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How to get a plumbing license in North Carolina

The State of North Carolina is ripe with opportunities for aspiring plumbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are approximately 12,160 plumbers currently employed in the state.

While that number is high, 70% of the plumbing jobs were unfilled. So there’s still plenty of room for growth.

If that’s not enough to encourage you, here is another enticing tidbit of information: The average yearly salary of plumbers in North Carolina is $56,000 but can reach well over $60,000. If this sounds like a career you’d like to pursue, read on to find out how you can obtain a plumbing license.

Types of plumbing licenses in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are 3 main types of plumbing licenses: P-I Contractor, P-II Contractor, and Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor (RLP). These are also known, respectively, as a limited license, intermediate license, and unlimited license. Here’s a brief description of each:

  • P-I (Class I) Contractor: For any potable water and drain, waste, vent piping systems in a residential, commercial, or industrial building
  • P-II (Class II) Contractor: For any potable water and drain, waste, vent piping systems in a single-family detached home
  • RLP Contractor: For any exterior sewage and water piping systems

It is important to note that there are 2 other licenses, State and Local Government Technician for Plumbing (SLGT-P) and Private Educational Institution Technician for Plumbing (PEIT-P), and neither are contracting licenses. An SLGT-P license is only for those employed by state or local government. A PEIT-P license is for those currently employed by a private education institution, such as a college.

One can obtain all licenses through the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors. The Board of Examiners offers all kinds of helpful resources for licensing and continuing education.

One important tidbit of information to remember is in regards to something called reciprocity. Reciprocity is granted to those who have obtained their license in another approved state and are in good standing. North Carolina does not offer this benefit, but many states do.

How to get a North Carolina plumbing license

A North Carolina plumber's license is fairly easy to obtain for a few reasons: The application fee is not overly expensive (at $100), the exam itself is open-book, and there is plenty of reference material online to help you prepare.

It may also help you to tap into the knowledge of plumbers in your community. The only part of the process that some may find challenging is the amount of work experience acquired before the exam. However, this time is ultimately preparing you for a solid score and a successful career in plumbing.

Keep in mind that there are no master plumbers or journeymen in North Carolina.

  • For P-I and P-II Contractor licenses: To be eligible for examination, you must have 2 years (4,000 hours) of on-site, full-time experience in installation, maintenance, service, or repair of plumbing systems. Up to one-half of those hours (2,000 hours) can be spent in academic or technical training courses. For
  • RLP Contractor licenses: To be eligible for examination, you must have 9 months (1,500 hours of experience) in installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing plumbing systems. One-half of these hours (750 hours) can be spent in academic or technical training. If you are a North Carolina Irrigation Contractor Licensing Board licensee and hold an Inspector Certification, you may also qualify for examination for this license.

It could be beneficial to receive some prior academic experience at a local community college, where you will learn the necessary plumbing codes, as well as relevant business and law points to help you excel in your career. Wake Technical College, located in Raleigh, is just one school that offers great degree and certificate programs—often taught by current and former plumbing technicians—for those interested in pursuing a career in plumbing.

Should you need a license renewal, you can do this through the Board of Examiners, and fees will vary depending on the licensure you are looking for. You can find out more information about license renewal here.

What about a business license?

A business license is a permit issued by the government for conducting and operating a business and is one of the main markers of starting a business. With this license in place, you have the necessary legal protection to keep you out of trouble.

How can I get a business license for my North Carolina plumbing business?

Because North Carolina doesn’t have one generic business license, most plumbing businesses in the state require occupational licenses—such as the contractor licenses mentioned earlier. However, this may vary from town to town. For example, some counties require permits for specific plumbing jobs, like commercial and residential plumbing. Here are some circumstances where a permit will be required:

  • The construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, movement of, removal of, or demolition of a building
  • The installation, extension, or repair of plumbing systems

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina gives a full rundown of the license requirements, business planning tips, and business registration guidelines.

So, you took the plumbing exam and are now a licensed contractor and have maybe even started your own plumbing business; what’s next?

We highly recommend you purchase small business insurance. This may even be necessary to get a business license in the first place, so be sure to check with the town you are conducting business in.

Furthermore, in a plumbing business, workers are especially prone to injury on the job. You can get a workers’ compensation policy from Huckleberry! Get a no-commitment workers’ comp estimate here.

Aside from workers’ comp, you may want a Business Owner's 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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