical Center of Lackawanna County
3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
The plumbing and heating program at Career Technical Center focuses on hands-on training and certification for all plumbers and pipefitters. This course is designed to take you from zero knowledge to OSHA-10 and gastite certification-ready.
Not only will you get practical hands-on training, but you will learn about the current and future codes, trends, and expectations. Upon graduation, you will be ready for post-secondary education, apprenticeships, or even career entry positions.
Best Choice For: Absolute beginners
Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School
3300 Chester Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18020
Aimed at high school students, the career path training programs at Bethlehem Area Vocational-Tech offers you a chance to get three years of certified training and learning under your belt. Once you graduate and have your diploma, you can be fast-tracked in the apprenticeship program to advance your goals further.
If you have ambitions to be a master plumber by 21, this is the only way to get it done. The 3-year course starts in your sophomore year, and by the time you are graduating as a senior, you will have a mastery of plumbing and be ready for certification testing and meeting journeyman license requirements.
Best Choice For: Advanced training through high school
New Berlin, PA
SUN Area Technical Institute
815 East Market St., New Berlin, PA 17855
With a focus on residential and commercial applications, the HVAC & Plumbing course through the SUN Area Technical Institute is the best way to go. Not only will you get expert-level hands-on training, but you will also learn in one of the most progressive and modern labs in the state.
This course will take you from beginner to certification level expert in a short time. The course is intense, and you shouldn't miss any days for fear of falling behind. But if you are dedicated, ready, and willing to learn, there are no better opportunities in the state.
Best Choice For: Rigid and demanding course work
Community College of Beaver County
Address: See Campus Location information below
For those already in or have completed an apprenticeship, the training course at Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) will get you ready for career advancement and higher education through an associate's degree program. To qualify, you must be actively enrolled or approved for apprenticeship placement or have already completed the apprenticeship.
Once enrolled, you can earn 15 college credits, which then get applied to 45 credits from the apprenticeship through CCBC, allowing you to qualify for the degree. As long as you then complete your core classes, you will be a licensed plumber, with a head start to master plumber and an associate's degree.
CCBC has many campuses across the state. See below for all the campus locations to find the one closest to you.
Best Choice For: AAS degree in building trades technology
CCBC Campus Locations
Monaca, PA Center Township Campus Address: 1 Campus Drive, Monaca, PA 15061
Beaver Falls, PA CCBC Aviation Sciences Center Address: 125 Cessna Drive, Beaver Falls, PA 15010
Oakdale, PA CCBC at Parkway West Address: 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
Canonsburg, PA CCBC at Western Area Career & Technology Center Address: 688 Western Ave, Canonsburg, PA 15317
Plumbing Training School Costs in Pennsylvania
The actual costs of the plumbing schools will vary by city, region, school type, and other factors. Such things as length of the course, what is included or what is left out, and even if you choose day or night courses will alter the overall cost. Most of all, the type of education (certificate, diploma, or degree) will play a role.
While we can’t list every possible school and their current costs, we can give you a break down based on state averages.
Is Plumbing a Good Career Choice in Pennsylvania?
The great thing about the plumbing trade is that it will always be in demand. While this demand will fluctuate (see below), there will always be a need for well-qualified plumbers.
Pennsylvania Entry Level Plumber Salary
If you are looking at just starting out, the field is wide open. However, because there is so much competition at this level, wages are slightly lower than most of the US.
According to Career Explorer, entry-level apprentices and journeymen plumbers with less than 2 years experience can expect to earn between $15 and $20 per hour. This, of course, does not include signing bonuses, overtime, or other benefits.
Pennsylvania Plumber Salary
Once you have a few more years under your belt or get your master plumbers license, your value increases, and so does your wage.
On average, plumbers will see an annual wage of about $57,700 per year, according to salary.com. Again, this does not include bonuses or benefits. However, top-tier plumbers in the state (those considered in the top 20th percentile or higher) report earnings of at least $70,000, with some nearing the $100,000 mark.
Return of Investment
Not only do you get a livable wage as a plumber in PA, but you can advance your career and become a contractor.
With these advancement steps, you can repay any tuition debts, tool or equipment costs. Once you have the master plumber status, you also have the ability to start your own business, contract work out, and even hire other apprentices and journeymen to work for you.
With all the advancement opportunities, you can become debt-free, live well, and live the life you want to within just a few years. Very few opportunities allow you to do all of that, and the plumbing trade is one of them.
Demand for Plumbing Jobs in Pennsylvania
Demand for trade jobs is going to fluctuate as demand and the construction jobs ebb and flow. Overall, the BLS estimates that the plumbing trade is expected to grow 4% through 2029. In comparison, this is about the same as the average of all industries.
However, a few short years ago, the growth rate was expected at 12%. This will happen again in the next few years. As technologies change and advancements in the field are made, the need for plumbers will increase.
Reliance on solar power, green technologies, and other industry changes will push the demand higher over the next decade, and you can expect these numbers to rise. That being the case, if you plan on starting a career as a plumber, right now is the time to start.
By the time you become licensed, the industry will be primed and ready for you to enter the workforce when demand begins to spike.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How much is a plumbing permit in Pennsylvania?
All plumbing permits start with a $100 filing fee. This is non-refundable but does get applied towards the permit costs. There are different fees based on the project scope, size, dwelling type, and other factors. For specific amounts, you can check the city websites for exact costs in each area.
How much does a journeyman plumber make in Pennsylvania?
On average, a journeyman plumber in Pennsylvania will earn between $52,000 and $57,000 per year, depending on the region and hiring company.
How do I renew my Pennsylvania plumbing apprentice license?
In Pennsylvania, apprentices do not get licenses and have no need to renew them. However, once you acquire a journeyman license, it will need to be renewed. Each region or district will dictate the renewal process, annual or bi-annual timing and costs.
Does my Pennsylvania plumbing license work in any other state?
No. Pennsylvania doesn’t offer reciprocity between states.
How do I stay up to date with plumbing codes?
To stay up to date and maintain licensing requirements, you will need to attend a continuing education course. Most labor unions and trade schools will offer continuing education classes that will keep you updated on current trends, technologies, and techniques each year.
Can I do my own home plumbing in Pennsylvania?
As long as the project doesn't require removal, installation, or adaption of water valves, safety shut-offs, or new waterlines, you can do most work on your own. This will include installing basic fixtures such as toilets or sinks as well as above-ground water lines to these fixtures. Anything beyond this (such as tubs, drainage, or shut-off valves) will require a permit and a licensed plumber.
Finding the right school for your plumbing training is a crucial part of your new career. While it can take a little bit of research to find the best plumbing trade school for you, there are ways to make the process easier.
This article showed you what it takes to get a plumbing license in Pennsylvania and showcased the best schools across the state. Hopefully, with this new information, you can make a well informed and life-changing decision.
Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.