Plumbing as a career: How to become a successful plumber

Last updated: April 25, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Plumbing as a career: How to become a successful plumber
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Do you crave a rewarding career that lets you work with your hands? If so, becoming a plumber might be a perfect fit.

As a growing and in-demand field, plumbing offers numerous opportunities for success. As a plumber, you'll get to use your problem-solving skills to tackle new challenges every day.

Plus, you'll enjoy the satisfaction that comes from knowing you're making a real difference in keeping people's homes and businesses running smoothly and efficiently.

But where do you begin? With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start.

That's why our team at Jobcase put together this guide on how to become a plumber. We'll walk you through the steps to get started on this path and cover everything from the required education and training to the skills you'll need to develop.

Let's dive in!

What is a plumber?

Plumbers design, install, and repair complex networks of pipes, valves, and fixtures. This work keeps water and waste flowing safely in and out of homes, businesses, and construction sites.

From installing new water heaters to fixing leaky faucets, plumbers are essential for keeping our world running smoothly.

Becoming a plumber

Plumbing is a stable and in-demand career choice. The required education is relatively inexpensive, and plumbers enjoy good salaries, job variety, and the potential for career advancement. Experienced plumbers may even become supervisors or start their own plumbing businesses.

Plumbers also receive opportunities to specialize in different areas, which can lead to higher salaries and improved job prospects.

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But being a plumber is more than just a paycheck. Plumbers play a vital role in keeping our communities safe and healthy. By designing and installing efficient plumbing systems, plumbers help conserve water and protect public health.

Plus, as the world becomes more environmentally conscious, the demand for green plumbing solutions will continue to grow. By becoming a plumber, you can be part of this exciting trend toward sustainability and innovation.

Education and training: getting the skills a plumber needs

You need a combination of education and hands-on training to become a plumber. Although this may seem overwhelming at first, we've put together the following step-by-step guide to walk you through the typical pathway to plumbing:

1. Enroll in plumbing-specific courses

The first step to becoming a plumber is to enroll in plumbing-specific courses. These courses teach you the basic principles of plumbing, including how to read blueprints, install pipes and fixtures, and troubleshoot plumbing problems.

You can find plumbing courses at trade schools, vocational schools, and community colleges. These courses typically take between six months and two years to complete, depending on the program. Examples of courses include the following:

  • Plumbing Technology

  • Pipefitting and Plumbing Technology

  • Plumbing and Gasfitting

  • Plumbing and Heating

2. Complete an apprenticeship program

After finishing your plumbing courses, the next step is to gain hands-on experience through an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction, and they typically last between four and five years. Plumbing unions, trade associations, and plumbing contractors sponsor these apprenticeships.

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As an apprentice, you'll work alongside experienced plumbers learning how to install, repair, and maintain plumbing systems. You'll also learn about safety procedures and building codes and regulations. Examples of apprenticeship programs include the following:

3. Obtain the required certifications and licenses

In addition to completing plumbing courses and apprenticeship programs, you'll need to obtain certifications and licenses to work as a plumber. The specific requirements vary by state but typically involve passing a written exam and demonstrating your skills in a practical exam.

Obtaining a certification or license will demonstrate your competency in the field and can improve your job prospects and earning potential. Examples of certifications and licenses include the following:

4. Prepare your resume, apply for positions, and prep for interviews

Once you've completed your education and training, it's time to start applying for jobs. It's important to prepare a professional resume that highlights your education, training, and work experience. A strong resume should include the following:

  • Relevant coursework

  • Apprenticeship experience

  • Skills and abilities

  • Certifications and licenses

  • References

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When interviewing for plumbing jobs, it's important to prepare yourself to answer questions about your skills, experience, and work ethic. Be ready to provide examples of your problem-solving skills and your ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

We know that this sounds like a lot of work. But we also know that you want to make a difference, and doing that sometimes takes a little time. Some accelerated programs or shorter apprenticeships might speed up the process for those eager to jump-start their careers.

Remember: check with your state and local plumbing unions for specific requirements to become a plumber in your area.

Job prospects and earnings: securing a bright future as a plumber

As the world's population continues to grow, so does the demand for skilled plumbers. Plumbers are needed to install and maintain plumbing systems in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.

This high demand has led to a secure job outlook for those interested in pursuing a career in plumbing.

Job growth

Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters to grow 2% from 2021 to 2031 — just a bit slower than construction and general job growth.

But don't be discouraged by this! Some of this slowness comes from projected retirements, which change from year to year.

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The demand for new construction and building renovations is rising, which is one reason the demand for plumbers will likely also grow — after all, the need to maintain plumbing systems goes hand in hand with construction.

And as more people move toward sustainability, green initiatives may create an increase in plumbing demand as well.

Salary information

The median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was $59,880 in May 2021, according to the BLS. This represents an increase of roughly $3,500 compared to the average wage the previous year.

Apprentices earn less, of course, but after they’ve completed their apprenticeships, their salary will increase.

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It's important to note that job prospects and earnings can vary by location and experience. According to the BLS, the highest 10% earned more than $99,920, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,700.

Plumbers who are willing to travel and work in areas with high demand for their skills may have better job prospects and earning potential.

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Another factor to consider when looking at job growth is the diversity of the plumbing field. Plumbers can specialize in residential plumbing, commercial plumbing, industrial plumbing, or green plumbing.

Specializing in a particular area can increase a plumber's job prospects and earning potential. For example:

  • Plumbers who specialize in green plumbing could find a wealth of future work as more and more clients request energy-efficient products.

  • Those in this specialty might install water-efficient plumbing fixtures, rainwater harvesting systems, and greywater reuse systems to conserve water and promote sustainability.

  • Commercial and industrial plumbers can also specialize in pipefitting, pipelaying, and sprinkler fitting.

Tips for success: thriving as a plumber

You need more than just technical know-how to excel in the plumbing industry. Below are key elements that contribute to a successful plumbing career.

Mastering soft skills: your secret weapon

In addition to technical expertise, successful plumbers have a range of essential soft skills.

Communication, problem-solving, customer service, time management, and adaptability are essential for building strong relationships with clients and resolving issues efficiently and effectively.

Don't underestimate the power of soft skills in setting you apart from the competition. Consider improving your soft skills to land the jobs you're looking for.

Forging lasting connections: your guide to networking

Networking is an important part of building a successful career in any industry, and plumbing is no exception. Consider attending industry conferences and events, joining professional organizations, and connecting with other professionals in the industry to build your network.

You'll also want to stay up to date on industry trends and best practices. A good way to stay sharp is to join a local plumbers' association or attending a national conference like the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) CONNECT.

Actively engaging in networking opportunities allows you to gain valuable insights and form connections that can lead to new opportunities and long-term success.

New to the professional networking game? That's okay. Check out our article about creating a network of professionals to find jobs, get referrals, and grow your business.

Staying informed about the latest developments and changes in the plumbing industry is crucial to remaining competitive in the field.

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Trade publications, conferences, and other events can provide useful information on new technologies and regulations.

Advancements in green plumbing technologies, such as water-efficient fixtures and greywater reuse systems, are becoming increasingly important for both residential and commercial clients.

Stay current with industry trends and you’ll be well-positioned to adapt to changes, seize new opportunities, and maintain a thriving career in the plumbing industry.

Frequently asked questions: the plumbing lowdown

The big bucks: what's the highest-paid type of plumber?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but some plumbers can earn more than others, depending on their specialization. Plumbers who work in medical gas piping or sprinkler systems installation, for example, can rake in higher wages.

So if you're looking to maximize your earnings, consider specializing in a niche with higher demand and lower competition.

Crunching numbers: do plumbers do a lot of math?

You bet! Being able to use fast math, on the fly, is an important aspect of plumbing.

You'll need to measure pipe lengths, calculate water pressure, and figure out flow rates. While you don't need to be a math whiz, having a solid understanding of basic math concepts is essential.

A plumber might even use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the right pipe length for a specific job. So sharpen those math skills, and you'll be good to go.

The physical toll: is plumbing hard on the body?

Yes, plumbing can be physically demanding. You'll likely find yourself often bending, lifting, and working in tight spaces. Fortunately, however, proper safety training and adherence to safety protocols can help minimize the risk of injuries.

So staying in shape, practicing proper lifting techniques, and using ergonomic tools can help you handle the physical demands of the job like a champ.

The flip side: what are the disadvantages of being a plumber?

Like any job, plumbing has its downsides. The work can be physically demanding, as mentioned earlier. You might also have to deal with emergency calls and work odd hours, which can disrupt your work-life balance.

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But on the flip side, the plumbing trade offers job security, good pay, and the satisfaction of helping people solve problems in their homes and businesses. So if you're passionate about these things, the advantages usually outweigh the drawbacks.

Ready to dive into a plumbing career?

Our team at Jobcase gets it — choosing a career path can be nerve-wracking. You might be thinking, "Can I really do this? Will I be successful?"It's never easy to try something new or start over from scratch. But taking the leap is incredibly rewarding.

Remember, plumbing is an essential trade that offers job security, a solid income, and plenty of growth opportunities. Plus, you'll be making a real difference in people's lives by helping them keep their homes and businesses in tip-top shape.

So take a deep breath and trust yourself. You've already made a fantastic start by reading this article and gathering all the knowledge you need.

Now it's time to put that knowledge into action. Enroll in plumbing courses, complete your apprenticeship, and watch your career soar. Before you know it, you'll be a plumbing pro with a rewarding and fulfilling future.

Are you ready to start looking for a career as a plumber? Visit our job board. Or, if you want more articles like this one, take a look at our resource center.



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