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How to get a plumbing license in Illinois

Most people don’t pay much attention to their plumbing beyond a clogged drain, but modern plumbing systems are intricate pieces of engineering. Even one misplaced pipe can cause untold amounts of bodily injury and property damage.

That’s what makes plumbers some of the most critical tradesmen in any given community. A well-trained plumber is an expert in the systems that keep their community clean and healthy and can stop disaster before it even has a chance to strike.

Not only is plumbing an essential career, but it can also be a pretty lucrative one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers make about $56,000 a year, with a 5% predicted growth rate between 2020 and 2030.

Are you ready to start your career in the plumbing trade? Want to learn how to get started? Check out this guide and get started on your Illinois plumbing career today!

What are the requirements to become a plumber in Illinois?

One thing to keep in mind is that plumbing requirements in Chicago are much different than in the rest of Illinois. We’ll go into detail about how Chicago differs below, but just remember that these requirements generally do not apply.

In Illinois, there is an apprentice plumber’s license and a plumber’s license. Unlike many states, there is no journeyman plumber level, so you can work without supervision once you’re a licensed plumber. Licenses are issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health (or IDPH).

To start a plumbing apprenticeship in Illinois, you’ll need to be at least 16 years old and have completed at least two years of high school, along with an approved course at a trade school, college, or university. You’ll also need to pass a basic licensing exam to demonstrate your basic knowledge of plumbing.

You’ll need to get a sponsorship from a plumber with state licensing, who will work with you throughout your apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships in Illinois last at least 4, but no more than 6 years, during which time you should have completed your high school diploma or GED, along with any necessary trade school coursework.

To apply for your plumbing license, you’ll need to submit an Application for Examination for Plumber’s License to verify that you’ve completed the licensing requirements necessary to sit for the exam.

Once you’ve passed your examination, congratulations! You’re now a licensed plumber in Illinois! You can now work without restriction in the State of Illinois. Just remember that your continuing education requirements and license renewal are due April 30th of each year.

How do I become a plumber in the City of Chicago?

Chicago follows the general Illinois plumbing license laws but has a few of its own licensing requirements you should be aware of if you’re planning to work in the Second City.

Chicago plumbers get licensure through the Chicago Department of Buildings instead of the IDPH, and their plumbing exam is proctored by Continental Testing Services, a private testing service. This is why Chicago plumbers will need reciprocity to work outside of the city.

Chicago is also the only city in Illinois that has journeyman plumbers, who require direct supervision from master plumbers for most jobs. However, if Chicago has reciprocity with your area, you can work outside of the City without supervision, even if you are a journeyman plumber in Chicago.

How long does it take to become a plumber in Illinois?

To become an apprentice plumber, you’ll need to have completed at least 2 years of high school, as well as an approved plumbing course, which generally is about a semester long.

Your apprenticeship program will last at least 4 years, but no more than 6. If your apprentice program is through a union, you’ll be required to take an additional 1,200 hours of coursework, which usually takes about 5 years to complete.

How much does it cost to become an Illinois plumber?

As in most states, Illinois offers paid apprenticeships, so the costs of training and registration are offset by the fact that you’re earning basically from day one.

Your apprentice license application fee is $100, along with the price of your toolkit, which can vary between plumbing programs.

Your plumbing license application fee depends on where you live. If you’re a Chicago resident or from out-of-state, it’s $225, while it’s $175 for native Illinoians outside of Chicago.

Illinois plumbing contractor registration is $150.

Do plumbers need a plumbing license in Illinois?

Yes, the State of Illinois does require you to have a plumber’s license before you can work as a plumber.

Illinois does not offer reciprocity with other states, but it does offer reciprocity between the city of Chicago and certain other Illinois districts for a $150 fee. Check with your local government or the Illinois Department of Health to see if your district qualifies.

What’s the difference between an Illinois plumbing license and an Illinois plumbing permit?

You’re required to have a plumbing license to work as a plumber in the State of Illinois. Issuance of a plumbing license by the Illinois Department of Public Health (of the Chicago Department of Buildings) shows that you have the training and education to work the job safely.

A plumbing permit is required before plumbing work can begin. It ensures that the work done adheres to the International Plumbing Code and will not cause structural damage to the building or any surrounding areas.

To apply for a plumbing permit in Cook County, you’ll need to submit a completed Plumbing Permit Application Form, a Letter of Intent from the plumbing contractor who will be doing the job, and a signed letter from the owner verifying the plumbing contractor has been awarded the job.

How can I get a plumbing business license in the State of Illinois?

Illinois has a specific plumbing business license called a plumbing contractor license. To apply for a plumbing contractor license, you (or one of your business partners) must be a licensed plumber in the State of Illinois.

Illinois requires you to have small business insurance, whether you’re a sole proprietorship or starting a full-scale plumbing agency. You’ll need to show proof of at least $100,000 general liability insurance, $300,000 bodily injury, and $50,000 property damage. If you have any employees working for you, even if they aren’t plumbers, you’ll also need at least $500,000 in workers’ compensation insurance.

The application fee is $150 and will need to be renewed each year, along with your plumber’s license.

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