A plumber specializes in water, gas and waste systems that service residential homes, businesses, and factories.
Their role includes installing a range of systems to new constructions, repairing existing water and waste works, and replacing systems when they break down.
When you become a plumber, you can look forward to working in a growing industry with plenty of opportunity.
Working as a plumber can be strenuous work.
Often you will need to do your job in very hot, cold, or cramped conditions.
Dealing with waste systems can also be unpleasant.
Many young people begin their career in plumbing, then later go on to run their own businesses or become site managers.
Plumbers receive a higher salary than many other building trades.
Education Requirements to Become a Plumber
There are two pathways to become a plumber that you can choose from.
The first is to attend vocational school and complete a two-year course in plumbing.
After you finish the course you will be required to complete two years of practical work experience before you can attain a license to practice in most states.
The alternative is a four-year apprenticeship with a licensed plumber.
You will need to complete about 2000 hours of on the job training, and a further 216 hours of classroom work.
There are far less apprenticeships positions out there than there are people applying for these positions.
For this reason, the majority of people go to vocational school to become a plumber.
Each state will have different licensing rules, but you will likely need to sit for an exam.
You will also need to pay a one-time fee to become licensed.
Another important skill you will need to become a plumber is stamina.
Being in good physical shape is essential, as this work can be challenging and draining physically.
Plumber Job Description
A plumber provides a range of services to install and maintain pipe systems.
These may be pipes that transport water, sewage, or gas.
Plumbers also install appliances that handle water and gas, such as toilets, showers, sinks, taps, and dishwashers to name a few.
You can choose from a few different areas of specialization when you become a plumber.
Some will deal in construction, setting up new systems for homes and offices being built.
Some will provide maintenance and repair to existing systems.
Roof plumbers work to install drains and downpipes on rooftops.
Emergency plumbers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Many plumbers are self-employed.
In this case you would also need to promote your business and also keep records and accounts.
Here are some of the regular tasks a plumber may complete:
- Installing new pipe systems
- Repairing and maintaining existing pipe systems
- Installing appliances
- Finding the cause of leaks
- Responding to emergency calls
- Invoicing clients
- Maintaining a record keeping system
Plumber Salary and Career Path
Most plumbers will start their career by completing an apprenticeship.
Those who attend vocational school will still need to attain two years of practical experience to become certified.
Nearly all plumbers will spend the first part of their career working for someone else.
With experience, they may go on to more responsibility within their current role, or to open their own business.
Some plumbers go on to work within other areas of construction such as:
- Construction Manager
- Heating and air-conditioning mechanic
- Stationary Engineer
- Boiler maker
- Construction and building inspector
The median annual wage for a plumber is $40,000 a year.
Those working with natural gas, or within new home construction tend to earn more than those working in other areas.
Most plumbers work on a contract basis and are paid for the amount of hours they work each week.
If you are looking to work within the construction industry, you may like to become a plumber.
This is one of the most highly paid trades, and is also a fast growing sector.
Those entering this career should note that plumbing can be strenuous work and is physically demanding at times.
You can look forward to excellent job prospects in this field however, as well as opportunities to work within other areas of construction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a plumber do?
Plumbers are specialized in installing and repairing piping systems and fixtures in homes, factories, and businesses.
Most commonly plumbers are hired to repair or install water, gas, drainage in private homes or businesses or to install and replace fixtures such as bathtubs, toilets or dishwashers.
Before starting a project, plumbers inspect the pipelines and prepare cost estimates for clients.
The job may require installing pipelines and fixtures or fixing and replacing old ones.
They also need to know local and state laws and how to read blueprints.
As a plumber, you will need physical strength, dexterity, and mechanical skills but also good communication abilities.
How much does a plumber make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors was $53,260, as of May 2018.
Salaries vary widely depending on the plumber’s level of experience, the region, and the employer.
Some make less than $33,000 while others earn more than $90,000 a year.
As an apprentice, your wage will be more towards the lower end of the range but your salary will increase as you gain experience.
How much does it cost to become a plumber?
Most plumbers learn through an on-the-job apprenticeship but some also attend a technical school.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for admission to an apprenticeship.
If you want to become a plumber you can also start by attending a post-secondary program at a technical school or trade school.
These programs are designed to teach you about pipe system design, work safety and tool use and can cost anywhere between less than $1,000 and more than $3,000.
What is the demand for plumbers?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Plumbers will be hired to install piping systems on new constructions but also to maintain and repair existing systems.
However, job opportunities vary depending on the region, the economy and the level of construction; the demand for plumbers is expected to fluctuate year by year and season by season.
How long does it take to become a plumber?
Most plumbers learn through an apprenticeship that usually lasts 4-5 years.
During this period you will receive around 2,000 hours of on-the-job paid training each year but also classroom instruction.
Classroom training teaches apprentices about safety, local plumbing codes, mathematics, applied physics, chemistry, and blueprint reading
After completing your apprenticeship you will become a journey worker and you will be qualified to perform duties independently.
After having a few years of experience you may take an exam that will give you the master status.
Most states require plumbers to be licensed; in order to be eligible to sit for the licensing exam, you will typically need around 2-5 years of experience; exact requirements vary by state.
Most employers prefer to hire plumbers who hold a driver’s license.