Career Guides

Career Guide: How to become a Plumber


Welcome to the complete career guide for becoming a plumber. Plumbing is more than just fixing leaks and unclogging drains; it's a vital trade that shapes the comfort and safety of our daily environments. This guide is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of what it means to be a plumber, the skills and qualifications needed, the potential earnings, and the overall job outlook. Whether you’re just starting out or considering a career shift, our guide will equip you with essential insights to navigate the field of plumbing. So if you're ready to explore a career that combines problem-solving with practical skills, read on to learn more about this indispensable profession.

What Is a Plumber?

A plumber is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in the installation, repair, and maintenance of systems used for drinking water, sewage, and drainage in plumbing systems. This can encompass a variety of tasks from fixing leaky faucets to installing large water systems for new buildings. Plumbers are critical in ensuring that both residential and commercial buildings have access to safe water and properly functioning sanitary systems.

Fundamentally, plumbers work with a broad spectrum of materials and tools, from pipes and tubing to fixtures and appliances, ensuring that water flows smoothly and efficiently where it is needed. In addition to their work on water systems, many plumbers also handle the heating aspect of plumbing systems, which includes boilers, radiators, and under-floor heating systems.

Plumbers play a significant role in the construction industry, cooperating extensively with other professionals such as architects, electricians, and builders, to ensure that plumbing systems are seamlessly integrated into overall building designs. Their expertise is also pivotal in troubleshooting and resolving issues that may arise with existing systems, highlighting the importance of their skill set in both the construction of new infrastructure and the maintenance of existing structures.

Key Responsibilities of a Plumber

The role of a plumber is crucial in both residential and commercial settings, focusing on the installation, repair, and maintenance of piping systems. Plumbers ensure that water, gas, and other substances flow efficiently and safely through these systems. Below, we delve into the primary responsibilities that define this essential trade.

  • Installation Services: One of the primary duties of plumbers is to install new plumbing systems in new buildings, including homes, offices, and industrial facilities. This involves reading and interpreting blueprints, planning the layout of plumbing systems, and installing pipes and fixtures like sinks, toilets, and bathtubs.
  • Maintenance and Repair: Regular maintenance of existing plumbing systems is vital to ensure their longevity and efficiency. Plumbers inspect systems for leaks and other issues and perform necessary repairs. This includes replacing or repairing damaged pipes, unclogging drains, and fixing leaky faucets.
  • Inspection and Troubleshooting: Conducting thorough inspections of plumbing systems to identify and rectify potential issues before they escalate is another critical responsibility. Troubleshooting also allows plumbers to offer solutions and repairs that ensure the system's proper functionality.
  • Emergency Services: Plumbers often have to respond to emergency calls during off-hours. These situations may include burst pipes, major leaks, or sewage backups. Quick, decisive action is required to minimize damage and restore the system.
  • Compliance with Codes: Plumbers must be well-versed in local and national building codes and regulations to ensure all installations and repairs meet the required standards. This knowledge is essential to pass inspections and prevent legal issues.
  • Customer Service: Effective communication with clients is part of a plumber’s job, explaining issues, potential solutions, and costs. Providing excellent customer service ensures client satisfaction and promotes future business opportunities.
  • Equipment and Tool Management: Managing and maintaining tools and equipment is essential for efficient and safe operations. This responsibility involves ensuring tools are in good working condition and that all necessary supplies are available for specific tasks.

In sum, the job of a plumber is multifaceted and involves technical skills, problem-solving, compliance knowledge, and excellent customer interaction. The ability to efficiently switch from installing complex systems to performing routine maintenance or handling urgent repairs is indispensable in this field.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Plumber?

Becoming a plumber doesn't happen overnight, but it is a feasible career path for those who are committed and motivated. The time it takes to become a plumber can vary significantly based on the route you choose to take, geographical location, and whether you partake in an apprenticeship or attend a vocational school.

Apprenticeship Programs

An apprenticeship is the most common and comprehensive route to becoming a licensed plumber. These programs typically combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. An apprenticeship usually lasts between four to five years and requires at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and some hours in the classroom each year. During this period, apprentices learn essential plumbing skills under the supervision of experienced plumbers.

Technical or Vocational Schools

Alternatively, some opt for a shorter pathway by enrolling in courses offered at technical or vocational schools. These programs can range from a few months to two years, focusing on fundamental plumbing theories, code requirements, and basic practices. However, even after completing such programs, new plumbers will typically still need to accumulate field experience to become fully licensed.

Licensing Requirements

After completing an apprenticeship or obtaining sufficient experience through a combination of schooling and job experience, plumbers must pass a licensing exam in most states to become a journeyman plumber. The requirements for licensing vary by state but generally involve proving your knowledge and experience level.

Moreover, continuing education is often required to maintain a plumbing license, ensuring that plumbers stay up-to-date with advancements in the field, new technology, and changes in codes and regulations.

The journey from starting training to becoming a fully licensed plumber is long, but it is structured to provide all the necessary skills to succeed in this demanding yet rewarding profession.

What are the Qualifications Required to Become a Plumber?

Becoming a plumber typically requires a mix of education, training, and certification. The specific qualifications can vary by location, but generally, these elements are crucial to enter the profession:

Educational Requirements

High School Diploma or Equivalent: At a minimum, plumbers need to have a high school diploma or GED. Basic education provides foundational skills in math, science, and reading that are critical in plumbing.

Technical and Vocational Training

Prospective plumbers often enroll in vocational or technical schools that offer courses related to plumbing. These programs cover essential topics such as:

  • Water supply and waste systems
  • Piping materials and installation procedures
  • Ventilation and heating systems
  • Blueprint reading and drawing
Training courses also commonly include hands-on practice which is essential for gaining practical experience.


After completing educational coursework, an apprenticeship is typically the next step. These programs can last anywhere from 2 to 5 years and combine paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Apprentices work under experienced plumbers, learning the nuances of the trade while gradually taking on more responsibilities.

Licensing and Certifications

In most regions, plumbers are required to be licensed. The requirements for licensing vary but often involve completing an apprenticeship and passing a series of exams that test knowledge of the trade and local plumbing codes. Specific certifications can also be pursued to specialize in areas such as gas fitting, steam fitting, or codes and standards.

Continuous Education

The plumbing industry is constantly evolving with new technologies and regulations. Thus, plumbers must engage in continuous education to keep up with new systems, materials, and codes. Many licensing bodies require a certain number of continuing education hours for plumbers to renew their licenses.

Acquiring these qualifications not only enables individuals to meet legal and regulatory standards but also equips them with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed and progress in their plumbing careers.

What are the Skills and Knowledge Required to Become a Plumber?

The plumbing profession requires a specific set of skills and knowledge to effectively manage and repair plumbing systems. Understanding the fundamental qualifications helps set the stage for a successful career. Below are key skills and knowledge areas that are essential for anyone considering a career as a plumber.

Technical Plumbing Skills

  • Installation and Maintenance: Plumbers must be adept at installing, maintaining, and repairing pipes, fittings, and other plumbing fixtures.
  • System Knowledge: Comprehensive understanding of water distribution and waste water disposal systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
  • Tool Proficiency: Expertise in using hand and power tools, such as pipe cutters, wrenches, plungers, and snake machines, is vital.

Problem-Solving and Analytical Skills

  • Diagnostic Skills: Ability to diagnose the cause of plumbing problems quickly and accurately.
  • Critical Thinking: Capable of assessing problems, considering possible solutions, and making good decisions on repairs and installations.

Physical and Safety Skills

  • Strength and Stamina: Plumbing can be physically demanding; plumbers often work in tight spaces and must sometimes lift heavy tools and materials.
  • Safety Awareness: Knowledge of building codes and safety protocols to ensure safe work environments and compliance with legal standards.

Interpersonal and Business Skills

  • Communication: Proficient communication skills are crucial, both for interacting with clients and for working efficiently with colleagues and other tradespeople.
  • Customer Service: Ability to handle service issues and customer interactions professionally to maintain client satisfaction and business reputation.
  • Business Acumen: For those looking to run their plumbing business, skills in managing contracts, basic accounting, and marketing are beneficial.

Continuous Education and Adaptability

Lastly, the plumbing industry continues to evolve with technology and new methodologies. A successful plumber stays updated with the latest industry trends and is adaptable to new tools and methods. Continuing education through courses and certifications is not only beneficial but often required to stay compliant with industry standards.

With a solid foundation in these skill areas, a plumber can expect to navigate the complexities of the job while providing high-quality workmanship and maintaining safety standards.

How Much Does a Plumber Make?

The earning potential for plumbers can vary significantly based on several factors including location, experience, and whether they are self-employed or work for a larger company. However, plumbing remains one of the more lucrative trades, and plumbers generally earn respectable wages.

Median Annual Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was approximately $56,330. This means that half earned more than this amount, while the other half earned less. The top 10% of earners in these fields made over $97,170 annually.

Hourly Rates

Many plumbers are paid on an hourly basis. The median hourly rate for plumbers is around $27.10. Those in the lower percentile can earn around $16 per hour, while more skilled plumbers, particularly those specializing in more complex areas like steam fitting, can earn up to $46.70 per hour or more.

Factors Influencing Earnings

  • Geographical Location: Plumbers in areas with higher costs of living, such as urban centers, usually earn more than those in rural areas.
  • Type of Employment: Plumbers who own their own business may have higher earning potential due to the scalability of their operations, but they also face higher operational costs and business risks.
  • Experience: More experienced plumbers can demand higher wages as their skills and efficiencies improve over time.
  • Specialization: Plumbers who specialize in niche areas like medical gas piping or high-purity piping systems typically command higher wages.

Additional Benefits

Furthermore, full-time employed plumbers often receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacations. These benefits are generally not included in their base pay but do represent additional value of their compensation package.

Revenue Streams

For those running their own plumbing businesses, income can also come from various services including emergency call-outs, scheduled maintenance, and large contract work for industrial or commercial sites. This diversification can significantly increase a plumber's earnings potential beyond the typical wage statistics.

In conclusion, plumbing is a well-compensated profession with a strong potential for growth and income stability, making it an attractive field for many tradespeople.

Career Outlook for Plumbers

The career outlook for plumbers is highly promising, largely due to the ever-present demand for skilled tradespeople in the building and maintenance of residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth can be attributed to several key factors that ensure the stable demand for plumbing professionals.

  • New Construction Projects: Ongoing increases in construction spending, especially in the housing market and commercial development, directly contribute to the demand for plumbers.
  • Regulation Compliance: Upgrades and replacements of water and sewage systems to meet current standards boost the need for plumbing expertise.
  • Sustainability and Green Energy: As there is a growing push towards sustainability, the installation of new water-saving and energy-efficient systems, such as solar water heating systems, is expanding.
  • Maintenance and Repair: Plumbing systems in existing buildings will constantly require maintenance and repairs, guaranteeing ongoing work for plumbers regardless of economic conditions.

These factors are bolstered by an aging workforce, leading to higher replacement needs as many plumbers reach retirement age. This scenario presents an opportune environment for newcomers to enter the field. Moreover, unlike many jobs that are susceptible to economic fluctuations, plumbing services are considered essential, thereby providing a level of job security uncommon in other professions.

Advancement Opportunities

For those entering the plumbing industry, there are various paths for career advancement. Plumbers may move up to become supervisors, project managers, or even start their own plumbing businesses. Additionally, those with a combination of advanced plumbing skills, customer service expertise, and business acumen are well-positioned to establish lucrative careers.

In summary, the outlook for plumbers in the coming years is robust, offering stable employment, opportunities for advancement, and competitive salaries. This makes plumbing an attractive field for those interested in a career that provides both economic stability and professional growth.

Finding Jobs as a Plumber

Finding a job as a plumber can be approached strategically to maximize your employment opportunities. Whether you're entering the workforce as a newly certified plumber or looking for new opportunities in your existing career, several avenues can help in securing a position.


Industry Connections: Networking remains a powerful tool in many trades, including plumbing. Engage with other professionals through industry gatherings, trade shows, and seminars. Joining a professional plumbing association can also offer networking opportunities and access to member-only job boards.

Online Job Portals

Many companies and homeowners post their plumbing job requirements online. Websites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn are good places to start. Specialized trade websites like are also useful as they cater specifically to the plumbing industry.


Apprenticeships are a great way to enter the plumbing field. They allow you to learn on the job while earning an income. Contact local plumbing companies, unions, or trade organizations to find out about available apprenticeship programs.

Local Unions and Trade Schools

Many plumbers are members of local unions that provide job placement services. Likewise, trade schools often have career offices that help graduates find employment directly after completing their studies. Both resources are valuable for plumbers at all stages of their careers.

Freelancing and Contract Work

As a plumber, you have the option to work independently. Platforms such as TaskRabbit or Thumbtack can help you find contract work. This option allows greater flexibility and the ability to choose projects that best fit your skill set and preferences.

Company Websites

Larger plumbing companies often list job openings directly on their websites. Visiting these sites can provide you with information on current vacancies, the company culture, and the specific qualifications required for each position.

Keeping Skills Current

Continuing education and staying updated with the latest technologies and regulations in the plumbing industry can make you a more attractive candidate. This dedication can set you apart in job interviews and give you an edge in a competitive job market.

Finding the right job as a plumber involves a mix of proactive networking, leveraging available technology, and maintaining your skill set. With the right approach, you can find a position that not only meets your career goals but also provides long-term stability and growth.


Embarking on a career as a plumber offers a unique blend of challenges and opportunities. This profession not only provides a crucial service to homes and businesses but also requires a dedication to continuous learning and skill development. With the advancement in plumbing technology and the increasing emphasis on sustainable practices, plumbers are expected to stay on top of current trends and innovations in the field.

The journey to becoming a skilled plumber involves rigorous training and certification, but it rewards professionals with job security, competitive salaries, and the potential for career advancement. The increasing demand for skilled tradespeople highlights the stability and growth prospects within this sector, making it a viable and attractive career path for many individuals.

As we have seen, plumbers perform a variety of important tasks from installation to repair and maintenance, and they work in an array of settings, both residential and commercial. This diversity ensures that each day can offer new challenges and learning opportunities, keeping the role engaging and dynamic.

For those interested in pursuing a career where they can work with their hands, solve problems, and provide essential services, plumbing might just be the perfect fit. It’s a profession that not only promises personal satisfaction but also contributes positively to society by ensuring the safety and efficiency of our water systems and infrastructure.

If you’re considering a career as a plumber, take the initiative to research further, reach out to professionals in the field, and possibly shadow an experienced plumber to get a firsthand look at what the day-to-day duties entail. With the right training and attitude, you can build a successful and rewarding career in this indispensable trade.


When considering a career as a plumber, several questions may come to mind. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the plumbing profession:

Do I need a formal education to become a plumber?

While formal education isn't strictly necessary, most plumbers go through a combination of technical schooling and an apprenticeship. This training provides essential skills and knowledge in plumbing technology, safety protocols, and local building codes.

How long is a plumbing apprenticeship?

Plumbing apprenticeships typically last between 4 to 5 years. During this time, apprentices gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced plumbers while also completing technical education courses.

Are plumbers required to be licensed?

Yes, in most regions, plumbers must obtain a license to work independently. Licensing requirements vary by location but generally include completing an apprenticeship and passing a proficiency examination.

Is plumbing a physically demanding job?

Plumbing can be physically demanding, involving lifting heavy materials, working in cramped spaces, and standing for long periods. It requires good physical health and strength.

What are the career advancement opportunities for plumbers?

Experienced plumbers can advance to supervisory roles, start their own plumbing business, or specialize in areas such as pipefitting or steam fitting. Further certifications and training can open up more opportunities.

Can plumbers work in different industries?

Yes, plumbers can find work in various sectors including residential, commercial, and industrial. Some plumbers may specialize in areas such as new constructions, renovations or maintenance services.

Is there a demand for plumbers?

The demand for skilled plumbers is consistently strong, driven by new construction projects and the need for maintenance and repair of existing plumbing systems. Economic fluctuations may impact construction industries, but essential repair work remains relatively stable.

What tools does a plumber use?

  • Wrenches and pipe cutters
  • Soldering irons
  • Plungers and snakes
  • Video inspection tools
  • Pressure gauges

These are just some of the tools used by plumbers to install, repair, and maintain plumbing systems effectively.

Can plumbing be a part-time job?

While most plumbing positions are full-time, some plumbers may work on a contract basis, handling specific projects or providing services during peak times. Part-time opportunities can vary based on demand and geographic location.

Do plumbers need to continue their education?

Continuing education is important for plumbers to keep up with evolving technologies, new materials, and changing regulations. Many states require continuing education for license renewal.

These FAQs offer a glimpse into the plumbing profession, addressing common concerns and questions that aspiring plumbers might have. The stability, variety, and potential for advancement make plumbing a compelling career option.

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