How to Become a Plumber: Education, Training & Career Paths

Do you like taking things apart and putting them back together? Then you may be interested in a career as a plumber. But you should know that it isn’t as simple as all that. You may be surprised at what the duties are and what it takes to be a plumber. So if you are interested in becoming a plumber, or you’re just curious, this article explains the duties, required qualifications, and the outlook for careers in this trade.


What Do Plumbers Do?

First of all:

There are three main types of plumbers: industrial plumbers, residential plumbers, and commercial plumbers. You don’t have to pigeon-hole yourself to one field though. There is a large contingent of plumbers trained and operating in industrial, commercial and residential plumbing.

A plumber may be called upon to design water distribution, sanitation, heating or cooling systems. This involves drafting blueprints for the job.

Then the plumber will be responsible for executing the blueprints and interpreting them to all involved parties. Installing plumbing systems, sanitation systems, and all water distribution systems are all run of the millwork for a certified plumber.

Plumbers are very often called out for maintenance work as well. This could mean cleaning out drains and pipes and in-depth inspections.

As a plumber, you will need to be skilled in the repairs of these systems as well. Plumbers are also expected to know how to repair home appliances that connect to the water supply as well (dishwashers, garbage disposals, washers, water heaters, etc.).


education for plumber


The following list goes into more detail about what these duties entail:

-Reading blueprints and building codes for the installation of drainage systems and the layout of pipes

– Installing the piping for toilets, sinks and other water-related appliances

– Installing said appliances

– Install piping conduits for gas, steam or air

– Collaborating with contractors on installations or repairs

– Cutting pipe to fit blueprint design

– Disassembling pipes for repair or cleaning

– Diagnosing plumbing malfunctions such as leaks

– Preparing buildings for the installation of pipes and drainage systems

– Choosing the appropriate valves and fittings for specific installations

–  Installation of air conditioning, water heater, and heating systems

– Carefully selecting tools and materials for projects

– Knowing health and safety codes and adhering to them

– Plumbing inspections

– Replacing compromised plumbing conduits

– Updating plumbing systems according to building codes

– Drawing up inspection reports that detail function, problems, and recommendations

– Working with other plumbing contractors

– Composes job bids and budgets for clients

How to Become a Plumber

Does the list mentioned above appeal to you? If so, then you should know what it takes to become a plumber.

The first step in this and any other career path is to have your high school diploma or GED. Education is essential in, and plumbing is no different. Along with your GED, it is helpful to get your high school and/or college education towards math and science. Measurement, knowledge of measuring units, and knowledge of measuring units for water are all necessary skills for a plumber.

Geometry, biology, and thermodynamics are also significant areas of education to delve into for any prospective plumber.

Once you have a solid educational foundation, it is suggested to enroll in a technical or trade school. Most plumbing companies won’t even look at your resume unless you have a certification from a trade or technical school.

In fact, many states require any certified plumber to have been to trade or tech school.

You may be able to earn these certifications at junior and community colleges as well. Check the course catalog of your local community college to find out.

Becoming a Plumber Apprentice

Once you have completed your certification or in the process, you can start looking for apprenticeships. An apprenticeship will entail on-the-job training by a licensed plumbing journeyman. You will work closely with a plumber and carry out the necessary tasks and gradually work your way to more complex projects.

Different states require different lengths of apprenticeships before you can become a licensed journeyman (a full-fledged plumber). In general, apprenticeships needed for 2-5 years.

You can look for an apprenticeship through your trade school. You can also check with local plumbing unions and contracting companies. The latter option will usually offer an hourly wage for your time as an apprentice.

Becoming a Licensed Plumber

The final step is to complete any state-required examination. Typically, state law will require that any prospective plumber pass a written or field exam (sometimes both) to obtain a plumbing license. To even qualify to take this test, you will likely have to complete all required vocational courses and an apprenticeship.

For most states, once you pass this exam, you will become a licensed plumbing journeyman.


plumber salary

Career Outlook for Plumbers

In general, the demand for commercial plumbing companies as well as residential plumbers is looking solid for at least the next five years. This is due in part to many homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities making the switch to low-flow plumbing.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the plumbing and pipefitting trades are on an above-average trajectory in regards to job growth.

How Much Does a Plumber Make?

It is important to note that the information in this article is likely to vary based on which state you live in. This is also true of what you can expect salary-wise as a plumber. The BLS reported that the average annual income for plumbers in the U.S. was $50,620 in 2015. Of course, that was the average figure.

The state that paid their plumbers the most in that same year was Alaska which clocked in at an average annual salary of $72,050 for plumbers.

Things are looking up for plumbers, so make sure you take close consideration of the responsibilities and requirements if you intend to start on this career path.



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