While most of us know plumbers as people that come to our homes and keep our sinks, drains, and toilets working, there is so much more to this career. They may work in municipal water treatment plants, or on gas lines, and so much more.
This means there is plenty of job opportunities, some paying close to 6-figures.
The below offers some insights into how to become a plumber and what you can expect when you do.
How To Become A Plumber
Becoming a plumber requires some training, apprenticeship, license in most states, and certification is recommended. Below are more details about each of these so you can start your plumbing journey.
High School Diploma or GED
Plumbers do need to have a high school diploma or GED. If your schools offers courses that can help you learn drafting or reading blueprints those are recommended.
Attending a trade or vocational secondary school is highly recommended.
An apprenticeship can be done after trade school, or instead of a trade school.
Many states require you obtain a plumber’s license and each state will have their own requirements. Becoming a licensed plumber requires testing and typically a few years of work experience.
STEP 1: High School Diploma or GED
If you attend a plumbing trade school they will required a high school diploma or GED for registration.
If you decide to go straight into an apprenticeship, chances are you will still need to have these, but you might be able to convince someone to hire you without them if you can prove your value and abilities.
STEP 2: Trade School or Vocational School
Attending a trade school is optional in most states, but highly recommended. It can set you apart from the competition and help you gain a job faster.
Typical courses might include:
- Pipe system design
- Drainage systems
- Blueprint reading
- Construction safety
- OSHA certification
Find a plumbing trading school near you with our directory!
STEP 3: Apprenticeship
You can choose to do an apprenticeship instead of school, or after you finish school (recommended). How long you need to be an apprentice will vary by state but typically an apprenticeship will last 2-4 years.
Pay during an apprenticeship is typically much lower since during this time you will be essentially learning from a more experienced plumber.
STEP 4: Licensing
After finishing your apprenticeship you can then obtain a journeyman license. This will allow you to work more independently, but still require working under the supervision of a master plumber.
The next step would be a master plumber license which will bring more money and responsibility.
STEP 5: Growth Opportunities
The best way to maximize earnings, is to get more skills.
Below are some additional trainings and/or certifications you can receive to increase your skills and value to employers.
- Variable refrigerant flow (VRF systems)
Pros & Cons Of Being A Plumber
There are some pros and cons to becoming a plumber, but these will be dependent on the job you take. Working residential may have different good and bad things as compared to a commercial job. But all of these should be considered!
- Good salary
- No required education
- Can relocate anywhere
- Paid apprenticeships
- Your job matters, and impacts peoples lives
- Job security
- Diverse work in many of the jobs
- Benefits, pension plan, etc. are decent for union workers
- Ability to have your own business
- Hard on body
- Might work in small spaces
- Wages will be low during apprenticeship
- Weekends and nights may be required
- Can be gross (sewage can be overwhelming!)
- Breathing in toxins like glue, dust, asbestos, but wearing a mask will help.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a plumber is $59,880.
This means that half of all plumbers make less than this amount, and half make more. The highest earners average $99,920 annually.
There is a lot of opportunity to increase income in this career by obtaining additional training and working overtime.
Plumbers earn the highest wages in the following states.
View our plumbing salary guide to learn more about wages across the country.
The job outlook is currently showing 2% growth through through 2031.
Most of the expected job openings are from retirement of an aging workforce and those that are changing careers.
New construction, plumbing repairs and sprinklerfitters are all showing higher demand.