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How Do You Become a Professional Plumber?

You’re interested in becoming a plumber...smart choice! Even in a slow economy, people need plumbing services. Plumbing is also a highly skilled trade that can’t plumbing tools, pipes, blueprints
easily be outsourced or automated.                                                              

So how do you become a professional plumber? The requirements vary from state to state, and the specific training path you take will depend on the apprenticeships and programs available to you. However, here’s the basic process.

Step 1: Get Your High School Diploma or GED

Time Frame: 4 Years

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for vocational courses and plumbing apprenticeships later on. The courses you take in high school will set the groundwork for a successful plumbing career.

Helpful courses to take include:

  • Math (algebra and geometry)
  • Science (physics)
  • Computers/CAD

Hit those books! As the plumbing industry becomes more competitive, your ACT score (especially the math portion) may be a factor in whether or not you get a good apprenticeship.

Step 2: Complete Plumbing Training

To become a professional plumber, you must complete a certain number of hours of both classroom work and on-the-job training. (The number of hours varies by where you live.) This is usually done through an apprenticeship program, and you may also choose to take plumbing courses at an accredited trade school or college.

Accredited Program at a Trade School, Vo-Tech or Community College

Time Frame: 6 Months to 1 Year for a Certificate; 2 Years for an Associates Degree

You don’t need a college degree to become a professional plumber. Still, there are good reasons why you may want or need to complete coursework at an accredited trade school or college.

  • Some plumbing apprenticeships require coursework before you apply.
  • Many schools can help match you with a good apprenticeship.
  • Apprenticeships require a certain number of classroom hours. You may be able to apply accredited coursework towards those hours. (Make sure to confirm this with both the school and the apprenticeship program before enrolling!)
  • Not all apprenticeships offer the required classroom courses, so you’ll need to get those through an accredited plumbing program.

Coursework typically includes:

  • Water supply and drainage systems
  • Piping equipment
  • Tool use and care
  • OSHA safety training
  • Drafting
  • Blueprint reading
  • Math
  • Applied physics
  • Plumbing codes and regulations

Plumbing Apprenticeship

Time Frame: Typically 4 - 5 Years

Apprenticeship programs combine classroom learning* with hands-on, real-world training working with licensed plumbers. Apprentices usually earn wages, too, so you’re paid as you train.

Who offers apprenticeships:

  • Local chapters of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada
  • Plumbers And Pipefitters Local Unions
  • Other union and non-union organizations
  • Some plumbing companies and master plumbers who own their own business

Apprenticeships offer comprehensive plumbing training, including:

  • Proper tool use
  • Fabrication
  • Piping methods
  • Blueprint reading
  • Safety procedures
  • Local codes and regulations
  • Applied mathematics and science
  • Sewage disposal
  • Piping
  • Household maintenance
  • Installation and repairs 

* Not all apprenticeships provide the classroom portion of the training. In that case, you’d need to obtain the required hours through an accredited trade school or college program.

Who is eligible for an apprenticeship?

Plumbing apprenticeships are open to individuals at least 18 years old, who have a high school diploma or GED. (Some apprenticeships allow 17-year-olds if they have graduated high school.)

Competition for apprenticeship spots can be high. You may be required to take an aptitude test, and your ACT or other high school testing scores may be considered.

Other requirements or considerations may include:

  • A clean driving record
  • Valid driver’s license/state ID
  • Pass a drug test

Step 4: Get Licensed as a Journeyman Plumber

Most states require a plumber’s license. The requirements for getting a license vary depending on where you live, but they generally include meeting a minimum number of working hours as a plumber and taking an exam.

Once you’ve met your required classroom and on-the-job hours, you can register to take the exam. You can prepare by taking provided practice exams and reviewing prep guides.

Once you’ve passed the exam, you are officially a licensed journeyman plumber!

Step 5: Advance in Your Career

The next step on your career path as a professional plumber is to become a master plumber. This requires anywhere from 1 to 5 more years of field experience depending on where you live, and involves taking a second exam.

Resources found on our website are provided as general guidelines, and Raby Plumbing does not assume any liability resulting from the provided information.

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