How to Become a Plumber in California

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In California where innovation meets tradition, the plumbing systems serve as an invisible network that connects our homes, businesses, and institutions.

It is the hardworking hands of plumbers that make sure we continue living in the comforts of our modern lives uninterrupted.

It’s safe to say that working in plumbing is both a fulfilling and rewarding career choice in the Golden State.

In this article, we will give you all the information you need on how to become a plumber in California.

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Get information on Plumber programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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How to Become a Plumber in California – Step by Step

To begin your plumbing career in California you must be at least 18 years old, and have a social security number and/or an individual taxpayer identification number.

You also must have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent.

In California, you must be a licensed contractor to take up projects that are over $500.

However, just like in most states, your plumbing journey begins with an apprenticeship.


California offers a variety of apprenticeship programs that are usually a blend of on-the-job training under the supervision of some of the best plumbers in the state, and formal classes.

Throughout the program, you will most likely be examined on topics related to plumbing systems, installation, and repair.

These types of programs usually last for about 2 years, however, you can extend your apprenticeship to a few additional years and later apply to become a journeyman plumber.

Journeyman Plumber

After you complete your apprenticeship you can start working as a journeyman plumber.

This means that you will become an already experienced and fully qualified worker, who is able to work without the supervision of a licensed plumber.

Unlike most other states, California does not issue a journeyman plumbers license.

Being a journeyman plumber will only allow you to work on projects up to $500.

To earn more you will need to get a contractor’s license.

Plumbing Contractors License

In order to apply for a contractor’s license in California you must have at least 4 years of experience as a journeyman plumber.

California issues only one plumbing license and that is the Class C Specialty Contractor License.

To be more specific it is the C-36 – Plumbing Contractor.

To get your contracting license you will have to apply to take the trade exam.

The Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board issues all the contractor licenses in California.

The application fee for the contractors’ license is $330.

Within the application, you will have to provide proof of your 4 years of experience as a journeyman, and someone will have to verify the experience you claim to have.

This can be another journeyman, a colleague, an employer, a supervisor, etc.

After having your application approved by the Board you will go on to take the licensing exam.

In California, you will have to take 2 exams in order to get your license:

  • The trade exam
  • The Law and Business exam

In addition to these 2 exams, applicants who haven’t gotten their contracting license before will have to take the asbestos open-book exam, which is just a procedural exam to provide future contractors with the basic knowledge needed on asbestos and how to appropriately handle a situation where asbestos may be involved.

You need a score of 70% or higher on each of the exams to pass.

To apply for your license you will need to pay an additional fee of $200.

In addition to this, you will have to provide:

  • A complete criminal record background check
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of contractor bond

Complete Criminal Background Check

The complete criminal background check is a standard procedure to disclose any criminal pleas or convictions.

The check will also require you to submit your fingerprints, based on the California laws.

CSLB will be informed of any crimes you have committed, including DUI’s.

However, this does not mean that you will be denied your license if you have any sort of conviction.

The CSLB will be taking into consideration the severity of the crime, time passed, and further evidence before making their decision.

Proof of Insurance

You will need to provide evidence of workers’ compensation insurance or exemption from the requirements.

Proof of Contractor Bond

A license cannot be issued or renewed without a contractor’s bond in the amount of $15,000.

The bond is put in place to protect consumers who could have sustained damage by poor construction work or other licensing breaches, as well as workers who haven’t received their rightful salaries.

Plumbing Schools in California

A college degree or course is not mandatory to become a plumber in California, however, if you want to take your education to the next level California offers some of the best plumbing schools in the US.

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

LA Trade-Technical College offers 2 different courses in plumbing:

  • Plumbing (Day program)
  • Plumbing: Construction Technician (Evening program)

Both of these programs are set to prepare you for employment and a successful career in the plumbing industry.

By completing any of the programs, you will have the necessary knowledge and skills for a career in residential, commercial, and industrial service and repair or construction plumbing.

Some of the skills you will master during the program include:

  • Reading of blueprints
  • Layout
  • estimating
  • Installation of piping systems and fixtures
  • Repair of supply
  • Wastewater systems

It is important to note that by deciding on one of the programs you will need to commit to a full-time student status, which is approximately 24 hours per week.

To get details on the courses, tuition, application and so much more visit their website.

Foothill College

Foothill College is the perfect choice if you want to enter the plumbing business because it offers both apprenticeship and college programs.

Plumbing and Pipefitting Apprenticeship

The Plumbing and Pipefitting Apprenticeship program is a 5-year program in partnership with the UA Local 62 and the UA Local 467 Plumbers & Steamfitters.

The program is a blend of on-the-job training and classroom instructions.

The program will provide you with all the knowledge and practical skills you need for a successful career in plumbing.

Plumbing Technology

The Associate in Science in Plumbing Technology degree program is a partnership with the Pipe Trades Training Center apprenticeship program.

This is a program that also combines classroom education and on-the-job training.

The duration of the program is 5 years, and within those 5 years, you will need to complete 9,000 on-the-job training hours.

By completing this course you will become a journeyman and can work without supervision.

The Associate in Science degree you get by completing this program builds on the Certificate of Achievement in Plumbing Technology by adding requirements for general education courses and electives.

To learn more about these programs visit their website.

School Name Address
LA Trade-Technical College 400 West Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Foothill College 12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022, United States


Statistics show that California has the highest annual wages from any other state.

Wages for plumbers in California are between $52,100 and $88,385 with the average being $70,171.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
San Jose $79,841
San Francisco $79,523
Oakland $77,614
Los Angeles $71,424
Anaheim $71,093
Santa Ana $70,998
Long Beach $70,934
Sacramento $68,892
San Diego $68,654
Fresno $63,745

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA850$67,540$32.47$109,830$38,770
Chico, CA140$65,240$31.36$106,210$36,970
El Centro, CA140$64,900$31.2$92,070$38,600
Fresno, CA950$68,960$33.15$117,710$38,280
Hanford-Corcoran, CA90$62,620$30.1$86,780$40,410
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA11,830$71,650$34.45$124,120$40,180
Madera, CA110$66,500$31.97$99,630$42,390
Merced, CA180$59,880$28.79$100,280$39,020
Modesto, CA380$67,850$32.62$111,340$41,650
Napa, CA130$78,420$37.7$131,630$48,550
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA1,010$69,300$33.32$120,600$38,430
Redding, CA160$66,920$32.18$119,950$38,930
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA4,220$65,600$31.54$107,610$34,210
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA3,410$70,450$33.87$121,920$38,920
Salinas, CA350$71,590$34.42$122,260$46,010
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA4,290$70,900$34.09$110,230$40,330
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA5,200$92,000$44.23$155,680$47,980
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA2,330$96,870$46.57$167,310$50,940
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA350$71,980$34.61$107,130$45,720
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA280$72,900$35.05$123,900$41,290
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA520$65,580$31.53$94,640$45,140
Santa Rosa, CA710$76,420$36.74$127,920$47,390
Stockton-Lodi, CA530$75,000$36.06$128,940$39,420
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA500$65,330$31.41$97,250$39,430
Visalia-Porterville, CA360$63,620$30.59$95,360$37,440
Yuba City, CA100$67,660$32.53$115,590$35,010
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, OCC Code 47-2152, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

For how long is my contractor license valid in California?

In California, the contractor license validity expires 2 years after its issuing.

Is there a fee to renew my license?

Yes, there is an additional fee to renew your license in California.

The state requires you to renew your license a little prior to its expiration date and the fee is $450.

If you go to renew it after it has already expired there is an additional fee of $225 so your renewal will cost $675.

Is any sort of formal education required to become a plumber in California?

You are required to have a high school degree or the GED equivalent.

After that, you can either enroll in college courses or become an apprentice.

Most apprenticeship programs are a blend of fieldwork training and additional classroom lectures.

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Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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