The plumbing trade is a popular career choice, and it’s no wonder…even in a slow economy, people always need plumbing services! This means, though, that getting into the profession is increasingly competitive, and early preparation can be key.
While the requirements for becoming a professional plumber vary by state, here are the basic steps.
Step 1: Get Your High School Diploma or GED
You will need to have graduated high school or earned a GED in order to obtain the further, specialized training you’ll need to become a plumber.
Plumbers need a strong foundation in math, as well as science and computers. Courses in drafting and blueprint reading can also be extremely helpful.
With the increased competitiveness of the industry, your high school ACT score, specifically the math portion, may be a consideration in obtaining a crucial plumbing apprenticeship down the line.
Step 2: Take Vocational Plumbing Courses
You don’t have to have a college degree to be a professional plumber. However, completing coursework in plumbing at an accredited trade school or technical college has advantages:
- Plumbing apprenticeships are very competitive, so having completed coursework already can help give you an edge
- Some plumbing apprenticeships require coursework before applying
- Many schools will help match you with a union, plumbing company, or master plumber offering apprenticeships
- Apprenticeships require a certain number of classroom hours; you may be able to apply accredited coursework towards those hours (always confirm this with the school beforehand)
Step 3: Complete a Plumbing Apprenticeship Program
With their combination of classroom coursework and on-the-job learning, apprenticeship programs provide the most comprehensive training on how to be a professional plumber.
Plumbing apprenticeships last for either 4 or 5 years, and there is a specified number of hours you’ll need to log as an apprentice in order to get a plumber’s license. This number varies by state.
The most common method of obtaining an apprenticeship is through a local plumber’s union. Many unions provide the required classroom coursework as well as pairing you with a licensed plumber for your field training.
You may be required to take an aptitude test when applying for an apprenticeship. There are also state requirements, such as a valid driver’s license or ID and proof of legal work status.
If you aren’t able to obtain an apprenticeship through your local union, you can also contact licensed master plumbers in your area who have their own business, and ask them if they will take you on as an apprentice.
Keep in mind that if your apprenticeship doesn’t offer the classroom coursework portion of the training, you’ll need to find your own accredited plumbing courses (for example, at a vocational or trade school) to fulfill the required hours.
Step 4: Get Licensed
Most states require you to have a plumber’s license. Once you’ve met your classroom and on-the-job hour requirements, the next step is to obtain this license. The requirements vary depending on where you live, but in general they include meeting a minimum number of working hours as a plumber and passing an exam.
You’ll need to register in order to take the exam. While awaiting the date, it’s a good idea to take any provided practice exams, and review prep guides and materials.
Once you’ve passed the exam, you are officially a licensed journeyman plumber!
Step 5: Grow in Your Career
The next step on your career path as a professional plumber is to become a master plumber, which you can accomplish by continuing your education and field experience, and taking a second exam.
You can also earn additional certifications by completing training in areas like energy efficiency and inspection testing. While not required, these certifications can help give you a competitive edge in the job market.