plumber how to become

Last Updated on December 24, 2022

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Having clean convenient water in our homes and businesses is essential, and plumbers make that possible. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes that sanitation and safe drinking water are necessary for communities around the world to thrive. As you learn how to become a plumber, you’ll see that it requires substantial education and training. But that investment can really pay off with a good-paying career with a lot of opportunities for advancement and entrepreneurship.

As a plumber, you can choose to specialize in residential plumbing to help homeowners manage their flow or commercial plumbing for large and small businesses. Let’s take a look at the typical career path of a plumber.

What Does a Plumber Do?

A plumber’s basic job is to install and repair pipe fixtures and systems—you may picture a man wearing overalls, showing up to a house with a plunger and wrench to fix an overflowing toilet. But there’s a lot more involved for those who manage their own businesses or plan commercial plumbing installations. Plumbers are also involved in:

  • Installing sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers.
  • Repairing drainage systems in homes and commercial buildings.
  • Preparing cost estimates.
  • Reading blueprints to help build new structures.
  • Inspecting and testing plumbing systems for safety and compliance.
  • Maintaining a building’s plumbing system.

Take a look at a typical plumber job description on Monster to get a more complete picture of the day-to-day life of a plumber.

How to Become a Plumber

You’ll take several steps to become a plumber, including specialized classes, on-the-job training, and licensure. Typically, you’ll start as an apprentice plumber, then work your way up to becoming a journeyman plumber and, finally, a master plumber. To begin your career, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED certificate.

1. Attend Plumbing School

Your first step in becoming a plumber may be two years in a plumbing trade school. Plumbing classes will cover topics such as:

  • local plumbing codes and regulations
  • pipe fitting
  • blueprint reading

2. Work as a Plumbing Apprentice

You may be able to jump straight into a plumbing apprenticeship without attending school. Plumbing apprenticeship jobs pay you while you’re learning the tricks of the trade. They typically last four to five years and include about 2,000 hours of on-the-job plumber training, including instruction in math, applied physics, and chemistry.

You can find plumbing apprentice jobs that are sponsored by trade associations, unions, and private businesses. You may start as a helper before you’re given full apprenticeship duties.

3. Become a Journeyman Plumber

After you’ve finished your apprenticeship, most states require you to obtain a license to work independently on plumbing jobs. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require two to five years of experience before you can take licensing classes and sit for the exam. You can also get optional certification in areas like plumbing design from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE).

Once you’ve gotten your license, you will be what’s known as a journeyman plumber. As a licensed plumber, you can work for an employer or start your own business.

4. Earn Master Plumber Status

Depending on what state you work in, you’ll spend anywhere from two to 10 years working as a journeyman. Then you’re ready to become a plumbing master. As a master plumber, you’ll develop blueprints for piping and fixtures and provide expert knowledge on building codes.

You’ll need to pass your state’s exam to get your master plumber title and certification. Some states require you to have master plumber status to work as a licensed plumbing contractor.

Need some help paying for your training? Check out these trades colleges and scholarships for construction trades majors that can help cover some of the cost of your education.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Plumber?

You can become a plumber in as little as four years, depending on the route you take. Right out of high school, you can start as a plumber helper or apprentice and spend five years learning on the job, or you may choose to take classes at a trade or vocational school for two years first and then spend another two to five years as an apprentice. After apprenticeship and licensing, you’ become a journeyman plumber and can work independently.

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average plumber salary is $25.30 per hour and range from $19.75 to $34.87. You can look up the average salary for plumbers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.

How to Find Plumbing Jobs

Now that you know how to become a plumber, the next step is creating a winning resume that will lead to a flood of job opportunities. Along with any formal education and experience you’ve had as a plumber, include these skills on a plumber resume or cover letter to catch employers’ attention:

  • Communication: Early in your career, you’ll need to be able to communicate with customers about what’s causing their leaky faucet and how you’re going to fix it. Later on, you’ll also be talking with your employees, clients, and other professionals to plan schedules and create job bids.
  • Dexterity and physical strength: Part of the job as plumber is moving heavy materials and maneuvering in tight spaces, so include any experience you have with physically demanding jobs.
  • Mechanical skills: As a plumber, you’ll need to know your way around a toolbox. Make sure employers know that you can tell the difference between a torque wrench and pipe wrench.
  • Problem-solving and troubleshooting: Plumbers spend a lot of their time identifying problems, finding the cause, and coming up with a solution on the spot. Be sure to describe your approach to finding, diagnosing, and repairing problems in your cover letter.

Once your resume and cover letter are complete, take a look at the plumber jobs that are available on Monster.

According to the BLS, the top five states for plumbing jobs are:

The top areas are:

Put Yourself in the Plumbing Career Pipeline

You’ve imagined your career as a plumber—a (pipe)line of work that’s stable with lots of opportunity for advancement and great earning potential. And now that you know how to become a plumber, it’s time to put yourself out there to get top employers’ attention. It’s easy to upload your resume for free on Monster to get jobs flowing in your direction.

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How to Become a Plumber

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Plumbers install and repair the pipes that carry liquids, like water, or gases into and out of buildings. They also install and repair fixtures like toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and water heaters.

Plumbers should be comfortable working in both indoor and outdoor conditions and at all times during the day. Their work is physically demanding, as it requires them to lift heavy pipes and put them into place. Plumbing can also be both dangerous and dirty. Plumbers work in cramped spaces using tools like welding torches, and they often work in close quarters with heavy machinery, electrical work, natural gas lines, and human waste products.Looking for an Online Plumbing Technology Degree? Search Over 17,000 Online Programs:- Select a Program – Accounting Anthropology Art & Design Automotive Technology Biology Business CAD/Computer Aided Drafting Child Development Christian Counseling Civil Engineering Clinical Psychology Communications Computer Forensics Computer Networking Computer Programming Computer Science Conflict Resolution Construction Management Counseling Counseling Psychology Creative Writing Criminal Justice Curriculum & Instruction Database Administration Dental Assistant Developmental Psychology Early Childhood Education Economics Education Educational Leadership Electrical Engineering Electrician Elementary Education Engineering Engineering Management English Entrepreneurship Environmental Science ESL Fashion Finance Fine Arts Fire Science Forensic Psychology Forensic Science Graphic Design Gunsmithing Health Education Health Psychology Health Sciences Healthcare Administration Healthcare Informatics Healthcare Management Higher Education History Hospitality Management Human Resources Human Services HVAC Industrial/Organizational Psychology Information Technology Instructional Technology Interior Design Journalism Landscape Design Law Law Enforcement Legal Studies Liberal Studies Library Science Library Technology Management Marketing Marriage & Family Therapy Mathematics MBA MBA in Accounting MBA in Finance MBA in Healthcare Management MBA in Human Resources MBA in Information Systems MBA in International Business MBA in Management MBA in Marketing MBA in Organizational Leadership MBA in Public Administration MBA in Technology Management Medical Assistant Medical Billing & Coding Medical Office Administration Ministry Music Network Administration Network Security Neuropsychology Non-Profit Management Nurse Practitioner (Adult-Gerontology Acute Care) Nurse Practitioner (Adult-Gerontology Primary Care) Nurse Practitioner (Adult) Nurse Practitioner (Family) Nurse Practitioner (Gerontological) Nurse Practitioner (NP) Nurse Practitioner (Pediatric Primary Care) Nurse Practitioner (Psychiatric-Mental Health) Nursing Nutrition Occupational Therapy Assistant Organizational Leadership Paralegal Personal Training Pharmacy Pharmacy Technician Philosophy Photography Physical Therapy Physician Assistant Physics Plumbing Technology Political Science Project Management Psychology Public Administration Public Health Public Safety Management Reading & Literacy Education Real Estate Management Religious Studies Respiratory Therapy School Counseling School Psychology Secondary Education Social Psychology Social Sciences Social Work Sociology Software Engineering Special Education Sports Management Sports Psychology Substance Abuse Counseling Supply Chain Management Taxation Teaching Technology Management Veterinary Technician Video Game Design Vocational Web Design Web Development Writing  – Select a Degree Level – Certificate & Diploma  

What kind of training is required to become a plumber?

Most plumbers receive their training through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships last four to five years and are typically managed by local plumbers’ unions and associations. Apprentices learn on the job under the supervision of their employer, who should be an experienced journeyman plumber. They also attend classes, which may be held in the evening or on an alternating schedule with on-the-job training. Apprentices are paid on a sliding scale for their training. As they gain experience, their pay and benefits increase.

To apply for an apprenticeship, prospective plumbers must meet age requirements and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. They must also pass an aptitude test or entrance exam, and they may be required to pass a background check or drug test as well. If they are accepted into a program, apprentices may be assigned an employer or they may be expected to find employment on their own.

In the classroom, apprentices learn how to use their tools safely and care for them properly. They also learn how to perform techniques like soldering, brazing, and welding. Classroom learning also focuses on workplace safety and on proper preparation for plumbing work. This includes training in the mathematics used to measure pipes and to determine the materials needed for pipe layouts. Students also learn how to create piping drawings and to interpret technical diagrams and building plans. Plumbers must also be familiar with the plumbing code in their area.

Plumber apprentice training also covers topics like the study of hydraulics, pneumatics, and mechanics as they relate to plumbing. Because some plumbing fixtures and appliances have electrical components, apprentices also learn the basics of electrical work and safety principles related to electrical work.

On the job, apprentices put their classroom learning into practice and gain experience installing and repairing pipes, fittings, and fixtures for water, gas, vacuum, and drainage systems in various types of buildings. They practice soldering, welding, and modifying pipes using pipe cutters, threading machines, and bending machines. They also learn how to create openings for pipes and fixtures in walls and floors. On-the-job training also gives apprentices opportunities to develop their troubleshooting and problem solving skills. These skills will be vital as they enter the trade and encounter various types of plumbing problems.

Apprentices who successfully complete their apprenticeships are qualified to begin work as journeyman plumbers.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Plumbers in most states must have a license to provide services to clients. Some states license journeyman and master plumbers separately, while others license only master plumbers. To become licensed, plumbers must meet standards for training and experience, and in most cases, pass a certification exam. Training and experience requirements for journeyman licensure are typically met through an apprenticeship. Journeyman plumber certification exams cover topics like the Uniform Plumbing Code, state plumbing codes, and application of the code to piping, venting, and waste scenarios.

States that license journeyman plumbers may set limits on the type of work they can do and the types of businesses they can open. In Louisiana, for example, a journeyman plumber may own a repair business, but may not advertise it as a plumbing business.

With additional experience and training, journeyman plumbers can become licensed as master plumbers or specialty plumbers. States may offer specialty endorsements or certifications in areas like backflow prevention, medical gas, and well drilling.

The United Association, a national union of plumbers, fitters, welders, and HVAC service techs, offers voluntary certifications for plumbers who want to demonstrate expertise in a specialty. Plumbers can take tests to become certified in specialties like valve repair, welding, industrial rigging, and green awareness.

How long does it take to become a plumber?

It takes four or five years to complete an apprenticeship and become a journeyman plumber.

What does a plumber earn?

The median yearly pay for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in the United States was $49,140 in 2012. The lowest ten percent earned less than $29,020 that year, and the top ten percent made more than $84,440.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in the United States will grow 21 percent between 2012 and 2020, faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. The BLS predicts that qualified plumbers with welding experience will have the best job prospects.

What are the long term career prospects for plumbers?

Journeyman plumbers can pursue continuing education to further their training and learn more about specialties in their field. Continuing education is often available to plumbers through their union. As they gain experience and additional training, journeyman plumbers can earn licensure as master plumbers or specialty plumbers. Master plumbers are qualified to design plumbing systems and can start their own plumbing businesses.

How can I find a job as a plumber?

As a new plumber, your first job will most likely be to work as an assistant to an experienced plumber. You may continue working for the plumber you completed your apprenticeship with, or you can use resources like job boards and local classified ads to find permanent or contract work.

How can I learn more about becoming a plumber?

You can learn more about becoming a plumber by contacting your local plumbers’ union. They can tell you about their apprenticeship program and help you determine what the requirements are for plumber licensure in your state.

How to Become a Plumber in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for plumbers. Get the facts about salary, training requirements and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.View Schools

What Does a Plumber Do?

Plumbers install and repair pipes, fittings, and fixtures in both residential and commercial buildings. As a plumber, you’ll have an understanding of the procedures necessary to work on plumbing systems and fixtures using the appropriate tools. You’ll also need to have an understanding of building codes and how to follow them correctly. Business and customer service skills may be required, especially if you are self-employed.

Find out about the typical skills needed to work as a plumber, and learn about the education and training you’ll need to enter this profession in the table.

Training RequiredApprenticeship, postsecondary diploma or certificate program
Education Field of StudyPlumbing
Key SkillsMechanical, attention to detail, troubleshooting, customer service
LicensureLicensure is required by most states
Job Outlook (2020-2030)5% (for all plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters)*
Median Salary (2020)$56,330 (for all plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Plumber?

As a plumber, you’re a skilled trade worker who installs and repairs plumbing and piping systems in residential and commercial properties. You also install fixtures such as sinks, toilets, and showers, or appliances such as dishwashers and water heaters. You may manage gas, drainage, and waste disposal systems. The sequence of duties you perform during a new installation includes studying building plans and inspecting building interiors; determining material requirements, pipe locations and alternative routing options to avoid obstructions; measuring, cutting and threading pipe; assembling pipe sections; and attaching valves, fixtures, and appliances.

Step 1: Take Relevant High School Courses

A number of technical and vocational high schools offer courses in plumbing and heating that teach you to assemble metal and plastic piping while practicing in a controlled setting. Courses in math, physics, computers, and shop are helpful if your school doesn’t have plumbing courses. You need a high school diploma or GED for admission to an associate’s degree or apprenticeship program.

Step 2: Enter an Apprenticeship

Plumbing apprenticeships typically last 4-5 years and provide you with a comprehensive education. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction in local plumbing codes and regulations, blueprint reading, technical math, and worksite safety. The workday portion guides you through basic training in the types and grades of pipe and other materials, including plumbing tools. You can find apprenticeships through union locals and such organizations like the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.

Step 3: Attend a Trade School or Community College

A wide range of community colleges and vocational schools offer 1-year diploma and certificate programs as well as 2-year associate’s degree programs in plumbing. All three types combine classroom instruction with labs, where you can practice cutting, threading and welding pipes. Other possible course topics include fabrication methods, piping system design, and water distribution.

Step 4: Obtain a Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a majority of plumbers worked for plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors in 2020. Utility companies, local government agencies, and shipbuilders are other potential employers.

In the BLS category for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, approximately 469,900 people were employed in 2020. By 2030, that number was projected to reach 493,200. The employment of plumbers vary with the strength of the market for new construction, but the need to implement water efficiency systems influence growth as well. As of May 2020, the median annual salary was $56,330, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).

Step 5: Get a License

A majority of states require you to have a plumber’s license. Licensing standards aren’t uniform, but 2-5 years of experience and passage of an exam are typical requirements. If you completed an apprenticeship, you have met the experience requirement. Exams test your knowledge of plumbing and local plumbing codes. Some states have reciprocity agreements that enable you to obtain that state’s license if you have another state’s license.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in having a similar career to a plumber, you may consider becoming a boilermaker or pipefitter. Professional pipefitters install and maintain pipes used for chemicals, acids, and gases in settings such as factories or commercial businesses. Boilermakers assemble, install and maintain boilers, tanks or large vats in settings that include large ships and factories.

Both of these careers typically require an apprenticeship or certification and a license.

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