Road to Plumberhood

We all have our typical image of what plumbers look like.

We may even have negative views of plumbers and only call on them when things in our homes are at their worst. This article aims to shed light on the life of plumbers—beyond the stereotypes—and looks at the road it takes to become a plumber.

Professional Training
Although certification and professional degrees are not required, it might help plumbers advance in their profession and take advantage of new job opportunities. It can also aid in teaching students useful skills that can come in handy on the job. Many technical colleges and/or community colleges offer certificates for those interested in becoming a plumber. This training is an advantage and plumbers can use it to begin an apprenticeship as a plumber or go on to earn an associate’s degree.

Complete an Apprenticeship

Note: To enter an apprenticeship program, a trainee must meet the following requirements:
• Be at least 18 years old
• Have a high school diploma or equivalent
• Pass a basic math test
• Pass substance abuse screening
• Know how to use computers

Plumbers must complete an apprenticeship, learning their trade with 4 to 5 years of training. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), each year apprentices must have at least 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and a minimum of 246 hours of related technical education. Apprentices learn all types of plumbing procedures—from primary installation of plumbing fixtures to repair and maintenance of water pipes—and local plumbing codes. Trainees also gain special plumbing skills, such as choosing materials and plumbing fittings, identifying grades and types of pipes and using the tools of their trade. In addition, they also study mathematics, applied physics, and chemistry.

After completing an apprenticeship program, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are qualified to perform duties on their own. With additional courses and several years of plumbing experience, plumbers are eligible to earn master status (which is where Professional Training, above, can come in handy—no pun intended). Some states require a master plumber to get a plumbing contractor’s license.

Obtain a License
Obtaining a license requires taking a test, gaining experience through work, or both. According to the BLS, most states and localities require workers to have 2 to 5 years of experience and to pass an exam that shows their knowledge of the trade and of local plumbing codes before they are permitted to work independently.

Plumbing requires more knowledge and skills than we may think. The summary above, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, shows that plumbers require training to learn their trade, can make a decent salary, and employment of plumbers—as well as pipefitters and steamfitters—is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Do you still have the image of a fat and lazy plumber in your mind? You may also want to add knowledgeable and skilled to your list of characteristics.

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