How to Become a Plumber
Plumbers keep the world flowing in the right direction.
Having clean convenient water in our homes and businesses is essential, and plumbers make that possible. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes that sanitation and safe drinking water are necessary for communities around the world to thrive. As you learn how to become a plumber, you’ll see that it requires substantial education and training. But that investment can really pay off with a good-paying career with a lot of opportunities for advancement and entrepreneurship.
As a plumber, you can choose to specialize in residential plumbing to help homeowners manage their flow or commercial plumbing for large and small businesses. Let’s take a look at the typical career path of a plumber.
What Does a Plumber Do?
A plumber’s basic job is to install and repair pipe fixtures and systems—you may picture a man wearing overalls, showing up to a house with a plunger and wrench to fix an overflowing toilet. But there’s a lot more involved for those who manage their own businesses or plan commercial plumbing installations. Plumbers are also involved in:
- Installing sinks, showers, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers.
- Repairing drainage systems in homes and commercial buildings.
- Preparing cost estimates.
- Reading blueprints to help build new structures.
- Inspecting and testing plumbing systems for safety and compliance.
- Maintaining a building’s plumbing system.
Take a look at a typical plumber job description on Monster to get a more complete picture of the day-to-day life of a plumber.
How to Become a Plumber
You’ll take several steps to become a plumber, including specialized classes, on-the-job training, and licensure. Typically, you’ll start as an apprentice plumber, then work your way up to becoming a journeyman plumber and, finally, a master plumber. To begin your career, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED certificate.
1. Attend Plumbing School
Your first step in becoming a plumber may be two years in a plumbing trade school. Plumbing classes will cover topics such as:
- local plumbing codes and regulations
- pipe fitting
- blueprint reading
2. Work as a Plumbing Apprentice
You may be able to jump straight into a plumbing apprenticeship without attending school. Plumbing apprenticeship jobs pay you while you’re learning the tricks of the trade. They typically last four to five years and include about 2,000 hours of on-the-job plumber training, including instruction in math, applied physics, and chemistry.
You can find plumbing apprentice jobs that are sponsored by trade associations, unions, and private businesses. You may start as a helper before you’re given full apprenticeship duties.
3. Become a Journeyman Plumber
After you’ve finished your apprenticeship, most states require you to obtain a license to work independently on plumbing jobs. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require two to five years of experience before you can take licensing classes and sit for the exam. You can also get optional certification in areas like plumbing design from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE).
Once you’ve gotten your license, you will be what’s known as a journeyman plumber. As a licensed plumber, you can work for an employer or start your own business.
4. Earn Master Plumber Status
Depending on what state you work in, you’ll spend anywhere from two to 10 years working as a journeyman. Then you’re ready to become a plumbing master. As a master plumber, you’ll develop blueprints for piping and fixtures and provide expert knowledge on building codes.
You’ll need to pass your state’s exam to get your master plumber title and certification. Some states require you to have master plumber status to work as a licensed plumbing contractor.
Need some help paying for your training? Check out these trades colleges and scholarships for construction trades majors that can help cover some of the cost of your education.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Plumber?
You can become a plumber in as little as four years, depending on the route you take. Right out of high school, you can start as a plumber helper or apprentice and spend five years learning on the job, or you may choose to take classes at a trade or vocational school for two years first and then spend another two to five years as an apprentice. After apprenticeship and licensing, you' become a journeyman plumber and can work independently.
How Much Do Plumbers Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average plumber salary is $25.30 per hour and range from $19.75 to $34.87. You can look up the average salary for plumbers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
How to Find Plumbing Jobs
Now that you know how to become a plumber, the next step is creating a winning resume that will lead to a flood of job opportunities. Along with any formal education and experience you’ve had as a plumber, include these skills on a plumber resume or cover letter to catch employers’ attention:
- Communication: Early in your career, you’ll need to be able to communicate with customers about what’s causing their leaky faucet and how you’re going to fix it. Later on, you’ll also be talking with your employees, clients, and other professionals to plan schedules and create job bids.
- Dexterity and physical strength: Part of the job as plumber is moving heavy materials and maneuvering in tight spaces, so include any experience you have with physically demanding jobs.
- Mechanical skills: As a plumber, you’ll need to know your way around a toolbox. Make sure employers know that you can tell the difference between a torque wrench and pipe wrench.
- Problem-solving and troubleshooting: Plumbers spend a lot of their time identifying problems, finding the cause, and coming up with a solution on the spot. Be sure to describe your approach to finding, diagnosing, and repairing problems in your cover letter.
Once your resume and cover letter are complete, take a look at the plumber jobs that are available on Monster.
According to the BLS, the top five states for plumbing jobs are:
The top areas are:
Put Yourself in the Plumbing Career Pipeline
You’ve imagined your career as a plumber—a (pipe)line of work that’s stable with lots of opportunity for advancement and great earning potential. And now that you know how to become a plumber, it’s time to put yourself out there to get top employers’ attention. It’s easy to upload your resume for free on Monster to get jobs flowing in your direction.