In California, possessing the experience of a journeyman is not enough to allow someone to work legally as an independent plumbing contractor. Registering as a journeyman with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) allows someone to bid and work on projects of $500 or less, but any further contracting requires a plumbing contractor’s license, classified as a C-36 license.
That means that you need to become a licensed contractor in California, as well as take any required plumbing specific testing, if you wish to be a self-employed plumber or run a plumbing business.
California Plumbing License Reciprocity
California does have reciprocity agreements with four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, and Utah. Possessing a contractor’s license from one of these states does not automatically qualify a contractor to work in California — they might, however, be entitled to skip the trade skills portion of the examination required to attain a C-36 license.
Licenses from other states must currently be in good standing for at least five years, and they must be the specific licenses that appear on the CSLB list of reciprocal licenses. Applicants may still be required to take and pay the fees for other portions of the exam, such as the law and business section. Fees could a include a $330 application fee, a $200 license fee, and a fingerprinting fee.
California Plumbing Journeyman License Requirements
California does not provide varied levels of license for contractors. A journeyman can contract on jobs up to $500 but anyone wishing to do business as a plumbing contractor must acquire a C-36 license. California defines someone with journeyman level experience as someone who has completed an approved apprenticeship program and/or has significant work experience that qualifies them to perform work without supervision.
For clarity, the licensing requirements generally do not apply for employees, only those wishing to become contractors themselves or wishing to start a business.
According to the CSLB website, the minimum experience required to apply for a contractor’s license is as follows:
“The contractor or other person who will act as the qualifying individual must have had, within the ten years immediately before the filing of the application, at least four full years of experience at a journey level, or as a foreman, supervisor, or contractor in the classification for which he or she is applying. The experience claimed on the application must be verifiable and individuals who have knowledge of the experience must certify the accuracy of the experience information provided by the applicant.”
Plumbing Journeyman Exam
There is not currently a posted required score to pass the exam. Applicants will be told whether they pass or fail, but may not be given information about specific scores.
Review the publicly posted study guide for more information regarding the specifics of the exam, and resources to consult in order to prepare. There are no schools or examination preparation services that are directly associated with the CSLB, so make sure to use CSLB provided resources to prepare for the exam.
Plumbing Apprenticeship Requirements
The California Department of Industrial relations partners with a number of colleges and companies to provide accredited apprenticeship programs to people who wish to make their start in a trade career.
The search feature on the department website allows users to search for plumbing apprenticeship programs that are delivered in partnership with the state. Using one of these programs is likely an apprentice’s best shot at working toward a plumbing license in California.
Requirements, examinations, and fees are broken down in the description of each program.
Trade Schools in California
California has hundreds of trade schools, however the state doesn’t strictly treat plumbing as a trade. Many of the plumbing apprenticeship programs only require GED diplomas, so no further education is necessary to begin training as an apprentice. As such, state-approved apprenticeship programs may or may not be offered by a trade school or college. Check the requirements of each program.
Professional License Search
The California Department of Consumer Affairs has a license search feature which anyone can use to check the public status of a particular license.
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