How Can I Become a Plumber?

Research what it takes to become a plumber. Find out about education requirements, work responsibilities, salary and job outlook to see if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Plumbing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Plumber Do?

Plumbers install, maintain and repair pipes, faucets and other fixtures that make up the water, drainage and heating systems in residential and commercial buildings. Responsibilities generally include but are not limited to studying blueprints, installing pipes and other systems, inspecting systems, and evaluating materials being used. The type of specific work varies according to work environment. The following chart gives you an overview of the general requirements for this career.

Degree Required High School Diploma or equivalent, post-secondary certificate or Associate's degree helpful
Training Apprenticeship with master plumber
LicenseLicense required to work independently
Key Skills Math, mechanical skills, troubleshooting
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12%*
Median Salary (2015) $50,620*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Education and Training Options as a Plumber?

Your training for a career as a plumber can start during high school if you attend a technical and vocational high school that offers plumbing courses. These courses can allow you to practice assembling cast-iron, copper, plastic and steel piping systems. Schools may arrange for you to work on outside projects in your junior and senior year to gain hands-on experience.

Plumbing education at the postsecondary level is available from community colleges and vocational schools through 1-year diploma or certificate programs and 2-year associate's degree programs. Some 4-year schools also offer associate's degree programs. Each type of program will familiarize you with plumbing materials, technology and concepts, such as piping design, piping systems and drainage. Lab courses teach you how to install fixtures and weld or solder metal. Associate's degree programs usually cover a broader range of topics than diploma or certificate programs and may cover plumbing, heating and refrigeration.

Over a 4-5 year training period, an apprenticeship will have you learning in the classroom and on-the-job under the supervision of a journeyperson plumber. They are usually available through trade organizations, such as the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, the Associated Builders and Contractors and union locals. Positions in programs are often limited and can be extremely competitive. Work site tasks may include installing, testing and repairing water heaters, treatment systems, fixtures and piping for freshwater and wastewater distribution. Blueprint reading, drafting, OSHA regulations and state plumbing codes are among the topics you may study in class.

Do I Need a License?

You have to be licensed in most states, but even if a state has no licensing requirement, individual municipalities might. Typical licensing requirements include 2-5 years of plumbing experience and passage of an exam. Some states may only require you to pass an exam. Plumbing codes, technical math, installation methods and inspection are possible exam topics. In some instances, a license earned in one state may be transferred to another through reciprocity agreements.

What Are My Job Prospects?

Your job prospects depend on the strength of the new construction market, although renovation, maintenance and repair of plumbing systems in existing buildings assure a base level of demand for plumbers. Retrofitting buildings to improve water conservation, a growing concern in dryer regions of the U.S., should also drive demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), building equipment contractors had the largest concentration and levels of employment for this field as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Job opportunities may also be found with non-residential builders, local governments and utilities. Self-employment is another option.

According to the BLS, about 391,680 people worked as plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters in 2015. From 2014-2024, employment was projected to grow 12%. The median annual salary as of May 2015 was $50,620.

What Are My Duties?

Installing, maintaining and repairing piping systems that carry freshwater in and wastewater out are your main responsibilities. You also install or replace water heaters, dishwashers and fixtures, such as bathtubs, showers, sinks and toilets. Your primary work sites are residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Specific duties include reading blueprints; locating and marking positions to route pipes; measuring, cutting, bending and threading pipe; and assembling pipes, valves and fittings.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Plumbers have to be able to work with their hands and often understand complex plans. Careers in construction and labor are other options that require comparable skill sets. Electricians perform similar functions as plumbers but instead involve electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems. The same applies to HVAC technicians in regards to heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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