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How to get a plumbing license in California

If you are lucky enough to reside in the beautiful State of California, there are a few good reasons to do business there: temperate weather year-round, a booming economy, and no corporate taxes or personal income tax for corporations or LLCs. These are just a few to name.

If you wish to start a plumbing business in the state, you will be pleased to know that the average yearly salary for plumbers in California ranges from $56,000 to $100,000. So, there is plenty of room for growth. What does it take to become a plumber in California? Read on to find out!

Types of plumbing licenses in California

Two plumber ranks require licensure: journeyman and master.

To become a journeyman plumber, you must have 2 to 3 years of academic experience, as well as 1 to 2 years as an apprentice plumber. Then, you must pass the exam. To receive a master plumber license, you must have 1 to 5 years of experience as a journeyman plumber and then pass a more rigorous license exam.

Both ranks will need to receive a C-36 plumbing contractors license, awarded by the Department of Consumer Affairs. Once you have reached the necessary credentials, there will be several requirements to meet to become a licensed plumber.

California plumbing license requirements

California contractors must receive a C-36 license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to carry out jobs that exceed $500. For this license, you must do the following:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED
  • Undergo a criminal background check and fingerprinting
  • Be approved by the board to take the plumbing exam
  • Take the business and law exam and trade exam
  • Have 4 years experience as a journeyman, foreman, supervisor, contractor, or owner-builder or equivalent academic or vocational training experience
  • Have a working capital of $2,500 and file a bond of $10,000

The application fee for a contractor license is $300, and there is an additional fee of $200 once you have passed the exam. You will also need to reapply for the contractor license exam every two years. There is a 6- to 8-week application processing time and a 3- to 4-week wait for an exam date. So, all in all, you can expect to have your license in hand in at least 3 months.

Another great way to get a headstart on the licensing process is to enroll in a plumbing apprenticeship. The California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association offers a 5-year apprenticeship program that includes hands-on work experience and training courses. Additionally, you will be enrolled in a benefits program, which will afford you healthcare coverage and a pension plan. The difference between a journeyman and an apprentice is that an apprentice must work under the direct supervision of another plumber, whereas a journeyman can work independently.

Learn more about the Cal Apprenticeship Program.

There is also a wonderful study guide provided by the California Contractors State License Board that will help prepare you for the exam. Topics that are covered in the study guide include but are not limited to planning and estimating, plumbing systems, and job safety. We highly recommend checking this resource out!

Plumbing permit vs. plumbing license

One important aspect of becoming a plumber is permits for work. We want to stress that permits are different from licenses in that they are issued for specific jobs, whereas you need a license to become a plumber in the first place. A plumbing permit is required for any job involving installing, altering, repairing, or replacing a piping system. You can obtain all permits through a city’s public works department.

You can find a full list of building permit requirements by city on the CSLB website here. According to the California Building Standards Code, no building or structure may be altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained.

How can I get a business license for my California plumbing business?

In the State of California, you will need to obtain a general business license. Some cities may refer to a business license as a Business Tax Certification, which is the same thing. Here is a rundown of what you need for registration:

  • Social Security Number
  • Business activity description (any activity engaged in the primary purpose of making a profit)
  • Legal business name and fictitious (DBA) name
  • Business start date
  • Business address and mailing address (if different)
  • Business contact information

In some cities, you may only need to apply for Business Tax Certification at a municipal level. However, you may also need to apply at a federal or state level, depending on the business structure.

If you are in an unincorporated part of the state, you will need to obtain a license or certificate at the county level. If we are looking to Los Angeles County, you will also need to obtain a business license in the cities of Malibu, Santa Clarita, and Westlake Village. You can contact the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s office for more information on this.

From here, you will be able to take the additional steps towards getting your business off the ground: hiring employees, crafting a marketing plan, and purchasing business insurance.

A small business insurance policy may even be necessary for some business licenses, so be sure to check with the town where you are starting a business.

In the plumbing business, especially, workers are more prone to injury on the job. You can get a workers’ comp policy from Huckleberry for as little as $63 a month. Get a free workers’ compensation estimate here.

Aside from workers’ comp insurance, you may want a Business Owners’ Policy to keep your business in operation, your customers safe, and your property protected. This comprehensive small business insurance policy takes a lot of the guesswork out of shopping for insurance.

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The content of this page is for general informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal, tax, insurance, financial, or other professional advice and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, current, reliable, or error-free. See the Terms of Service for further information about this website.

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