Plumbing careers are consistently in high demand.
Plumbers work in both residential and commercial environments. Whenever a new building is constructed, a plumber is needed to help with the piping. Plumbers are constantly called to repair existing pipe systems as well. As a result, plumbers are consistently needed.
As of writing, many states are suffering from a plumber shortage. This means even new plumbers have an easy time building up a steady customer base. Plumbers generally have a high starting salary. Training to become a plumber requires more schooling than some students might expect, but it is still significantly shorter than the schooling required for a traditional degree.
Several different levels of plumbing exist. Nearly all plumbers start out as an apprentice, sometimes referred to as a junior plumber. Apprentice plumbers learn from a master plumber. How many hours you need before you advance to the next level, being a journeyman plumber, depend on your state. Typically, apprentice plumbers spend several years learning from a master plumber.
Apprentices often take courses through trade schools or community colleges as well. More detailed information about becoming a plumber is noted below.
What does a plumber’s job require?
Plumbers are most commonly associated with pipes. While an understanding of how pipes work is an important part of being a plumber, they must also understand how water flows.
Many appliances interact with water, which plumbers must be aware of when training for this role. It is not uncommon for plumbers to assist with both the installation and repair of these appliances, both large and small. The following skills could be helpful for plumbers:
- Knowledge of both commercial and residential blueprints.
- Practice inspecting existing plumbing systems.
- Understanding how to connect different pipe systems.
- Making basic repairs on pipes. This includes attaching and welding filings, as well as general carpentry skills.
While it is not required as an apprentice plumber, many master plumbers are self-employed and run their own plumbing companies. In these instances, plumbers typically need basic administrative skills. These plumbers must have basic customer service skills and at least some proficiency managing their own finances.
Requirements for Becoming a Plumber
Several different eligibility requirements exist, and all plumbers must meet these requirements regardless of the state in which they work. These requirements can include the following:
- Being at least 18 years of age.
- Having a high school diploma or an equivalent document, such as a GED.
- Successfully passing a drug test.
- Attending training through a local trade school or a community college course.
- Participating in an apprenticeship program for several years, depending on the state requirements.
- Passing all necessary written and practical tests to obtain a plumbing license as determined by state requirements.
A Good Start on Education
It is never too early to consider a career as a plumber. As a high school student, several steps can be taken to guarantee your future as a plumber. Plumbers must be knowledgeable about pipes and water, but most of this experience comes from a trade school or community course.
In high school, aspiring plumbers focus on other skills necessary for plumbing, such as math and science. Concepts like algebra, thermodynamics and geometry are all applicable to plumbers throughout their careers. These skills are often required in trade schools as well. Most trade schools expect students to already have this knowledge and only perform a basic review of the material at best. To stay ahead of the curve, try to master these skills while you are still in high school.
Keeping Your Record Clean
Even if you have the necessary training and certification, you may not be able to work as a plumber if you have a criminal record. Having a clean criminal record is important for plumbers because it might affect their ability to get insurance. The type of criminal offense impacts how difficult it can be to become a plumber. Plumbers may have a difficult time getting insurance if they have any sort of background involving drugs, although being able to pass a drug test may put insurance companies at ease.
Plumbers must generally keep a clean driving record as well to get the best possible insurance rates. Some of the first offenses insurance companies look for include:
- Reckless driving charges.
- An abundance of moving violations, which includes too many speeding tickets.
- Drug charges, especially if they relate to driving.
- Any felony conviction.
It is still possible to get insurance without a clean record, but plumbers often face higher insurance rates and take longer to advance in their career if they have an extensive criminal record.
Enroll in a Technical Plumbing Course
Once you graduate high school, the typical next step is to sign up for a technical school or take a plumbing class from a community college. These classes cover both classroom and practical lessons focusing on the following areas:
- Basic carpentry skills.
- Cutting and soldering different types of pipes.
- Understanding water heating systems.
- Learning state and federal plumbing regulations.
Students can sign up with a plumbing association as well. This can be a good way for plumbers to network and learn more about their trade.
After passing a trade course, the next step is to become certified as a plumber. Plumbers must pass both a practical and written test to become certified. Where you take the test depends on the state. Some states provide the tests through local schools. In most states, you must become an apprentice before becoming a journeyman plumber, but some states waive this requirement.
Find an Apprenticeship
Even if you are not required to become an apprentice, it is can be a good idea to learn under a master plumber. Becoming an apprentice gives you the chance to develop your skills without having to take too much responsibility on the job.
If you are not confident in your abilities, work as an apprentice until you feel ready to become a journeyman plumber. The length of your apprenticeship changes depending on the state, but it often takes several years to complete.
Advancing as a Plumber
Once you are done with your apprenticeship, you typically receive the certification needed to become a journeyman plumber. Journeyman plumbers must generally renew their credentials every couple of years, as determined by the state. Journeyman plumbers may advance to master plumbers after two years.
Becoming a master plumber involves completing a written and practical exam. Master plumbers are the only plumbers allowed to design and create new plumbing systems.