Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (2023)

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Attending a plumbing school can set you up for a career in one of the most attractive sectors of the skilled trades industry. Trade schools offer streamlined training that is convenient and relatively quick. Plus, vocational training often counts toward the length of your apprenticeship. Plumbers generally benefit from good pay, varied work, and potential for advancement.

  • Length of Training
  • Program Options
  • Typical Courses
  • Skills You Can Learn

Career Information

  • Plumber Salary
  • Key Benefits
  • What a Plumber Does
  • Work Settings
  • Specializations
  • Career FAQs

Education & Training

The primary route into this vocation involves an apprenticeship. However, a plumber school program can help people like you gain essential skills that provide a competitive edge when applying for apprentice positions.

Length of Training

It generally takes between four and 24 months to complete a pre-apprenticeship plumbing program at a vocational school. Plumbing apprenticeships typically last for four or five years in total.* In some cases, credits earned from previous trade school programs can be applied toward an apprenticeship, which shortens it.

Most Common Length of School*
(range in months)

  • Plumbing


  • Electrical technology


  • Welding


  • HVAC technology

    (Video) So You Want to Be a Plumber? - Beginner's Guide to Plumbing


Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (1)

Program Options

You can take a plumbing program at a trade school or vocational college, complete an apprenticeship, or pursue a combination of those two options. How long it takes to get certified in plumbing depends on the program you choose.

Certificate or diploma programs: These typically take no more than a year to complete.* They are designed to help students learn basic plumbing concepts and skills.

Associate degree programs: These can last up to two years.* They tend to include the same kinds of courses as certificate or diploma programs and also incorporate more general education courses like math and science.

Plumbing apprenticeship programs: Most plumbers learn the trade this way, typically taking four or five years.* Some go straight into a program while others complete a certificate, diploma, or degree first. Apprentices undergo classroom lessons as well as on-the-job training, for which they receive a wage.

Most apprenticeships are managed by unions or other industry associations, such as:

You can also search for registered apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Typical Courses

Plumbing schools tend to provide training in areas like:

  • Blueprint reading
  • Pipe system design
  • Water supply systems
  • Gas piping systems
  • Drainage systems
  • Installing and repairing pipes, fittings, and valves
  • Brazing and soldering techniques
  • Backflow principles
  • Plumbing codes
  • Safety protocols

Skills You Can Learn at a Plumber School

Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (3)At a plumbing trade school, you could begin learning how to:

  • Interpret blueprints
  • Calculate plumbing measurements
  • Design and install piping systems in different settings
  • Install, troubleshoot, and service various plumbing fixtures and appliances
  • Use tools like plungers, pliers, pipe wrenches, and soldering torches
  • Perform work according to relevant codes
  • Follow established safety practices
  • Estimate plumbing jobs

Licensing & Certification

In most states, you must obtain a license before you can officially work as a professional plumber or, in some instances, even before you can formally start an apprenticeship. In some cases, licensing is done at the city or county level. So it's important to find out what regulations apply in your area.

There tend to be different licenses, such as apprentice/trainee, journeyman, and master.

Licensing requirements vary by locality and level. However, you will typically have to:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Have a clean criminal record (no felony convictions)
  • Apply and pay a fee
  • Pass an exam

Some states require special licenses or certifications, depending on the type of work you hope to perform. For instance, you may need to get a medical gas piping license or endorsement to work on the systems that carry gases like oxygen and nitrous oxide in healthcare facilities. And many states have special requirements for plumbers who work with propane or natural gas systems.

Use CareerOneStop's license finder to check the requirements in your state.

Education & Training FAQs

Do plumbers need to know a lot of math?

Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (4)Plumbers typically deal with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They must also be comfortable converting decimals to fractions.

They may need to calculate things like the volume of a water tank, the water pressure at different depths, or larger pipes' capacity versus smaller pipes. But in most cases, that means plugging numbers into a formula. Once you do that a few times, it becomes relatively automatic.

If I become a licensed plumber in one state, will my credentials be recognized in another state?

Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow licensed plumbers from certain other jurisdictions to practice the trade in that area without obtaining a new license. You can check for such agreements through the National Center for Construction Education & Research.

(Video) 5 Things to Know BEFORE You Become a PLUMBING APPRENTICE

Is plumbing hard to learn?

Plumbing can be straightforward to learn if you focus on keeping up with your coursework and have decent memorization skills. It's important to remember, though, that much of the trade is learned and practiced during your apprenticeship. Plumber trade school provides the groundwork of knowledge to help you succeed as an apprentice (plus your program credits may count toward your apprenticeship). And an apprenticeship provides the skills needed to succeed as a journeyman and, eventually, a master plumber.

Career Information

Plumbing is a rapidly growing trade that offers the potential for high wages, stable work, and multiple avenues for advancement or specialization.

Career Snapshot


Residential plumbing, commercial plumbing, gas fitting, medical gas piping, pipefitting or steamfitting, sprinkler fitting, plumbing inspection


  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education

Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (11)

(Video) So you want to be a PLUMBER? Here's why you should get a plumbing apprenticeship

Plumber Salary

The median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is $56,330, according to the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. The highest earners make $98,990 or more.

Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (12)

(Video) Plumbing 101 for apprentices

Job Openings & Outlook

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections show that the employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is expected to grow by 5 percent between 2020 and 2030.

Over that same period, an average of 51,000 jobs should become available each year. They break down this way:

  • Newly created positions: 2,400
  • Openings that stem from retirements: 14,000
  • Openings that result from workers transferring into other occupations: 34,600

Key Benefits

  1. Steady work: Since plumbing is often carried out indoors, it's a year-round occupation with less chance of downtime caused by seasonal changes.
  2. Consistent demand: Water supply systems are crucial to our daily lives. That means plumbers are essential workers whose expertise is continually needed.
  3. Advancement potential: You can progress all the way to master plumber and become a self-employed contractor. Or you could pursue roles like plumbing supervisor, job estimator, inspector, and more.

What a Plumber Does

Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (13)Plumbers make it possible for water, gases, wastes, and liquids to be carried throughout all types of buildings, from homes and offices to factories and hospitals.

Common responsibilities include:

  • Planning the installation of plumbing systems following safety standards, building codes, budgets, and timelines
  • Ensuring that plumbing system plans work with the intended location of other necessities such as electrical panels and wires
  • Preparing materials for installation by measuring, bending, cutting, and threading pipes
  • Preparing buildings for the installation of pipes and plumbing systems, including:
    • Cutting holes in floors, ceilings, or walls
    • Installing ceiling joists and hanging steel supports for pipes
  • Installing, testing, maintaining, and repairing items like:
    • Sinks
    • Faucets
    • Toilets
    • Bathtubs
    • Showerheads
    • Water heaters
    • Washing machines
    • Dishwashers
    • Garbage disposals
  • Handling emergency issues like pipes that have burst or septic systems that have backed up
  • Following safety guidelines and building codes
  • Inspecting completed work to ensure that it's up to code
  • Providing estimates for repairs
  • Supervising and mentoring laborers, apprentices, and new journeymen

Work Settings

Plumbers work in any setting that needs running water. For example, that can include places like:

  • Homes
  • Offices
  • Schools
  • Restaurants
  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Entertainment venues
  • Factories
  • Hospitals
  • Airports
  • Government buildings
  • Hotels
  • Cruise ships
  • Industrial plants
  • Construction sites

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters work for plumbing or heating and cooling contractors. About nine percent are self-employed.


Here's How to Start Getting Skills for the Plumbing Trade (14)People who go into the pipe trades can choose to specialize in several areas, some of which require additional training or other qualifications. Examples include:

Residential plumbing: Focus on installing and repairing pipes, fixtures, and appliances in houses, condos, and other private residences.

Commercial plumbing: Work on piping systems and appliances in large settings like office buildings, retail stores, hospitals, and schools.

Gas fitting: Install and repair natural gas piping and related appliances, such as stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, and hot tubs.

Medical gas piping: Concentrate on the systems that deliver gases like nitrous oxide and oxygen to medical patients.

Pipefitting or steamfitting: Fabricate, assemble, install, and service piping systems in commercial and industrial settings. You could deal with systems for carrying anything from chemicals for manufacturing to high-pressure steam for generating electricity.

Sprinkler fitting: Perform the installation, repair, and maintenance of fire sprinkler systems in all types of buildings.

Plumbing inspection: Check completed plumbing work to ensure that it was done correctly and following applicable codes.

Career FAQs

Which states have the highest salaries for plumbers?

Based on OEWS program data, these five states offer the highest average wages for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters:

  • Alaska: $88,150
  • Illinois: $87,880
  • Massachusetts: $80,860
  • Minnesota: $76,080
  • New Jersey: $75,840

What kind of schedule do plumbers have?

Most put in full-time hours. Residential plumbers tend to work a standard daytime schedule, but they often must be available for after-hours emergencies. Plumbers or pipefitters who work in commercial or industrial settings may work more irregular hours because their tasks may need to be carried out at off-peak times.

What's the difference between a plumber and a pipefitter?

Plumbers tend to work with water, gas, and drainage systems and related appliances. Pipefitters mostly concentrate on the industrial side. They fabricate and install large-scale piping systems that carry hazardous materials like acids, chemicals, and gases in settings such as power plants, oil refineries, and factories.

Get Started Learning to Become a Plumber

Training at a plumbing school offers a clear path to entering a trade that's both reliable and varied. The focus of vocational training is to prepare students for the workforce, with only the courses necessary for learning the trade. The sooner you find a school near you, the closer you are to becoming a plumber. Find one today!

* Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant programs from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.


What skills are needed for plumbing? ›

Here are some of the top skills employers are looking for in any potential plumber:
  • Good Physical Skills. One of the most important skills for a plumbing job is good manual dexterity and coordination. ...
  • Interpersonal Communications Skills. ...
  • Safety Skills. ...
  • Problem-Solving Skills.
6 Feb 2018

How long does it take to train as plumber? ›

How long does it take to become a plumber? Depending on the route you choose to become a star plumber, it can take up to 3-4 years to receive your full qualifications. That's if you want to take a more traditional fail-safe route such as an apprenticeship (around four years) or S/NVQ Level 3 (around three years).

What can you do with level 1 plumbing? ›

Installation, repair and maintenance of plumbing systems. Above ground drainage. Copper pipework. Plastic pressure pipework.

What kind of math do plumbers use? ›

Algebra and geometry are two key areas that you will need to know, as these skills can be used to calculate the surface area and volume of various pipes, fittings, and fixtures.

Is the plumbers aptitude test hard? ›

With 6 very different topics, a large number of questions, and tight time constraints, the Plumbing Aptitude Test is a true challenge.

Is plumbing easy to learn? ›

Always Something New to Learn

Qualified plumbers need to go through a vast amount of training. It takes 4-5 years of education and working on the job as a journeyman apprentice before a plumber becomes qualified. There are written and skills tests all along the way.

Do plumbers make good money? ›

Plumbers working in the United States make an average of $50,602 per year . They also make around $6,750 in overtime per year. These numbers are based on 10,800 salaries reported to Indeed as of December 26, 2020.

How much does a plumber make? ›

Find out what the average Plumber salary is

The average plumber salary in Ireland is € 42 500 per year or € 21.79 per hour. Entry-level positions start at € 35 987 per year, while most experienced workers make up to € 68 250 per year.

Can I become a plumber at 50? ›

So, if you have been dreaming about changing your career, and becoming a plumber is appealing to you, then as long as you are in good health, no age is too old to retain! A plumber will take on a variety of different tasks from one day to the next.

Can you be a plumber without qualifications? ›

Plumbing is a highly skilled profession to work on. Therefore, you will need certain skills, training, and maybe some qualification to work as a plumber. However, you don't need a degree or training in plumbing to work. But, a degree or training in plumbing can help you learn skills and work knowledge.

Can I train to be a plumber part time? ›

Available on a full-time or part-time basis, you can train to become a professional plumber at any one of the Options Skills training centres. We have developed our professional plumbing courses to give you the experience and skills you need to undertake domestic plumbing work.

What is level 3 plumbing? ›

Level 3 is ideal if you are working within the plumbing and heating trade and have a great deal of technical skills and knowledge. You work with minimum supervision and have a good record of safety, fault correction and ensuring that work meets the required standard.

What is a level 1 diploma in plumbing? ›

This course is the first step towards a successful career as a Plumber. You will learn how to use hand tools as you master the art of pipe bending and soldering techniques, whilst working towards installing bathrooms and heating systems.

Can a plumber work anywhere the world? ›

Plumbing is a trade that can be used anywhere in the world and with high demand across the UK, there's never been a better time to join it. From self-employed to working in industry, the opportunities are vast and varied and fast-becoming a popular career path for many.

Is plumbing math heavy? ›

Plumbers need more than just knowledge of the trade. Plumbers use several forms of mathematics daily, from estimating a job to calculating pipe measurements. A strong knowledge of mathematics is integral for plumbers to successfully perform their trade.

What trade uses least math? ›

10 Trade School Programs Without Much Math
  • CDL Truck Driver – Little or no math required. ...
  • Licensed Massage Therapist – Only basic math is required to earn a massage therapy license.
  • Nursing Assistant – Only one or two basic math courses are needed, and no advanced formulas are required.
25 Jan 2022

How do you do plumbing math? ›

Basic Math for Plumbing - YouTube

Can you use a calculator for Bpec aptitude test? ›

Although you may use a calculator, practising your mental arithmetic skills and making sure that you can work out percentages accurately ahead of the test will help you improve your score in the test.

Do plumbers have to take aptitude test? ›

If you are interested in becoming a plumber, you will need to take a series of aptitude and apprenticeship tests to prove that you can do the work. Plumbers need to have several skills, including: Math. Reading.

How long is the pipefitter test? ›

You will have three hours to complete the Pipefitter Assessment Test, so it is very important to be able to work within time limits.

What is the easiest trade? ›

The consensus seems to be that plumbers and electricians have the least physically demanding work among the skilled trades. That doesn't mean that those are the best trades, however, and if carpentry is what interests you, you shouldn't allow its reputation of being physically demanding to deter you.

Is plumbing harder than electrician? ›

Plumbers should have at least 246 hours of technical education 1,700 hours of training. This training involved hands-on application of theories and apprenticeship. An electrician will need 144 hours of technical education and 2,000 hours of training.

Where do plumbers make the most money? ›

1. Montana
Total Plumber Jobs:85
Average Annual Salary:$83,264
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$54,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$127,000
1 more row
6 Apr 2021

What trade makes the most money? ›

The Highest-Paid Trade Jobs
  • Construction Managers. ...
  • Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers. ...
  • Radiation Therapists. ...
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists. ...
  • Dental Hygienists. ...
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians. ...
  • Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians. ...
  • Boilermakers.

Is plumbing hard on the body? ›

The risk of injury is high in plumbing. Don't overlook the dangers you face on a daily basis. You and your friends and family know that plumbers risk severe injury every day.

What are the disadvantages of being a plumber? ›

  • 2.1 Plumbing Work Can Be Physically Demanding.
  • 2.2 A Plumber's Daily Routine Can Be Unpredictable.
  • 2.3 Plumbers Work Under Pressure.
  • 2.4 There's an Occupational Risk Of Getting Injured.
  • 2.5 If You Are Choosing An Apprenticeship Path, It Can Take Several Years.
  • 2.6 Plumbers Have To Deal With Waste.
15 Feb 2022

What diseases can plumbers get? ›

Coli, hepatitis A and B, and typhoid fever. On roofs and in basements and crawl spaces, plumbers can also be exposed to infections from bird or rodent droppings like histoplasmosis or hantavirus, which can cause hemorrhagic fever or kidney failure.

What does a plumber do on a daily basis? ›

Plumbers install, repair and maintain water/gas supplies, sanitation units and related appliances in commercial and residential buildings. They often assess plumbing systems, diagnose issues and implement workable solutions.

Is plumbing a promising career? ›

Plumbing is one of the most highly paid trades, alongside electricians. You can rest assured that you'll make enough to support yourself and your family and be able to accrue a savings for your retirement years.

Can you become a plumber without doing an apprenticeship? ›

Plumbing Education on the Fast Track

Generally, this is the most stable choice for those unable to secure an apprenticeship. The City and Guilds Accredited Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing Studies, which takes 8-10 weeks to complete, is the most popular choice for fast-track plumbing preparation.

How can I get a job at 50 with no experience? ›

Here are some strategies to find a new job after age 50:
  1. Start your job search right away.
  2. Use your network.
  3. Reassure a younger manager.
  4. Don't mention your age or the interviewer's age.
  5. Shorten your resume.
  6. Explain why you're not overqualified.
  7. Demonstrate your fluency with technology.

Is 45 too old to learn a trade? ›

If you've been unhappy in your current position for a while, maybe it's time for you to make the switch. Studies have shown it's never too late to learn a new skill.

What are the courses under plumbing? ›

List of Plumbing Technology Classes
  • Fundamentals of Plumbing and Construction. ...
  • Drainage and Sanitary Systems Course. ...
  • Blueprints Course. ...
  • Heating, Gas and Water Systems Course. ...
  • Pipe Fitting and Assembly Course. ...
  • Plumbing Codes Course.
20 Oct 2021

What certification should a plumber have? ›

Most plumbers who do domestic work should be qualified to NVQ level 2 standard, which is roughly equivalent to an A level. Many go further and take the level 3 exams also.

What level is a qualified plumber? ›

On completion of this four-year apprenticeship, you will become a fully qualified plumber, with a QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate Craft - Plumbing.

How many days a week is a plumbing course? ›

The course is scheduled over 3 days per week and will be a mixture of theory and practical. 19+ adults course fee: £527. You may be eligible to study this course for free or access financial support. What will I study?

What can a Level 2 plumber do? ›

This course is for students who are interested in a career as a plumber and covers domestic pipework used in plumbing, hot and cold water, central heating pipework, electrical safety, environmental awareness and health and safety in the workplace.

How can I learn to trade at work? ›

One of the most common ways to learn a skilled trade is through on-the-job training in the form of an apprenticeship. With apprenticeships, you get paid to learn from experienced professionals in real work environments while also completing formal classroom training.

What is the highest level in plumbing? ›

The master plumber role is the highest level you can achieve in a plumbing career. At this level, you can operate your own plumbing business in most states, pull permits to complete projects and hire junior plumbers to support your work.

How much does it cost to study plumbing? ›

Plumbing course costs R7000 and takes 4 weeks.

How many levels are there in plumbing? ›

There are 3 different levels of plumbing, but you'll at least need to be a Journeyman to start your own plumbing business | InvoiceBerry Blog.

Is there diploma in plumbing? ›

Armed with your advanced diploma in plumbing, you will be able to explore career possibilities like going into business as an independent plumber, apprenticing for or working for a plumbing company, or even working as a plumbing tools or parts manufacturer or designer.

Why plumbing is the best trade? ›

Plumbing contractors are one of the highest paid contractors. It's a skill you keep and use for life. Evolving technology makes it an exciting trade to work in. It's a sociable job - you get to interact with lots of people every day.

How far will a plumber travel? ›

The answer to this question depends on the specific commercial plumber. Some plumbers may only travel a few miles from their home, while others may travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. Some commercial plumbers may find that their job keeps them close to home, while others may have to travel frequently.

How do you become a professional plumber? ›

To fully qualify as a plumber, you need to take the industry Trade Test and then register with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB). You will be able to train at an institution and get qualified. You will need to get your National Certificate (Vocational) in Building and Construction: Plumbing.

What are the duties of a plumber? ›

Install, repair, and maintain pipes, valves, fittings, drainage systems, and fixtures in commercial and residential structures. Collaborate with general contractors, electricians, and other construction professionals. Follow building plans and blueprints. Respond to, diagnose, and resolve plumbing emergencies.

Is being a plumber physically demanding? ›

The career is physically demanding

Plumbers spend a lot of time on their feet, bending, crawling, and carrying heavy equipment. While this helps them to stay active, the physical demands can take a toll on the body especially for those who have health issues.

What do you learn in plumbing? ›

In your plumbing courses you will learn skills and techniques too, like pipe cutting and fitting, and how to identify and use different types of plumbing fixtures. You will learn how to work with different types of pipes, from PVC to metal, how to fit them and how to bend the metal pipes using specialized tools.

Does plumbing require strength? ›

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters choose from a variety of tools to assemble, maintain, and repair pipe systems. Physical strength. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters must be able to lift and move heavy tools and materials.

What is the most important responsibility of a plumber? ›

Primary Purpose: Under general supervision, maintain the flow and drainage of water, air, and other gases by assembling, installing, and repairing pipes, fittings, and plumbing fixtures districtwide.

What does a plumber do on a daily basis? ›

Plumbers install, repair and maintain water/gas supplies, sanitation units and related appliances in commercial and residential buildings. They often assess plumbing systems, diagnose issues and implement workable solutions.

How much does a plumber make? ›

Find out what the average Plumber salary is

The average plumber salary in Ireland is € 42 500 per year or € 21.79 per hour. Entry-level positions start at € 35 987 per year, while most experienced workers make up to € 68 250 per year.

What's the easiest trade? ›

The consensus seems to be that plumbers and electricians have the least physically demanding work among the skilled trades. That doesn't mean that those are the best trades, however, and if carpentry is what interests you, you shouldn't allow its reputation of being physically demanding to deter you.

What trade is hardest on your body? ›

The most physically demanding trades involve a lot of lifting, bending, and climbing, and are also often quite dangerous. Right off the bat, roofing is often considered to be the most dangerous of any of the construction trades.

How many toilets can you put on a 3 inch line? ›

Referring to the International Plumbing Code, a bathroom group requires 5 Drainage Fixture Units. As a horizontal branch 3" is good for 20 DFU's or 4 bathroom groups.

What are the three main regulations that plumbers have to follow? ›

The three main requirements of the regulations are: Plumbing systems, water fittings and water using appliances must be installed and maintained to comply with the regulations. Contamination of drinking water must be prevented. Advance notice of plumbing installation work must be given.

Is plumbing hard labor? ›

Being a good plumber is hard work. Our busiest days are just before Thanksgiving and just before Christmas. Some plumbers spend their careers building new homes or office buildings. Many of us spend days, nights, weekends, and holidays working to solve homeowner plumbing emergencies such as fixing leaks.


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