CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a plumber.
Is becoming a plumber right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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In high school, aspiring plumbers can begin preparing for the occupation by taking classes in algebra and geometry; physics and thermodynamics; and computer-aided drafting (CAD).
In addition to establishing educational foundations, it is important for future plumbers to maintain a clean driving record and to avoid criminal or drug offenses. Reckless driving convictions, DUIs, misdemeanour and felony convictions will make pursuing a plumbing career much more difficult.
It is worth investigating the possibility of obtaining a scholarship specific to plumbing education:
World Plumbing Council
The World Plumbing Council administers two scholarships: one for applicants in developing countries and one for those in developed countries including the U.S. and Canada.
American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE)
Many chapters of the ASPE offer scholarships for applicants from both high school and college.
Nexstar Legacy Foundation
These Explore The Trades Scholarships are open to individuals seeking a career in the plumbing, HVAC, or electrical fields. Applicants must also be a resident of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the Cayman Islands.
Both Diploma and Associate’s Degree plumbing programs are offered by trade and technical schools.
While completion of a formal training program is not mandatory to become a plumber, it is a definite advantage when applying for very competitive apprenticeships. Many students seek out programs that provide assistance with apprenticeship and/or job placement.
Coursework in comprehensive programs includes classroom and hands-on training and covers the following:
• Plumbing theory
• Pipe cutting and soldering
• Draining and venting
• Water hydraulics
• Water heating systems
• Distribution systems
• Electrical basics
• Advanced plumbing
• Local plumbing codes
The majority of apprenticeships are provided or sponsored by local unions and their affiliates, as well as by non-union contractors. The United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and HVAC Service Techs, for example, regularly offers apprenticeships. Most programs last from four to five years and combine on-the-job with classroom instruction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, apprentices receive between 1,700 and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 246 hours of classroom training. During their apprenticeship, they learn installation, repair, and maintenance procedures; how to interpret plumbing codes and read blueprints; how to select materials and plumbing fittings; how to identify grades and types of pipes; and how to use the tools of their trade.
In the majority of U.S. states and Canadian provinces, to become a journeyman plumber, i.e., to practise the plumbing trade independently, individuals must pass a licensing exam. Learn about the training hours and qualifications needed to become licensed in your region.
While some plumber apprentices are hired as fulltime employees once they complete their apprenticeship and earn their license, others work as freelancers or contractors.
Continuing Education / Certification
The plumbing profession is one in which new technologies and methods are always evolving. Learning, therefore, never really ends. In fact, most North American jurisdictions stipulate that practising plumbers must fulfill specific continuing education requirements to maintain their license. Depending on the region, completion of education credits and license renewal may be required annually or every three to five years.
Education opportunities and voluntary certifications are available through these industry organizations:
How to become a Plumber
After earning their high school diploma or equivalent, many aspiring plumbers start learning the trade by enrolling in a Diploma or Associate’s Degree program at a trade or technical school. They subsequently complete a plumber apprenticeship. Others enter an apprenticeship immediately following high school graduation.
Many apprenticeships are sponsored by trade unions, associations, and plumbing contracting companies. Applicants must typically pass an aptitude test or entrance exam. They may also be required to pass a background check and/or a drug test.
Plumber apprenticeships include a combination of classroom and on-the-job training under the supervision of one or more experienced journeyman plumbers. Classes cover workplace safety and plumbing codes; the proper use and maintenance of tools; mathematics used to measure pipes and determine materials needed for pipe layouts; creating piping drawings; and interpreting blueprints and building plans. On the job, apprentices gain experience with installations, repairs, and troubleshooting.
Upon completing an apprenticeship, plumbers in the U.S. must pass a licensing exam before they can offer their services to the public.