How to Get a Career in Plumbing

A red arrow symbolizing progress on a career as a union plumber after starting off as an apprentice

Becoming a licensed plumber can open the door to many pathways to success. Not only that, but it can also offer plenty of benefits as well, such as having the freedom to be your own boss and set your own schedule. However, the road to becoming a plumber can differ from state to state and even city to city. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this increasingly competitive yet rewarding profession, there are a few things you’ll need to know.

The 4 Steps to Becoming a Plumber

First and foremost, before you start on your journey you should have a clear understanding of what a plumber does and what to expect from the career. The main job of a plumber is to install and maintain plumbing fixtures, including (but not limited to) bathtubs, sinks, and showers. You may also perform installation and repair services on water and gas pipes, drainage systems, waste disposal systems, and appliances. 

The median salary of a plumber is about $56,000 and with that comes certain requirements (traveling to work sites on a regular basis) and workplace hazards (cuts and burns). It’s also important to have solid mathematical and problem-solving skills, mechanical aptitude, and a tolerance for working in cramped spaces to have success in this career. Now that you know the basics of the job, here’s how to jumpstart your plumbing career.

Enroll in Training Programs

Up-and-coming plumbers often benefit from attending training programs offered by trade or technical schools and community colleges. Although these programs aren’t entirely necessary to become a professional plumber, attending classes provides valuable information that can be very useful while out in the field. Often, the curriculum will touch on a variety of related subjects, including:

  • Pipe Cutting and Soldering
  • Draining and Venting
  • Electrical Basics
  • Water Heating Systems
  • Plumbing Codes

These programs are also helpful in that they can be used to gain an associate’s degree, as well as help pair you with a union, plumbing company, or master plumber for a plumbing apprenticeship.

Join and Finish an Apprenticeship

This is a crucial step to becoming a plumber. Apprenticeships are offered by local unions, their affiliates, and non-union contractors. This is where you’ll be exposed to the most comprehensive training on your journey to becoming a plumber. It’s during this time when you’ll work closely with a professional and learn the tricks of the trade.

Most apprenticeships are handled by local unions that are able to provide both the required classroom work and on-the-job training. Typically, an apprenticeship can last anywhere from two to five years and will require you to complete a certain amount of coursework hours. If an apprenticeship doesn’t offer classroom coursework, you’ll need to find your own accredited plumbing courses to fulfill the requirement.

Get Your License

In most states, you can’t become a professional plumber without first earning a license. Requirements vary from state to state, but in general, to earn a license you’ll first need to have at least two to five years of work experience under your belt. Once you have that, you’ll be able to take a test consisting of a written or practical exam, and in some cases both. The test will focus on your knowledge of plumbing codes and practices. After you pass the test, you’ll be labeled a licensed journeyman plumber. This allows you to legally take on contracts without the need for another licensed plumber to be present.  

Get Certified

Becoming a plumber doesn’t have to end with getting a license. Many plumbers choose to also get certified because certification not only helps them advance their careers, but it can also open up new job possibilities. In a competitive market, certification can help you stand out from the crowd.

Work With Us

At Southwest Pipe Trades and MCA Texas Joint Marketing Committee, we’re advocates for adequate and safe plumbing practices and workplace environments. That’s why we work with the labor movement to help educate the public on unions and the importance of workplace safety. Contact us today to learn more.

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