WORKING IN THE TRADES: PLUMBING LICENSING
Plumbing license requirements
As long as we use water and gas and have pipes, plumbing technicians will be in high demand. According to the US Department of Labor, there are projected to be about 48,600 openings for plumbers, pipe fitters, and steamfitters each year until 2031.1 Learn more about plumbing licensing requirements and what guidelines to be aware of for your state.
Becoming a professional plumber
The field of plumbing offers a world of opportunity, so it’s no wonder so many people are pursuing this profession. If you’re curious about how to become a plumber, here’s a guide to getting started in this industry.
So what do you need to become a plumber? You’ll need a high school diploma or its equivalent and a driver’s license. You’ll also need to know how to use the tools of the trade, general safety practices, and pipe system design. There are two ways to learn that basic knowledge. One is through trade and technical schools. You can also learn on the job.
A plumber’s job responsibilities
As a plumber, your duties will include installing and repairing water, gas, and drainage piping systems for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Plumbers also are responsible for installing and repairing fixtures (like toilets and bathtubs) and appliances (like dishwashers and water heaters). You could also become a plumbing specialist and learn pipe fitting, pipelaying, and sprinkler fitting.
Here’s a partial list of other tasks a plumber might tackle:
- Compiling cost estimates for customers
- Interpreting blueprints and abiding by building codes
- Selecting the proper equipment and materials to complete a job
- Inspecting and testing pipe systems and pipelines
- Troubleshooting pipe systems to identify malfunctions
- Repairing and replacing worn or malfunctioning components
The career path of a plumber
Licensed plumbers usually follow a set career path. So how long does it take to become a plumber? Here’s an overview of the three stages:
The first stage in a plumbing career is an apprenticeship. That can last two to six years and involve upward of 2,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training. Apprenticeships also often require roughly 250 hours of education in a classroom setting, where plumbers are taught safety procedures, plumbing regulations, and blueprint reading.
Many plumbing companies and unions offer apprenticeships. Although the majority of new plumbers enter the industry this way, some technicians-in-training begin as helpers. Either way, landing a position with a plumbing company usually begins by applying for the job. After being hired as a plumber apprentice, you’ll typically study under a journeyman or a master plumber, completing plumbing jobs under their guidance.
Plumbers are considered journeymen (or journey workers) after completing an apprenticeship program. That qualifies them to perform plumbing duties without any supervision. Once you pass your state’s mandatory licensing exam, you can practice the trade on your own. These exams may differ, but they all evaluate the skills and knowledge you acquired during your apprenticeship. Most states will require some degree of continuing education plus licensing renewals.
Once you’ve been a journeyman plumber for at least two years, you’re then eligible for the title of master plumber. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Reaching this status usually requires passing an exam that evaluates your knowledge and skill level. The distinction between a journeyman plumber and a master plumber generally boils down to leadership. Master plumbers are responsible for supervising less-experienced apprentices and journeymen.
The majority of states require plumbing companies to employ at least one master plumber to qualify for a plumbing contractor’s license. Master plumbers earn higher salaries due to their increased responsibilities.
Pros and cons of becoming a plumber
Becoming a plumber has its advantages and its drawbacks. Here are a few of the most notable pros and cons:
- Plenty of opportunity
- Decent wages
- High job security
- Possibility to become your own boss
- Satisfying work
- Long hours
- Strenuous work
- Lots of pressure
- Unpredictable shifts
- Possibility of unpleasant work environment
Plumbing industry trends
Although the fundamentals of plumbing remain constant, modern fixtures and appliances are far more sophisticated. That’s why plumbing technicians must stay up to date with plumbing industry trends.
Plumbers can read trade journals, participate in instructional courses, and attend plumbing trade shows. But, unsurprisingly, browsing the Internet is the best way to stay on top of emerging trends. Here’s a list of several websites and social media hubs for plumbers to learn the latest plumbing tools and techniques:
- Contractor Magazine Online
- Plumbing & Mechanical Magazine
- Plumbing Contractors Group on LinkedIn
- Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
- Plumbing Net
- Plumbing Supply
- Plumbing Zone
- Reddit – Plumbing
- The Plumber
Common questions about becoming a plumber
If you’re thinking about becoming a certified plumber, you probably have a few questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions:
How much money do plumbers make?
Here’s the big question! As you work your way up the plumbing career path from apprentice to master, you can expect your income level to rise. The average plumber’s salary as of May 2021 was $59,880 per year ($28.79 per hour), according to the US Department of Labor.2 (Obviously, those numbers will only continue to rise.)
Do I need my own tools?
Many plumbing companies require their technicians to own a set of tools, while others don’t. It varies from employer to employer. In general, plumbers will own the basic hand tools required to troubleshoot and resolve everyday plumbing issues.
Can I take plumbing classes online?
You sure can. Several institutions offer online plumbing courses that can be completed in as little as six months. Depending upon state requirements, you might need to complete a plumbing course at a traditional brick-and-mortar facility.
What skills are important for a plumber to have?
Knowing how to fix a plumbing issue is only part of a plumber’s job. Plumbers should also have the following skills:
Communicating with customers, managers, and employees is a big component of a plumber’s job.
Plumbers often work in confined spaces and are regularly called upon to make minor adjustments with tools. They’re also required to lift and carry bulky tools and supplies.
Since installing, repairing, and maintaining piping systems is critical to a plumber’s job, it’s important to know which tools to use and when to use them.
To diagnose the cause of a plumbing problem and arrive at the best solution, a plumber should be able to assess the issue even if they can’t directly see it with their eyes.
Do plumbers face a lot of danger?
Like other trades that involve manual labor, plumbers can get injured on the job. Some of these injuries, like cuts from sharp tools or burns from hot pipes, may be minor, but falls from ladders and other elevated areas can cause severe injuries.
Become a certified plumber
The plumbing profession can offer a rewarding career. Learning how to become a licensed plumber is just the beginning of your journey. It’s important to note that operating a successful plumbing business involves far more than simply knowing the ins and outs of the trade.
That’s where Housecall Pro comes in. We can help you oversee and operate an entire plumbing business—all from the palm of your hand. Our simple plumbing software makes it easier than ever to generate professional proposals, invoice customers, receive payment, and automate all the follow-up stuff.
Learn from the pros
There are a lot of options out there, and it can be tough to know which one is right for your business. That’s why we’ve put together this list of articles and expert advice on the subject.
What the Pros say
Don’t just take our word for it— see what our Pros love about working in plumbing.