Looking for the perfect job?
Explore our Career Guides!

Read More

How to Become a Plumber

By Lace Brunsden


Are you seeking a career that offers hands-on work, problem-solving challenges, and the chance to make a tangible impact on people’s lives?

If so, becoming a plumber might be the perfect choice for you. Let’s explore the diverse opportunities and specialties within the plumbing industry, the steps to kickstart your plumbing career, and why plumbing could be a rewarding path to consider.

Career Summary

Plumber Salary

Plumber Salary

Plumbers tend to be paid mid-range salaries in relation to the average across all occupations. Like with all other occupations, there can be a great deal of variation in your salary as a plumber depending on where you live, and the company that you work for.

According to Glassdoor, the most likely salary range that you can expect is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$47k)
  • Median Salary (US$58k)
  • Executive Salary (US$71k)

What do Plumbers do?

A plumber is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in installing, repairing, and maintaining plumbing systems. Their primary role is to work with various piping systems that are used to transport water, gas, and waste in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

Although the work of a plumber is more hands-on and technical, you can also expect to do some administrative work. The position also focuses heavily on customer service and interacting with a variety of different people.

Plumber Career Progression

  • Apprentice Plumber: You’ll work under the guidance of experienced plumbers, learning the basics of plumbing, including pipe cutting, fitting, and basic installations. Your role will involve assisting in various tasks while gaining hands-on experience.
  • Journeyman Plumber: In this role, you can work independently, handling installations, repairs, and maintenance tasks with increased responsibility and skill.
  • Master Plumber/Supervisor: As a master plumber, you’ll be qualified to oversee larger projects, supervise other plumbers, and provide expert advice on complex plumbing issues.
  • Plumbing Contractor: If you decide to start your own plumbing business, you’ll become a plumbing contractor. This role involves managing all aspects of the business, including client relations, budgeting, and marketing, in addition to overseeing plumbing projects.
  • Plumbing Inspector: You’ll work for government agencies or private firms, inspecting plumbing systems in buildings to ensure they meet safety codes and regulations. Your expertise will contribute to maintaining the quality and safety of plumbing installations.
Plumber Career Progression


  • High demand for plumbing services.
  • Good earning potential and job stability.
  • Opportunities for self-employment and entrepreneurship.
  • Varied work environments and tasks.
  • The satisfaction of solving problems and helping people with plumbing issues.


  • Physically demanding work.
  • Exposure to hazardous materials and environments.
  • Frequent on-call or emergency work.
  • Potential for working in confined spaces.
  • Risks of injuries and accidents on the job.

Useful Skills to Have as a Plumber

  • Plumbing system knowledge and expertise.
  • Strong problem-solving and troubleshooting abilities.
  • Proficiency in using plumbing tools and equipment.
  • Excellent hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity.
  • Effective communication with clients and team members.

Popular Plumber Specialties

  • Pipefitting
  • Gas Line Installation and Repair
  • Green Plumbing (Eco-friendly and sustainable plumbing)
  • Backflow Prevention
  • Commercial Plumbing (Large-scale installations and maintenance)

How to become a Plumber

Plumber 5 Steps to Career

The specific steps to becoming a plumber can vary depending on your location and local regulations, but here are the common steps involved in pursuing a plumbing career:

Obtain a High School Diploma

A high school diploma provides a strong foundation of academic knowledge and skills that will be beneficial throughout your plumbing career. Completing high school demonstrates your commitment to education and shows potential employers and apprenticeship programs that you have the discipline and dedication needed for success in the plumbing industry.

Moreover, a high school diploma can open doors to further education and training opportunities, enabling you to advance your skills and expertise as a plumber in the future. So, stay focused and work towards obtaining your diploma – it’s a crucial step towards building a successful and rewarding career as a skilled plumber.

Do I Need a Degree to Become A Plumber?

No, you do not typically need a traditional college degree to become a plumber. However, it can still be beneficial in some cases. For instance, you may pursue degrees in construction management, engineering, or a related field to enhance your understanding of the industry and potentially advance your career in plumbing management or design.

Can I Become a Plumber Through Online Education?

While online education can be a valuable resource for learning theoretical aspects of plumbing and gaining foundational knowledge, becoming a plumber typically requires practical, hands-on training and experience that is difficult to fully achieve through online courses alone. Plumbing is a skilled trade that involves working with physical materials, tools, and systems, which necessitates hands-on training and practice.

However, online education can complement traditional plumbing training and apprenticeships by providing theoretical knowledge, safety guidelines, and code regulations. Some trade schools and institutions offer hybrid programs that combine online coursework with in-person practical training, allowing students to learn theory remotely and gain hands-on experience in workshops or during an apprenticeship.

What Are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Plumber?

There are several web resources available to learn skills and gain knowledge to become a plumber.

Here are some valuable platforms and websites to consider:

  • Plumbing Trade Schools: Many vocational and trade schools offer online courses or hybrid programs that combine online learning with hands-on workshops. Check with local trade schools or reputable institutions that offer plumbing courses.
  • Plumbing Associations: Organizations like the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) may offer online resources, webinars, and training materials for aspiring plumbers.
  • Plumbing Forums: Participating in plumbing forums and online communities can provide insights, tips, and answers to questions from experienced plumbers. Websites like PlumbingZone and Terry Love’s Plumbing Forum are great places to engage with professionals.
  • Manufacturer Websites: Many plumbing manufacturers have educational resources on their websites, including installation guides and videos that can help you understand specific plumbing products and systems.
  • Local Government Websites: Check your local government websites for plumbing regulations, codes, and licensing requirements. Understanding local plumbing standards is crucial for a successful career.
  • Plumbing Blogs: Some blogs run by plumbing professionals, such as Mr. Rooter, offer insightful articles and guides on various plumbing topics. Search for plumbing blogs and subscribe to those that resonate with your interests.

Find an Apprenticeship

Look for plumbing apprenticeships or internship programs offered by unions, trade schools, or plumbing companies. Apprenticeships provide hands-on training and essential experience to help you build the necessary skills.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Plumbing Apprenticeship or Internship?

The duration of a plumbing apprenticeship can vary. Typically they last around 4-5 years. During this period, you will work alongside experienced plumbers, learning the trade and gaining practical skills.

What Are Internship or Apprenticeship Opportunities for a Plumber?

Internship opportunities for you as an aspiring plumber can provide valuable hands-on experience and exposure to the plumbing industry.

  • Plumbing Apprenticeships: The most common form of internships for plumbers is through apprenticeship programs. These programs combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. As an apprentice, you’ll work alongside experienced plumbers, learning the trade and gaining practical skills.
  • Plumbing Companies: Some plumbing companies offer internship opportunities if you are interested in pursuing a plumbing career. These internships may involve shadowing plumbers, assisting with basic tasks, and getting exposure to various plumbing projects.
  • Trade Schools and Vocational Programs: Some trade schools or vocational programs may include internships or practical work experience as part of their curriculum. These internships can provide you with real-world applications of the knowledge gained in the classroom.
  • Government Agencies: Some municipalities or government departments may offer internships related to plumbing or construction projects. These opportunities can provide you with exposure to public infrastructure and regulations.
  • Construction Companies: Construction companies that specialize in plumbing installations or large projects may occasionally offer internships to individuals interested in plumbing as a career path.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Plumber?

As a plumber, you will learn a wide range of skills that are essential for successfully working in the plumbing industry. Some of the key skills you will acquire include:

  • Plumbing System Knowledge: Understanding the different types of plumbing systems, including water supply, drainage, and gas lines.
  • Pipe Fitting and Installation: Learning how to measure, cut, and fit various types of pipes and fittings.
  • Fixture Installation: Installing sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, water heaters, and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Repair and Maintenance: Diagnosing and fixing leaks, clogs, and other plumbing issues in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.
  • Reading Blueprints: Interpreting architectural and plumbing blueprints to understand the layout and design of plumbing systems in buildings.
  • Using Plumbing Tools and Equipment: Becoming proficient in using a variety of hand and power tools used in plumbing work.
  • Safety Practices: Understanding and implementing safety protocols to protect yourself and others while working on plumbing projects.
  • Backflow Prevention: Installing devices to prevent the backflow of contaminated water into the potable water supply.
  • Gas Line Work: Learning to work with gas pipes, fittings, and appliances, ensuring safe gas supply in buildings.
  • Green Plumbing Practices: Gaining knowledge of eco-friendly and sustainable plumbing methods to promote water conservation.
  • Problem-Solving: Developing critical thinking skills to troubleshoot and solve complex plumbing issues.
  • Customer Service: Learning how to communicate effectively with clients, understand their needs, and provide professional service.
  • Time Management: Managing your time efficiently to complete projects within deadlines.
  • Teamwork: Collaborating with other tradespeople and professionals on construction sites to coordinate plumbing installations.
  • Building Codes and Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local plumbing codes and regulations to ensure compliance in all projects.
  • Estimation and Cost Calculation: Understanding how to estimate project costs and materials required for plumbing installations and repairs.

Classroom Training Through Vocational School

In addition to on-the-job training, you may also attend classroom-based instruction to learn about plumbing theory, codes, safety practices, and other relevant topics. Additionally, a vocational school can prepare you for certification exams, enhancing your professional credibility, and may offer connections to local businesses, potentially aiding in job placement afterward. Overall, vocational schooling provides a comprehensive foundation that can accelerate your entry into the profession and promote career success.

Licensing and Certifications

Depending on your location, you may need to obtain a plumbing license or pass certification exams to work independently as a plumber.

What are the Plumbing Certifications in the USA?

The specific requirements for becoming a certified plumber can vary depending on state and local regulations.

Generally, there are two primary certifications or licenses that plumbers may need:

  • Journeyman Plumber License: To become a journeyman plumber, you typically need to complete an apprenticeship program, which includes a specified number of on-the-job training hours (usually several thousand) and classroom instruction. After completing the apprenticeship, you may need to pass a journeyman plumber examination, which tests your knowledge and skills in plumbing.
  • Master Plumber License: Once you have obtained your journeyman plumber license and gained additional work experience (usually a few years), you can apply for a master plumber license. The requirements for a master plumber license vary by state but often include a combination of work experience, successful completion of a master plumber examination, and adherence to specific codes and regulations.
Is it Difficult to Pass the Journeyman Plumber Examination?

The difficulty of the journeyman plumber examination can vary depending on several factors, including the specific content of your exam, your level of preparation, and your prior experience and knowledge in the plumbing field.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Content of the Exam: The content of the journeyman plumber examination typically covers a wide range of plumbing topics, including plumbing codes, regulations, systems, fixtures, calculations, and safety practices. The depth and complexity of the exam can vary by state or licensing board.
  • Preparation: Your level of preparation plays a significant role in determining the difficulty of the exam. If you have completed a comprehensive apprenticeship program and have dedicated time to study and review relevant materials, you’ll likely be better equipped to handle the exam.
  • Experience: Prior hands-on experience as an apprentice can give you practical knowledge that can be beneficial in the examination. Real-world exposure to plumbing tasks can help you understand the concepts better.
  • Study Resources: The availability and quality of study resources, such as textbooks, online courses, practice exams, and review materials, can greatly impact your preparedness for the exam.
  • Test-Taking Skills: Your ability to manage time, read and understand questions, and apply critical thinking during the exam can also affect your performance.
Is it Difficult to Pass the Master Plumber Examination?

The difficulty of the master plumber examination can vary depending on the state or local jurisdiction’s specific requirements and the content of the exam. Generally, the master plumber examination is more challenging than the journeyman plumber examination because it tests a deeper level of knowledge, expertise, and experience in the plumbing field.

Here are some factors to consider regarding the difficulty of the master plumber examination:

  • Comprehensive Knowledge: The master plumber examination typically covers a broader range of topics than the journeyman exam. It may include advanced plumbing principles, complex calculations, design considerations, and managerial aspects related to running a plumbing business.
  • Practical Experience: To become a master plumber, you usually need to meet specific work experience requirements beyond what is required for a journeyman license. This means you are expected to have a more extensive practical understanding of plumbing systems, installations, and troubleshooting.
  • Rigorous Preparation: Proper preparation is crucial to passing the master plumber examination. You may need to invest more time and effort in studying, reviewing codebooks, and practicing problem-solving to ensure you’re fully prepared.
  • Code Knowledge: Familiarity with plumbing codes and regulations is essential for the master plumber examination. Code requirements may be more complex and nuanced at the master level.
  • Time Constraints: The time allowed for the master plumber examination might be limited, adding to the pressure and challenge of completing the test successfully.

What’s the Career Outlook for Plumbers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was projected to grow by 2% from 2021 to 2031, which is slower than the average for all occupations.

The demand for plumbers is expected to be driven by factors such as population growth, increased construction of new buildings and infrastructure, and the need for regular maintenance and repairs in existing plumbing systems. Additionally, the emphasis on water efficiency and eco-friendly plumbing practices is likely to create opportunities for plumbers who are knowledgeable in green plumbing technologies.

Plumber Popular Career Specialties

What Are the Job Opportunities of a Plumber?

Plumbing is a diverse field, and there are various job opportunities and specialties that you can pursue based on your interests, skills, and career goals.

Some of the different job opportunities and specialties for a plumber include:

  • Residential Plumber: You specialize in residential plumbing installations, repairs, and maintenance, serving homeowners and small residential properties.
  • Commercial Plumber: You will work on plumbing systems in commercial buildings, including offices, retail spaces, hotels, and restaurants.
  • Industrial Plumber: Focuses on large-scale plumbing systems in industrial facilities such as factories, manufacturing plants, and warehouses.
  • Service Plumber: Provides emergency plumbing services and repairs for customers facing urgent plumbing issues.
  • Construction Plumber: You will work on plumbing installations in new construction projects, including residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
  • Green Plumber: You specialize in eco-friendly and sustainable plumbing practices, promoting water conservation and energy efficiency.
  • Gas Fitter: Specializes in the installation, repair, and maintenance of gas lines and appliances.
  • Backflow Prevention Specialist: Ensures that backflow prevention devices are installed and maintained correctly to protect potable water supplies.
  • Fire Protection Plumber: Installs and maintains fire sprinkler systems in buildings to protect against fire hazards.
  • Pipefitter: Works with various types of pipes and fittings, both in plumbing and industrial applications.
  • Water Heater Technician: You specialize in the installation and repair of water heaters, including tankless and traditional water heater systems.
  • Drainage Specialist: Focuses on designing and installing efficient drainage systems to manage wastewater effectively.
  • Plumbing Inspector: You will work for government agencies or private firms to inspect plumbing installations in buildings and ensure compliance with plumbing codes and regulations.
  • Estimator/Project Manager: Manages plumbing projects, including estimating project costs, coordinating resources, and overseeing the execution of plumbing installations.

What Type of Companies Hire a Plumber?

Plumbers are hired by a wide range of companies and organizations that require plumbing services for their operations or facilities.

Some of the types of companies that hire plumbers include:

  • Plumbing Companies: Specialized plumbing companies may hire you to provide a range of plumbing services to residential, commercial, and industrial clients.
  • Construction Companies: General construction companies often have a plumbing division that may hire you to handle plumbing installations in new buildings and renovation projects.
  • Property Management Companies: Companies that manage residential and commercial properties will hire you to handle maintenance, repairs, and plumbing emergencies for their properties.
  • Facilities Management Companies: Facilities management companies hire plumbers like yourself to maintain the plumbing systems in buildings and facilities under their management.
  • Industrial Facilities: Industrial facilities, such as factories, manufacturing plants, and warehouses, may hire you to maintain and repair complex plumbing systems within their operations.
  • Energy Companies: Some energy companies hire plumbers to work on gas lines and plumbing systems related to energy production and distribution.
  • Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities: Hospitals and healthcare facilities hire plumbers to ensure the proper functioning of plumbing systems critical for patient care and safety.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities may have plumbing departments that hire plumbers to maintain their campuses’ plumbing systems.
  • Hospitality Industry: Hotels, resorts, and restaurants will hire you to handle plumbing installations and maintenance for their facilities.
  • Real Estate Development Companies: Companies involved in real estate development will employ you to work on plumbing installations for their projects.
  • Municipal Agencies: Local government and municipal authorities will hire you for various projects, including maintenance of public facilities, schools, and infrastructure.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Plumber?

The work-life balance of a plumber can vary depending on factors such as the type of employment (self-employed, employed by a company, or part of a union), the specific industry they work in (residential, commercial, industrial), the size of the plumbing company, and the demands of the job.

Generally, plumbers often experience a moderate to good work-life balance compared to some other professions. Here are some aspects that may impact a plumber’s work-life balance:

  • Working Hours: As a plumber you may work regular hours in some cases, especially if you are employed by larger companies. However, emergency situations and on-call work can disrupt a predictable schedule, especially for those in service-based roles.
  • Seasonal Variation: Workloads can fluctuate seasonally, with increased demand during colder months for pipe repairs and during the construction season for new installations.
  • Physical Demands: Plumbing can be physically demanding, and the intensity of work can impact your energy levels and time for personal activities.
  • Self-Employment vs. Employment: Self-employed plumbers may have more flexibility in setting their own schedules, but they may also need to handle administrative tasks and face greater uncertainties in workload.
  • Career Advancement: As you gain experience and move into supervisory or management roles, you may have more control over your schedule and workload.

Should I become a Plumber?

Whether or not you should become a plumber depends on your interests, strengths, and long-term goals. If you enjoy working with your hands, have an aptitude for problem-solving, and desire a career that offers job stability and a sense of accomplishment, plumbing may be the perfect fit for you.

The plumbing industry offers a promising career outlook, with steady demand for skilled plumbers driven by factors like population growth, construction projects, and the need for regular maintenance and repairs. Additionally, the rising importance of water efficiency and green plumbing practices presents an exciting avenue for plumbers who wish to contribute to environmental sustainability.

While the path to becoming a plumber may not require a traditional college degree, it does demand dedication, practical training, and a commitment to continuous learning. Plumbers play a vital role in maintaining the comfort and functionality of our homes and communities, making it a profession with both personal fulfillment and practical impact.

Careers Related to Plumber

Lace Brunsden

About the Author

Read more articles by Lace Brunsden