The plumbing industry and other construction trades use designations to determine the skill level of employees. Much like the designation titles that were used coming out of the Renaissance, the titles that we are familiar with today are Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. Let’s explore the difference between these different classifications of plumbers.

Apprentices are plumbers who are learning the trade. On the opposite end of the scale, the Master Plumber has learned and been tested on the plumbing code, has mastered the mechanical skills, and has the most on-the-job experience.

The Journeyman has passed a state test to achieve the designation. In the Minnesota plumbing industry, there is a program where apprentices are registered with the state and are then required to put in four years of on-the-job training under a Master plumber.

The on-the-job training needs to be verified by the state each year by the Master Plumber who is managing that Apprentice. Once the apprentice has four years of experience, they can take a written exam given by the state of Minnesota to become a Journeyman plumber. The Apprentice needs to study and know the entire plumbing code, which is in an 8 ½ x 11” three-ring binder about two inches thick.

They also need to know much more, including the Accessibility code. The plumbing code, which is designed to protect the health of the public and to ensure good operating plumbing systems, is complicated. As a result, the Journeyman test is a difficult exam. It is not unusual for an apprentice not to pass it the first time they take it, but they are allowed to take the exam after a period of time.

In addition to state licenses, there are about eight places in the state where municipalities can require their own license and testing. These tend to be bigger cities in the state. For example, Minneapolis and St. Paul require additional licensing. Since the service area for St Paul Pipeworks is primarily in those two cities, the plumbers need to pass their Journeyman exam for the state, and then they need to sign up to take the city-level exams.

When they pass one of the city exams, Minneapolis and St. Paul have an agreement that the plumber can then pay a fee to the other city that allows them to get the Competency Card to work in the houses and businesses in both cities. The city-level exam also includes gas and gas exhaust codes, so a passing grade on the test includes a gas license as well.

In Minnesota, once the Apprentice passes the Journeyman Plumber’s exam they are allowed to work on their own in your home or in a business in most of the state. If a Journeyman plumber wants to open their own plumbing shop, they are required to pass another test that qualifies them as a Master Plumber.

Every plumbing business must have at least one licensed Master Plumber working in the business in order to be an operating business. When someone comes out to work in your home or business, the shop has to ensure that they are sending someone experienced. This system helps qualify that they are sending someone who knows what they are doing.

At St Paul Pipeworks, there are more masters than at a typical shop. It is a good system. Customers should not be shy about asking whether their plumber or the person that they are working for is licensed. St Paul Pipeworks takes great pride in its plumbers.

There is a difference between having a handyman or someone unlicensed work on your home. We see a lot of plumbing that has been installed incorrectly and needs to be repaired in order to work properly. Incorrect work can cause problems in how the system performs. Besides performance issues, poor plumbing can also lead to health issues. Often there are excess bacteria coming into the home that the plumbing system will stop if it is installed properly to Code.

If you are looking for a quality licensed plumber in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metro area, give St Paul Pipeworks a call today.

Yours Truly,

Matthew Dettwiler

Social Media Manager


Q: What is the role of an Apprentice plumber in the plumbing industry?

Answer: Apprentices in the plumbing industry are individuals who are learning the trade. They work under the guidance of experienced professionals to gain the necessary skills and knowledge.

Q: What distinguishes a Journeyman plumber from an Apprentice?

Answer: A Journeyman plumber has passed a state test to achieve this designation. They typically have four years of on-the-job training under a Master plumber and have a solid understanding of the plumbing code and related regulations.

Q: What qualifications are required to become a Master Plumber?

Answer: To become a Master Plumber, one needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the plumbing code, demonstrate mastery of mechanical skills, and have extensive on-the-job experience. They are typically required to pass an additional test to qualify for this title.

Q: Do plumbers need to be licensed, and what licenses are required in Minnesota?

Answer: Yes, plumbers in Minnesota need to be licensed. The primary licenses include Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Plumber licenses. Additionally, some municipalities, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, may require their own licenses and testing.

Q: Why is it important to hire a licensed plumber for plumbing work in your home or business?

Answer: Hiring a licensed plumber is crucial to ensure that the work is done correctly and in compliance with the plumbing code. Incorrect plumbing work can lead to performance issues, health concerns, and even excess bacteria in your plumbing system. St Paul Pipeworks takes pride in having licensed plumbers to provide quality service.


What’s the difference between an Apprentice, a Journeyman, and a Master Plumber?