How To Become A Plumber

plumbing degree

If you’re a high school student interested in well-paying, in-demand trade jobs, you will find our guide on how to become a plumber useful. Becoming a plumber is a smart decision considering their significant contributions to modern society, particularly in keeping our water and gas supply systems safe.

Before you read about the steps to become a plumber, you must first know the roles and responsibilities of a plumber. This way, you can make an informed decision whether being a plumber is an excellent occupation for you or not.

Plumbers install, maintain, and repair water, gas and other plumbing and piping systems. They cover the residential, commercial and industrial scope of the work. They work on plumbing fixtures, accessories and appliances, as well as toilets and bathtubs in homes. Gas systems in hospitals, as well as septic systems are also included.

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Reasons to Become a Plumber

We understand if you want compelling reasons to establish a plumbing career because it isn’t exactly a glamorous job. You will get dirty because it’s what working in drains, sewer systems, and crawl spaces can do.

Being physically fit is also a must because digging trenches, carrying heavy tools and equipment, and cleaning drains demand it. You must also be aware that being a plumber isn’t a 9-to-5 job either – you’re likely to be on call and respond to emergencies at any time.

But if you’re up for these challenges, you will find the following rewards to be excellent reasons to become a plumber.

Enjoy affordable, flexible and accessible training.

Many community colleges, technical-vocational colleges, and plumbing organizations offer excellent plumber training programs for affordable costs. These training programs can even accommodate working individuals through evening and weekend classes. Furthermore, only a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required for admission.

Earn while you learn.

When you enter a plumbing apprenticeship program, you will receive a salary while you’re learning the knowledge and skills to become a journeyman. Your wages will depend on your geographical area, number of years of experience, and company, but the $43,900 average annual salary is considered good wages. With more work experience, your apprenticeship salary can be as high as $51,300 per year.

Develop transferable skills.

Of course, technical plumbing skills are essential to becoming a successful plumber. But you will also develop transferable skills that can be applied in diverse situations, such as in your daily life and workplaces. Your soft skills will include critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, as well as good customer relations skills.

Enjoy good compensation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers earned a median annual wage of $60,090 (May 2022). Plumbers, however, can earn more than $100,000 with relevant work experience, professional certifications, and specialist skills. With overtime pay, the amount can be higher, too.

Stable demand equals job stability.

The U.S. plumbing industry has an estimated market value of $144.3 billion (2021) with a projected compound annual growth rate of 4.2%. According to BLS, the projected job outlook for plumbers is 2% (2022-2032), resulting in about 42,600 openings, on average, every year.

The bottom line: Plumbers can enjoy job stability, particularly as they perform vital services for modern society. Plus, plumbers are also in demand in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, construction, HVAC contractors, and government agencies.

Enjoy excellent career advancement opportunities.

Being an apprentice plumber is only the first step in a successful plumbing career. After completing the required coursework and on-the-job training in an apprenticeship program, your next steps are pursuing the journeyman plumber and master plumber credentials.

You can also choose a specialization, such as green plumbing, pipefitting, or medical gas systems. Your career path can also be defined by the type of plumber you become, such as a residential plumber, a commercial plumber, a service and repair plumber, or a sanitary plumber. Being a plumbing supervisor or a plumbing contractor with your own business is also an excellent career goal.

Indeed, becoming a plumber opens up employment and entrepreneurial possibilities that will contribute to your life’s success.

Steps To Become A Plumber

The steps toward becoming a plumber are straightforward, but you must be prepared for the challenges that come with learning the knowledge, skills and competencies of an in-demand trade occupation.

Earn your high school diploma or GED equivalent.

The beauty of becoming a plumber is that only a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required for admission into plumbing education and training programs. But while you’re in high school, you can take elective courses that will prepare you for the plumbing classes ahead.

We suggest these high school courses if offered in your school:

  • Drafting
  • Blueprint reading
  • Welding
  • Industrial Arts

You should also be proficient in – or at least possess a good comprehension of – math, science and technology, as well as reading and writing. Proficiency in algebra, geometry, and physics will make studying the principles and practices of modern plumbing easier.

Complete your technical-vocational education in plumbing.

Ask a local community college or technical-vocational college about their plumbing programs. You can also consider online plumbing programs if you’re into online education. Keep in mind, however, that online programs can also have in-person requirements.

A few examples of these programs are:

  • St. Philip’s College (in-person)
  • Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (in-person)
  • New England Institute of Technology  (in-person)
  • Penn Foster (online)
  • California State University Chico (online)

Depending on the program, you can earn a certificate in plumbing or an associate degree in plumbing. Both of these plumber credentials are acceptable in apprenticeship programs, but the associate degree usually provides a more comprehensive education and training.

The time-to-completion varies between several months for certificate programs and two years for associate degree programs. Be sure to budget for the direct and indirect costs of the plumbing education and training program you’re in. The costs range from $3,000 for certificate programs to $10,000 and up for associate degree programs. Ask about financial aid to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.

While certificate and associate degree in plumbing programs feature different programs of study, the common subjects include:

  • Fundamentals of plumbing
  • Plumbing fixtures and appliances
  • Building codes and regulations
  • Plumbing ordinances and regulations
  • Pipefitting and installation
  • Water supply systems
  • Drainage systems
  • Plumbing maintenance and repair
  • Safety practices
  • Proper use of tools for plumbing tasks

During your studies, you should also develop your soft skills and build up your physical strength and dexterity. Your mechanical and troubleshooting skills will also be developed during this time.

Complete your plumbing apprenticeship.

Once you’ve completed your certificate or associate degree in the plumbing program, you can complete a plumbing apprenticeship. Many associate degree programs are in partnership with training centers. These include Foothill College’s A.S. in Plumbing Technology program. Students receive both formal education and on-the-job training. Earning an associate degree increases their employment marketability and prospects.

The time-to-completion among plumbing apprenticeship programs varies between four and five years. Regardless of the duration, apprentice plumbers receive 2,000 hours, on average, of on-the-job paid training. The apprenticeship period also includes technical instruction and supervised work, a combination that ensures apprentice plumbers effectively build on their knowledge and skills. 

Trade associations, unions, and businesses, as well as community colleges and technical-vocational colleges, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Examples include:

  • Metropolitan Community College
  • Madison Area Technical College
  • Fox Valley Technical College
  • Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 8
  • Roto-Rooter

Secure your plumbing license.

The process and paperwork of licensing for plumbers vary between states. In fact, a few states don’t require licensing for plumbers, and these states are Missouri, Kansas, New York, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

The common licensing requirements among states are:

  • Formal education and training in an apprenticeship program
  • Relevant work experience
  • Pass a licensure exam 

In Washington, for example, plumbers must be licensed by the Washington State Plumber Certification Program. Applicants must have worked as a plumber trainee for at least 8,000 hours (i.e., about four years) under the supervision of a journeyman plumber.

Even after securing your plumber license, you may want to consider earning professional plumber certifications. The best are EPA Amusement Operators Safety Certification (EPA), Piping Inspector Certification, and Certified in Plumbing Design (CPD).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best salary for a plumber?

According to ZipRecruiter, the following are the highest-paid plumbers (with the exception of plumbing engineers and designers):

  • Master plumber ($61,500 – $92,500 per year)
  • Plumbing foreman ($61,500 – $89,500 per year)
  • Licensed plumber ($58,000 – $87,000 per year)
  • Residential plumber ($52,500 – $81,000 per year)
  • Journeyman plumber ($57,000 – $79,500 per year)

How long does it take to get a plumbing license in my state?

It depends on your state, but it can take between four and six years to complete the licensing requirements.

How does someone become a plumber?

Start by entering into a plumbing training program, becoming a plumbing apprentice, and obtaining a state-issued license, if applicable, in your state.

What does it take to become a plumber in my state?

Ask your state plumbing board about the specific licensing requirements. Maine, Texas, and California provide extensive information for this purpose. However, the most common licensing requirements are plumbing education apprenticeship training and relevant work experience, as well as passing a licensing exam.