What is a Plumbing Degree?

Plumbing degree programs teach the skilled trade of installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing fixtures and systems. These systems include:

  • water
  • heating design and controls
  • drainage, waste, and vent (DWV)
  • low pressure steam
  • chemical
  • irrigation
  • medical gas
  • process piping
  • compressed air
  • water conditioners (systems that improve water quality in some way)
  • fuel piping
  • sewage
  • water treatment
  • storage flow equipment

Aspiring plumbers also learn how to:

  • interpret drawings and layouts of services
  • review and follow safety practices and applicable codes and specifications
  • locate and mark positions of fixture and pipe connections
  • cut openings to accommodate pipe and fittings

All levels of training to earn a degree in plumbing combine classroom and practical components.

Program Options

Apprenticeship in Plumbing – Four to Five Year Duration
A plumbing apprenticeship is the most common education path. 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. 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.

Diploma / Certificate in Plumbing – One to Two Year Duration
Associate Degree in Plumbing – Two Year Duration
These programs are offered by technical and vocational schools. Students should choose a curriculum that is made up of in-school hours followed by an apprenticeship.

Here are some samples of courses included in both school programs and apprenticeships:

  • Math Skill Development
  • Science of Gases
  • Valve Types and Applications
  • Job Site Safety
  • Plumbing Codes
  • Soldering and Brazing
  • Oxygen and Acetylene Cutting
  • Welding
  • Rigging
  • Hot Water Tank Installation
  • Drainage and Venting Codes
  • Hot Water Heating
  • Blueprint Reading
  • Blueprint Design
  • Compressed Air
  • Medical Gases
  • Water Pipe Sizing
  • Gas Valves and Regulators
  • Rural Water Systems
  • Fire Protection
  • Gas Meters
  • Burner Adjustment
  • Combustion and Ventilation
  • Appliance Venting
  • Rural Sewage Systems

Degrees Similar to Plumbing

Boilermaker training programs teach students how to assemble and repair boilers, tanks, heat exchangers, and heavy metal structures.

Carpentry training programs teach the skilled trade of cutting, shaping, and assembling wood for buildings and other structures. Students of the trade learn about the two basic types of carpentry: rough carpentry and finish carpentry.

Civil Engineering
Civil engineering students learn how to design and plan civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. Classes include math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, and building codes.

Construction Management
Construction management students learn how to plan, direct, and evaluate construction work. They take classes in cost estimating, contract preparation, budgeting, labor relations, health and safety regulations, and general project management.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create drawings that are used in construction or manufacturing.

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Technology
HVAC/R programs teach students how to install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems.

Welding students learn the process of joining metals using extreme heat. They study metallurgy, the properties of different types of metals, and different types of welding.

Skills You’ll Learn

Physical Strength and Stamina
Plumbing is physical work that calls for physical strength.

Eye for Detail / Critical Thinking / Problem-Solving
Plumbing requires attention to specifications and precise measurements.

Basic Math Skills and Blueprint Reading
Plumbers use math skills to interpret blueprints and calculate sizes, distances, and quantities of material.

Hand-Eye Coordination / Manual Dexterity
Plumbing students develop these skills through the use of hand and power tools.

Communication and Customer Service Skills
Clear communication with clients and colleagues is essential to the smooth operation of a project.

Ability to Work Independently
It is not unusual for plumbers to manage projects on their own.

Plumbers learn to be flexible, because emergencies – a burst pipe, a broken water heater, or an overflowing toilet – can happen at any time.

What Can You Do with a Plumbing Degree?

Of course, plumbing graduates often become plumbers. They may specialize in residential, commercial, or industrial plumbing; or they may work in all of these areas. Among plumbers’ most common tasks are cleaning out drains and obstructions in pipes and installing and inspecting plumbing systems and accessories, such as water-using residential appliances and HVAC systems.

Some plumbing graduates go on to become pipefitters. These tradespeople attach pipes to walls and structures. Most pipefitters work in power and industrial plants where they install and maintain industrial-use piping and automated controls for power generation systems.

The work of steamfitters is similar to that of pipefitters. They also typically work in industrial plants, such as power generating stations, manufacturing plants, and refineries. Their job is to assemble and maintain piping systems that use steam to transport high-pressure liquids and gases.

Pipelayers work outdoors, building the framework for plumbing systems that provide sewage disposal, drainage, or water. They dig trenches and line them with clay, plastic, or concrete. They then install pipes into the prepared trenches.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths