If you're searching for a lucrative career in the skilled trades, plumbing is a great choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average plumber's base pay is $27.06, the top 10% of plumbers having earned nearly 6 figures ($98,990), and plumbing job growth is projected 4% greater than the national average. By entering plumbing, you have opportunities for accelerated job growth and 6-figure earning potential, all without spending four years to obtain a college degree.
In addition to the job outlook, plumbing is a rewarding career. You are responsible for making sure people are safe in their homes, and happy in their communities. Aside from the technical skills needed to do the work of a plumber, you will use soft skills that build character and improve your judgment/decision making every single day.
However, the journey you will take to become a plumber, and one day a master plumber, isn’t any easier than the work itself. In this article we will go over the process step-by-step, so in the end you’ll have the foundation and path to become a plumber. We will cover the questions you should ask yourself before getting started, qualifications you need, and finally the steps you should take to get started.
Is becoming a plumber the right fit for you?
Before choosing a plumbing career, or any career for that matter, you first must take into consideration three things by asking yourself the questions below. These will help you understand what life is like as a plumber and how to decide if this work is for you.
Work-life balance: Does the lifestyle of a plumber fit the ideal lifestyle you’d like to have?
Work-life balance is what it sounds like, the balance between your personal and your work life. Work in some cases shapes our lives, so we want to make sure we know what to expect. Plumbers will often work long hours, and sometimes overtime is needed to complete the job. Now, there are different roles that plumbers hold, which means that not every job you find will be the exact same. Plumbers have a crucial job that sometimes will lead to early hours and late nights. Check out this article to learn more about work-life balance for plumbers.
Career Growth: Does the career trajectory of a plumber interest you?
Career Growth refers to the overall picture of your career journey. Career growth is shaped by the different roles and responsibilities you take on. This is important because being able to challenge yourself and grow is what makes a job exciting at the end of the day, staying in one place is not challenging. Check out this article to learn more about career growth for plumbers.
Day to Day life: Does the work that a plumber does interest you?
Becoming a plumber is like a marathon, it takes time, so you want to make sure that you are at least interested in the work that a plumber does so that marathon is easier.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when considering becoming a plumber. A great way to figure out an answer to these questions is by shadowing a plumber at a local company. Check out the plumbing businesses on Trade Academy across the United States that you can learn more about. To get in contact, simply find one nearby you and give them a call. In that call say who you are, tell them why you are reaching out, and then see what they have to offer for apprentices and incoming tradespeople.
Check if you have the necessary qualifications
Once you have decided that being a plumber is what you want to do, the next step is to get the necessary qualifications. The biggest qualification you need is having a high school diploma or a GED. Having this will give you fundamental knowledge to become a plumber.
Don’t have a GED or high school diploma?
That’s no issue, it is fairly easy to obtain a GED nowadays. All you have to do is reach out to your local community college, or even your local adult school to enroll in their program to obtain one! You can find a local community college or adult school at GED.com
Courses from your GED/high school diploma apply to the plumbing trade, such as these:
Algebra for things such as measuring pressure in pipes or gauge water flow currents
Precision is essential when it comes to plumbing. Being able to calculate numbers accurately may be the difference between having your toilet working and not working.
Shop/Design for designing plumbing routing
Designing your plumbing system so that it is accessible and easy to maneuver is an important part of the plumbing trade. You are there for one job, but someone else may need to come and do additional work, so ensuring you are designing accessible electrical wiring systems is important.
These classes provide fundamental knowledge of the plumbing trade, as you will build on these skills within trade/vocational school and implement them in your day-to-day of being a plumber.
Obtain a technical education
The next step is looking for a trade or vocational school to enroll in. Continuing education programs will offer the strong foundation needed to get started with an apprenticeship. Lots of community colleges have plumbing programs that provide the same technical training as a technical school, and at a lower cost. View our trade school directory that you can take a look at to find one near you.
You may learn things such as soldering, plumbing theory, plumbing systems, plumbing codes, blueprint reading, how to work with water heaters, troubleshooting, piping systems, and much more. You'll learn all about plumbing work and the plumbing field! Classroom instruction will prepare you to become an apprentice. You’ll learn through hands-on experience and classroom instruction.
It usually takes 2 years to complete, and costs around $1,000 - $3000 (Source). Be sure to take a look at all prospective schools as there may be financial aid available for you.
If you need help figuring out how to pay for trade or vocational school, check out this article to learn about 5 ways to pay for Trade School.
Find an apprenticeship program
The next step is to find a plumbing apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is essentially a job training program (in this case plumbing training) where you get paid to learn with plumbers at your hosting company. What you will learn in the apprenticeship is not taught within your technical training, so it is a learning-heavy experience. You’ll also learn how to talk to customers, how to complete work orders, and other critcal tasks in the plumbing trade.
Finding an electrical apprenticeship can be a difficult task, but Apprenticeship.gov has resources to help you find the right apprenticeship for you. In addition, unions have information on apprenticeships from companies inside their union.
This work experience is essential to get the job experience needed for the “hours of experience” requirement for plumbing licensing. You need approximately (two-five years of experience) before going onto getting your plumbing license.
Get a state’s plumbing license
The last step in the process is getting your plumber's license/plumbing certification. Getting a license provides lots of financial incentives, as it is living proof you know what you are doing, and results in a pay increase! Each state has different licensing requirements to obtain a license, as New York and California both have different rules and regulations. Check out Next Insurance's article on the requirements to get a license depending on the state you live in. Once you have completed your apprenticeship the only other step is to take your state’s plumbing licensing exam.
Get started in plumbing
Understanding the process to become a plumber is half the journey in itself, so learning about these five steps will put you ahead of the game. Being a plumber is a rewarding career path with tons of job opportunities and that get paid well and have the satisfaction of helping people drink water, flush their toilets, and take showers, among other things.
Regardless of what trade you choose, dedicating time to explore trades will help you discover new interests and grow a fulfilling career.
No matter where you are in this process, set up a Job Seeker profile on Trade Academy to look for opportunities in your area.