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How to Become a Plumber

Plumbers perform a variety of tasks, including repairs, maintenance, and renovations. People with an eye for detail and who enjoy hands-on work often thrive in this field.

Plumbing careers require a paid plumbing apprenticeship rather than a college degree. This means anyone can begin making money in this field quickly. Plumbers earn a median $59,880 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure surpasses the median annual salary of $45,760 for all occupations.

This guide explains how to become a plumber. Read on to learn about education requirements and how to get hired for plumbing jobs.

Questions About Becoming a Plumber

What types of plumbers are there?

Plumbers typically specialize in a few areas. These may include residential, commercial, repair, water supply, and sanitary plumbing.

How many years does it take to become a plumber?

High school graduates can immediately begin paid plumbing training. Most states require about five years of formal apprenticeship training for plumbers to practice independently.

Do you need a college degree to become a plumber?

This field does not require a college degree. Aspiring plumbers must complete a supervised plumbing apprenticeship to earn a license.

What career advancement is available to plumbers?

Plumbers can begin practicing independently after earning a license. They can work as managers and business owners as master-level plumbers.

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What Do Plumbers Do?

Many people think of plumbers as workers who repair sinks and toilets. However, they perform several other tasks. Some plumbers specialize in plumbing layout plans for new constructions and renovations. They must know how to discreetly place pipes and run systems between multi-story buildings.

Plumbers typically work with water and gas piping systems. Master plumbers can install and repair all types of plumbing systems. These high-level professionals oversee teams of apprentices. They also install new plumbing fixtures like toilets, sinks, and water heaters.

Plumbers educate clients on how to maintain their pipework to prevent clogging and freezing. These professionals also maintain septic systems and inspect connections to sewer systems.

Plumbers must know how to effectively communicate with project managers and property owners. They also need to know local city codes for inspection compliance.

Career and Salary Outlook for Plumbers

The BLS projects jobs for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters to increase 5% from 2020-2030, which is slower than the average projected growth rate for all occupations. Still, the organization projects about 51,000 new jobs for these professionals annually from 2020-2030.

Plumbers earn an average of $58,130 annually, according to April 2022 Payscale data. Master plumbers earn an average of $70,220 annually, according to April 2022 Payscale data, while journeyman plumbers earn $59,960. However, many factors influence salary, including professionals' employer and experience.

Geographic location also impacts salary. For example, plumbers in Illinois earn a mean annual salary of $86,200 while Floridian plumbers earn $48,120. We highlight state and wage data for plumbing jobs in the chart below.

Salary Potential and Growth Rate
State Annual Mean Wage State Labor Resources
Alaska $85,300 Alaska Department Of Labor And Workforce Development
Illinois $86,200 Illinois Department of Employment Security
Massachusetts $84,090 Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development
Minnesota $77,980 Minnesota Department o Employment and Economic Development
New Jersey $82,740 Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Source: BLS

How to Get Hired as a Plumber

Aspiring plumbers need a high school or GED diploma. They then usually begin a formal plumbing apprenticeship. A licensed plumber oversees this type of paid training. Some prospective plumbers choose to attend a few semesters of trade school before or during an apprenticeship.

Applying for an apprenticeship is similar to applying for a job. Applicants should create a resume and provide references. Some competitive apprenticeships may require an aptitude test. This exam mainly features math problems. Apprentice employers look for job candidates who can implement directions with precision.

After gaining about five years of experience, apprentices can apply for licensure. At this point, they can work independently. Advanced plumbers usually gain work through word-of-mouth referrals. They must know how to create accurate and competitive bids to gain new clients. They may need to invest in marketing and advertising to expand the business.

What Are the Education Requirements for Plumbers?

Anyone with a high school diploma can start working as a plumber under supervision. However, advancing to plumbing positions with more autonomy and higher pay requires more training. While some plumbers take unique career paths, most complete the three main steps below.

  1. 1

    High School Diploma or Equivalent

    Plumbers need a high school diploma or an equivalent. People who did not complete high school can pursue their GED. This series of exams covers four subject areas. Passing these tests demonstrates that test-takers have the same knowledge as their peers with a high school diploma.

  2. 2

    Formal Plumbing Training

    Plumbing licensure requires formal training through the form of an apprenticeship. This goes beyond simple on-the-job training. An apprenticeship usually lasts up to five years to fulfill licensure requirements. Apprentices work alongside other plumbers in training. They watch licensed plumbers work and receive feedback on their own work.

    Some people choose to apply for plumber training through a union. Union plumbing apprenticeships may offer extra benefits like sick leave or vacation days. They may also help aspiring plumbers connect with a licensed plumber. Certain community colleges and trade schools offer formal plumbing programs.

  3. 3

    Plumber License

    Each state sets its own requirements for plumbing licensure. For example, aspiring journeyman plumbers in Missouri need five years of supervised experience before applying for licensure. This state only allows people 21 and older to become journeyman plumbers. They must apply to take the contractor exam with their city's board. Professionals pay a $2 license fee. Master plumbers pay $10. Licenses require annual renewal.

    Californian plumbers must meet a different set of requirements. These professionals can register as journeyman plumbers. This accolade only allows them to work on projects valued at less than $500 in labor and materials. Otherwise, they must take the California plumber exam.

How Much Does Plumbing School Cost?

Aspiring plumbers can sometimes earn formal training at no cost. In fact, they may earn a salary for the apprenticeship if they apply for one through a union. Individuals can increase their chances of earning an apprenticeship by attending plumbing school at a community college.

Certificate programs from trade schools and community colleges usually only require 1-2 years of study. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate students spend an average of about $18,840 on tuition and required fees for one semester.

Some trade schools offer degrees online. Online learners can save money on commuting costs and may benefit from reduced tuition.

During their studies and apprenticeships, aspiring plumbers should budget for tools. While some employers provide these items, advanced tools may help apprentices succeed on the job.

Certifications and Licensure for Plumbers

Aspiring plumbers should check with their city or state's licensing board to learn exact certification and licensure requirements. For example, prospective plumbers in Texas should check with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners. Workers who wish to move states may need to apply for a new license. Depending on the new state's licensing requirements, plumbers may need to fulfill additional requirements or take an extra exam.

Most states require fewer years of experience for journeyman plumbers than for master plumbers. Licensed master plumbers experience more independence than licensed journeyman plumbers. Although journeyman plumbers receive less supervision than apprentices, they still receive supervision and feedback from master plumbers.

Plumbers can also earn certification in special areas. For example, the American Society of Plumbing Engineers offers a certificate in green plumbing design.

Resources for Plumbers

ASPE coordinates a mentoring program, conferences, and certification exams. The organization also publishes informative handbooks. ASPE runs two special interest groups for young professionals and women in the industry. PHCC helps aspiring contractors find apprenticeships. The group also hosts annual conferences and advocates for legislation and rights for plumbers. Aspiring plumbers can complete online training classes from anywhere through this institute. This group also offers plumbing exam preparation tailored to the applicant's state requirements. Navigating plumbing requirements by state can pose a challenge. This site provides an outline of requirements by state and links to the corresponding board's site. This site provides information on plumbing careers and other related trades. The site also publishes apprenticeships and job openings.

Image Credit: Peathegee Inc | Tetra Images | Getty Images

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