Plumbing is a career that is high in demand and sorely lacking in numbers. Almost every modern home and even whole corporate buildings need plumbing issues fixed regularly. An up-and-coming plumber won’t be lacking in jobs to do. Plumbers get a lot of interesting and consistent work. Today, let’s discuss what steps you need to take to become a plumber, and what you should expect in your career.
WHAT DO PLUMBERS DO?
Plumbing is a trade where you are expected to fix all manner of plumbing problems such as unclogging pipes, setting up new pipe systems, and inspecting existing piping systems to see if they are up to code. The work requires a lot of know-how with piping systems, blueprints as well as basic carpentry skills.
WHAT KIND OF PLUMBERS ARE OUT THERE?
There are three levels of experience that plumbers are classified into.
These are aspiring plumbers without experience. As an apprentice, you study under journeymen or master plumbers that have significant knowledge and experience in the field.
Apprenticeships usually take a total of 2 to 5 years to complete. To get an apprenticeship, ask your local plumbing unions or organizations if they are willing to take you under their wing. Alternatively, just find a licensed plumber willing to teach you.
You will be expected to assist them in on-hand assignments such as home repairs. Additionally, you will also have to read up on coursework for your trade school.
Trade schools will often cost you $3000 to $10000 annually, depending on your trade school and course program. Only those who meet the minimum age of 18 are eligible for apprenticeship.
Journeymen are plumbers who have completed their apprenticeship and once they are licensed, will be allowed to work as a professional plumbers. Journeyman plumbers need to maintain their education and pass regular licensing exams to see if they are still fit for a plumber job.
Most states require this annually, but some only need a renewal every three to five years. There is no national plumbing license, so you have to take licensing exams in other states in case you move.
Master plumbers stand at the top of their trade and are often the end goal of all plumbers. To become a master plumber, they must have two years of total experience as a Journeyman. They need to pass a master plumber’s exam, both in written and practical tests.
Once you become a master plumber, you are now able to work supervisory roles and train younger plumbers. Only master plumbers can start a plumbing business. They are also the only plumbers qualified to design blueprints for plumbing systems of major projects.
HOW TO BECOME A LICENSED PLUMBER
There are a lot of things you need to do to upskill and become a licensed plumber.
1. MEET THE BARE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
All plumbers should have at least finished high school or achieved a GED. In addition, they must be able to have basic knowledge of computers, math, and pass a drug test. Lastly, you need to be the age of 18 to start an apprenticeship.
2. ENROLL IN A TRADE SCHOOL
Enrolling in a trade school will often cost you $3000 to $1000 depending on the school and provide you with coursework and a certificate at the end of your 1 or 2 years.
Look for a local trade school to enroll in for convenience, as you will likely be doing your apprenticeship at the same time.
3. START YOUR APPRENTICESHIP
Usually, a trade school assigns you to a professional plumber for your apprenticeship. However, if you know a professional plumber, you could ask your school to consent to an apprenticeship with them.
Apprenticeships will take 2 to 5 years, and you can start as soon as you start trade school.
4. PICK A SPECIALIZATION
Once you are training, you have the choice of specializing even further past the handyman approach of regularly licensed plumbers. While it’s possible to dabble in different specializations, you should focus on only one of these during yourapprenticeship.
Pipelayers are the most common type of specialization. They install the pipes for major plumbing systems such as storm drains or water mains. It involves a lot of hard labor due to the digging and demolishing needed to set the pipes in place. They are most common in residential areas.
Pipefitters are in charge of indoor industrial projects such as the heating and cooling systems of massive factories. They are responsible for all piping systems in an industrial setting. A variant of these pipefitters, called steamfitters, do much the same tasks as pipefitters only they work with steam in high-pressure pipe systems.
5. GET LICENSED
The requirements vary by state, but it’s important to get a license in your state so you can start working as a professional immediately. Regular compliance checks are expected. For Ilinois, you are required to renew your apprentice or plumber license every year. You can check the requirements on their official website. Remember, residential and commercial owners will only hire licensed plumbers.
Plumbing is a great career prospect. It’s a trade that will always be in demand for as long as people live in homes with running water. That said, while it is significantly shorter to get through than most courses, it’s a job that values caution and creativity. You need to prove yourself constantly to become a successful plumber, and it all starts with learning.
Guest Contributor: Kat Sarmiento