How to Become a Plumber: A Comprehensive Guide

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Jacky Chou

Jacky Chou is an electrical engineer turned marketer. He is the founder of Indexsy, Far & Away, Laurel & Wolf, a couple FBA businesses , and about 40 affiliate sites. He is a proud native of Vancouver, BC, who has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Oberlo and GoDaddy.
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Imagine living in a reality where there are no plumbers, where faucets never stop dripping, and cold showers are the norm. Thankfully, we have plumbers who maintain our water and sanitation systems, thus preventing a living nightmare. As per the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers play a pivotal role in our modern society and earn a decent hourly wage of $27.56. Many view plumbing as a secure and well-paid career. If you're someone who's interested in this field but unsure about the path to follow, continue reading. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to pursue a career in plumbing:

Let's get started!

The Value of Plumbing in Modern Society

Before embarking on the path to becoming a plumber, it's crucial to understand the importance of this trade. A functioning plumbing system is not merely a luxury but an integral aspect of modern life, affecting everything from personal hygiene to public health. Plumbers are the unsung heroes ensuring communities access to clean water and efficient waste disposal systems.

Additionally, plumbers work to install and repair sanitation systems, another cornerstone of a functioning society. Therefore, becoming a plumber is not just a career choice but a commitment to serve society's fundamental needs.

Why Plumbing as a Career?

Image credit: hdbplumberservice.com.sg

While technology has made inroads into various professions, replacing human labor in several sectors, plumbing remains a hands-on job. One of the great attractions of a plumbing career is the job security it offers. Plumbers will be in demand if people rely on water for survival and require waste management systems.

The financial rewards are equally attractive. Unlike many professions requiring years of costly education, a plumber can start earning a decent wage relatively quickly, often right from the apprenticeship stage.

Moreover, plumbing offers an attractive trajectory for career growth. From being an apprentice to becoming a journeyman and then finally a master plumber, each stage brings its own set of responsibilities and financial benefits.

1. Entry Requirements

Before entering the world of plumbing, one has to meet specific criteria. Most apprenticeship programs necessitate that the individual be at least 18 years old. You should get your high school diploma or GED and its equivalent, as it is generally a requirement. Mathematical skills are often underrated but are crucial when measuring pipe lengths or calculating pressure, for example.

a) Assess Your Aptitude

Image credit: skilledtradescollege.ca

Plumbing is an excellent profession, but it may not be for everyone. Assess yourself and determine if you have the aptitude for plumbing. Ask yourself if you are comfortable working with tools and can work in various places, including potentially compact areas. You should also consider your physical health: plumbing requires physically demanding tasks. You must be physically fit and have excellent stamina to work as a plumber.

2. Attend Vocational Training

To become a plumber, you do not need a specialized university education where you get to learn plumbing to advance your career. However, you will need to go to trade school to get vocational training after you complete your high school studies. You can complete your vocational training in plumbing in one to two years. Vocational training programs are offered not only by trade schools but also by accredited technical universities.

During such training, prospective plumbers learn not only the practical aspects, like how to use specific tools or basic pipefitting skills, but also the theoretical underpinnings of the trade. They are highly specified programs in which you learn how to fix drainage and water sanitation systems in residential and commercial units.

Understanding why things are done a certain way, not just how, can be invaluable as one progresses in their career. Once you graduate from your plumbing school or technical university, they will award you a certification. Plumbing companies are unlikely to hire you without a certificate from a good trade school. 

3. Participate in an Apprenticeship

Image credit: explorethetrades.org

Once you finish your vocational training in plumbing, you will need to participate in a plumbing apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships are the cornerstone of a plumber's education. You work under a senior plumber during an apprenticeship and receive on-the-job training. This training includes both classroom hours and field training. 

In most apprenticeships, you complete several classroom hours before getting hands-on training, but the duration varies. Once you finish trade school, apprenticeships are a great way to gain specialized plumbing skills and receive hands-on training.

Trainees participate in digging trenches for new pipe installations, fitting fixtures, and, perhaps most importantly, learning to diagnose and troubleshoot problems. You can complete most apprenticeships in four to five years.

4. Gain Practical Experience

Your process of learning doesn't stop with trade school or your apprenticeship. To become a highly employable plumber, you must gain practical and professional experience even beyond. One way to hone your skills in plumbing is to take an accredited fast-track plumbing course. These courses are designed to sharpen your skills quickly; you can complete them in less than ten weeks.

They are also an excellent way to strengthen your resume and increase your chances of finding a well-paying job. Another way to gain experience is to work as a plumber's assistant. While it sounds similar to an apprenticeship, it is a paid professional position several plumbing companies offer.

Here, you are partnered with an experienced plumber and go to job sites with them. At first, you assist the plumber and learn from them, but eventually, you work alone under their supervision. 

5. Obtain Licensure

You will need a plumbing license before you can work independently as a plumber. You can work under a master plumber without a license, but getting a license will increase your employment opportunities. The exact process of getting licensed depends upon your state. In most states, you must pass a state licensing exam.

Image credit: ableskills.co.uk

The exam requires an understanding of plumbing codes, business, and law. Many training institutes provide exam preparation services, and you can enroll in their programs to increase your chances of passing the exam. Once you pass the exam, you must submit your licensing application. Usually, it requires proof of your apprenticeship period, professional recommendations, and a surety bond. 

There are different professional plumbing levels you can get licensed for. You are first issued a journeyman plumber license and officially become a licensed plumber. And you can apply for a master plumber license after a few years. If you possess a master plumber license, you can teach aspiring plumbers.

You will also get a pay raise as a master plumber: most master plumbers make twice what journeyman plumbers do. The average pay rate for master plumbers is $40 per hour, and they can even touch six figures.

6. Life as a Journeyman Plumber

After obtaining the license, you become a journeyman plumber. At this stage, the journeyman plumber has a significant level of independence but still might need supervision for more complex tasks. Journeymen can interpret blueprints, install and repair plumbing fixtures, work basic toilet plumbing, and even manage plumbing projects. They have moved beyond the basics but haven't yet achieved the highest level of mastery in the trade.

7. The Path to Becoming a Master Plumber

Image credit: inkhive.com

Becoming a master plumber is the zenith of a plumber's career. A master plumber can execute all forms of plumbing work, design entire plumbing systems, and manage large projects. They can own and operate their plumbing business, offer professional plumbing services, and serve as mentors to apprentices. To become a master plumber and achieve this status involves gaining additional experience, often spanning years, and passing yet another, more rigorous, exam.

8. Continuous Education

Plumbing is not a static field. New materials and technologies continually emerge, and staying updated is vital for career growth. Many states require periodic re-licensing, which often entails some form of continued education. This might involve short courses (for example, you can specialize in gas line installation, backflow prevention, indoor plumbing, or green learning practices), workshops, or seminars focused on new methods, materials, or changes in building codes.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Become a Plumber

a) What are the subjects of plumbing?

Plumbing encompasses a wide range of subjects beyond pipes and water flow. It includes studying and applying various types of piping materials, fittings, and fixtures and the methods for installing and maintaining them. The subject also covers the design and layout of plumbing systems, ensuring proper water pressure, and meeting building codes and standards.

Drainage systems, sewage treatment, and waste disposal are other essential aspects. Additionally, to some extent, plumbing delves into specialized areas such as gas fitting, fire suppression systems, and even heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Plumbing is a multidisciplinary field that requires theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

b) How long is the plumbing course?

Image credit: ptt.edu

The duration of a plumbing course can vary widely depending on the type of training, institution, and whether it's a full-time or part-time program. Vocational schools may offer introductory training courses from a few weeks to a few months.

Apprenticeship programs, which provide the most comprehensive training, typically last 4 to 5 years and combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Some community colleges offer 2-year associate degrees in plumbing. Online courses provide the most flexibility, allowing students to complete modules at their own pace, which could take months to years.

Endnote

Becoming a plumber requires specialized training, but most of it is hands-on. If you do not want a college, you can enroll in a plumbing trade school and complete your vocational training in plumbing. After that, you can become a plumber by completing an apprenticeship and obtaining licensure.

It's a career that offers financial stability and gratification from solving crucial problems affecting people's daily lives. If you're looking for a career combining technical skills, problem-solving, and a high level of job security, plumbing could be the trade for you.

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About the author

Jacky Chou

Jacky Chou is an electrical engineer turned marketer. He is the founder of Indexsy, Far & Away, Laurel & Wolf, a couple FBA businesses , and about 40 affiliate sites. He is a proud native of Vancouver, BC, who has been featured on Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Oberlo and GoDaddy.
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