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North Carolina Plumbing License: How to Get Certified as a Plumber in NC

July 12, 2022 8 min. read
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Thinking about getting your plumbing license in North Carolina? Now’s a good time, according to our research.

America needs more plumbers, especially in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State only employs 13,290 plumbers as of now, but that number is expected to grow 17% over the next 8 years—and that’s a lot higher than the expected 5% national growth in the occupation.

There’s a bucketload of work available, and the state needs more qualified professionals to get the jobs done.

However, before you can fully seize the opportunity, you’ll need to get your North Carolina plumbing license. While the licensing process might seem like a hassle, it’s worth it. You receive a certified stamp of approval that qualifies you to perform certain work, and people take notice—that’s why plumbers (on average) make more than carpenters and even electricians.

We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get your plumber license in North Carolina:

Bookmark this page and check back whenever you have a question about plumbing license applications and renewals—we have all the answers you need.

How do I get a plumber license in North Carolina?

You need a plumber’s license to legally perform plumbing-related services in North Carolina, and you can get a few different types of licenses. 

Unlike some states, North Carolina doesn’t offer licensing at the Journeyman and Master Plumber levels. Their more universal licenses make it easier to work across different states, but they’re harder to earn.

North Carolina offers 3 types of plumbing licenses (and 2 technician sublicenses):

  • Plumbing Class 1 (P-1): Plumbers can work on residential, commercial, or industrial piping systems
  • Plumbing Class 2 (P-2): Plumbers can work on piping systems in only residential single-family buildings
  • Plumbing Technician: Plumbers can work on potable water and drain/waste/vent piping systems, but they must be a sublicensee of a P-1, P-2, or RLP contractor
  • Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor (RLP): Plumbers can work on exterior building plumbing pipings and systems
  • State & Local Government Technician – Plumbing (SLGT-P): Employees of the state or a local government can work on plumbing piping systems

Plumbers must go through the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors to obtain any of these licenses. 

Here’s an overview of the process of getting a plumber’s license in North Carolina:

  1. Earn a plumbing or HVAC diploma or certificate from a school or accumulate the necessary on-site hours as an apprentice with a plumbing company or licensed contractor.
  2. Apply for the examination for the specific plumber’s license you want.
  3. Obtain a background check.
  4. Send in your completed application with all required documentation, signatures, and fees.
  5. Schedule, take, and pass your plumbing exam.
  6. Submit the Licensing Activation form and fee to obtain your license

Most plumbers in North Carolina start as plumber’s helpers. Plumber’s helpers are entry-level apprentices in the field and don’t require any licensing to get started. However, a certified plumber will oversee any work and show them the ropes. This is how brand-new plumbers can acquire the necessary on-site experience to qualify for licensing examinations.

North Carolina plumbing license requirements

Each North Carolina plumbing license has different requirements. Here’s what you’ll need before you obtain each one:

Plumbing P-1 & P-2 requirements

You must pass the Plumbing Contractor examination to obtain a P-1 or P-2 contracting license. Before taking the exam, you must have 2 years (4,000 hours) of on-site full-time experience installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing plumbing-related systems. Half of those hours (2,000) can be in an academic or technical training setting directly relevant to the licensing and examination you’ve requested.

A great way to obtain those hours of experience and training is by going to school. Colleges and technical trade schools in North Carolina can train you on plumbing codes and best practices, helping you earn a degree and certificates. Plus, they’ll connect you with plumbers in the communities to help you get full-time on-site experience.

Plumbing technician requirements

Applicants must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time on-site experience installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing plumbing-related systems to take the Plumbing & Heating Technician examination.

Plumbing RLP requirements

To qualify for the Restricted Limited Plumbing Contractor examination, you must have 9 months (1,500 hours) of full-time experience installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing plumbing systems. Half of those hours (750) can be in an academic or technical training setting. 

Plumbing SLGT-P requirements

Applicants must have 18 months (3,000 hours) of full-time on-site experience installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing plumbing or heating systems before taking the State & Local Government Technician examination. P-1 Plumbers qualify for this license without examination.

Military experience substitute

Some forms of military experience can be used towards your required examination hours. You’ll need a DD214 form (noting your plumbing experience in the military) and sworn statements from your direct supervisors detailing your experience. However, you’ll still have to take the North Carolina plumbing examination and pay the fees to receive your plumbing license.

How much does it cost to get a plumber license in North Carolina?

Getting a plumbing license in North Carolina is a low-cost way to start your tradesperson career. From the get-go, you’ll get paid (instead of paying) to learn the skills you need. 

Search for a plumbing company needing apprentices—pretty much all of them do. As an apprentice, you’ll work with licensed contractors in the field to learn the skills you need to become a successful plumber. While you won’t make much as an apprentice (expect around $14-20/hr), you’ll learn valuable skills that’ll help you earn your licensing and begin making a healthy income. Plus, you have to find a way to get the hours for your licensing certification—and at least you get paid while doing it.

Some apprenticeships cost money, but this will be taken from your wages to ensure you still make money instead of losing it during your learning phase.

Another way to earn at least half of your required hours is by attending a vocational school or community college. They provide certificate programs that you can use to earn better-paying jobs with plumbing companies. 

North Carolina schools like Fayetteville Technical Community College, Guildford Technical Community College, and Forsyth Tech Community College offer diplomas and certificate programs for aspiring plumbers. These certificate programs range from 14 to 18 credit hours. North Carolina residents pay $76 per credit, and non-residents pay $268 per credit—so you can expect to pay anywhere from $1064 to $4824 for this kind of formal education.

Once you’ve accumulated the required academic and on-site hours, it’s time to apply for your plumbing contracting license. You must pay a $100 fee to apply to take the contractor’s examination. After you pass the test, you’ll need to pay a $150 license activation fee to obtain your license. 

If you decide to apply to be a plumbing technician, you’ll have to pay a $100 examination fee and a $75 license activation fee ($150 for the State & Local Government Technician license). 

Do I need to renew my plumber license? 

Yes, you need to renew your plumber license in North Carolina every year to stay eligible as a certified plumber. If you currently hold an active license, you can renew your license online. If you renew an older license, you must submit your completed paperwork and payment to the Board Office. You’ll also have to pay a $25 late fee. 

Unlike in some other states, continuing education is no longer required by the North Carolina State Board for you to renew your plumbing license. Still, it’s a good idea for plumbing professionals to regularly take courses relevant to their work to stay up to date on current code, best practices, and emerging technologies.

If the Board finds you violating any laws, rules, or codes during the design or installation of plumbing-related systems, they may require you to complete approved courses to renew your license. Here’s a list of courses (including board-approved disciplinary classes) plumbers can take to sharpen their skills.

What happens if my plumber license expires?

First, check if your plumber’s license has expired. You can use the Verify License Search on the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors’ website to find out.

You can search via your classification type and license number or through a company name, first name, last name, or address.

If your plumber license has expired, you have a few options. If it expired in 2017 or 2018, your license will be retired. That means you can’t renew it online or via mail—you’ll need to reapply and take the exam to reinstate your license. Here’s a link to the application.

If your plumber license expired in 2019, 2020, or 2021, you must send a paper renewal form and payment to the Board Office.

If you obtained a plumber’s license in 2021, you can renew your license and pay the associated fees here.

Does a plumbing license in North Carolina increase your earning potential?

Does having a plumbing license in North Carolina increase your earnings potential? You bet it does. And even if it didn’t, you wouldn’t be legally allowed to perform work without one.

According to the data compiled in our Plumber Salary Guide, Apprentice Plumbers make an average of $36,526 per year while Master Plumbers make $66,479—that’s an 82% wage increase. While North Carolina has different licensing than Master and Journeyman Plumbers, you can expect the wage jump to be similar with P-1 and P-2 licensing.

Negotiate the right price the first time, and you won’t have to have another interview with another company. Go with your gut or try to throw out a highball number, and you might just lose out on a quality job. Our guides help meet you in the middle to help you earn what you deserve.

See for yourself. Check out any of our salary guides to find out exactly how much you should be making based on your location and experience.

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