Learn About Being a Plumber
Updated January 26, 2023
What does a plumber do?
Plumbers install, maintain and repair residential and commercial plumbing systems that supply the property with water and gas and carry away waste. The key responsibilities of a plumber typically include:
Installing plumbing systems — including pipes and fixtures — in new construction and rehab residential and commercial properties
Performing routine maintenance of plumbing systems in residential and commercial buildings
Responding to plumbing emergencies and service calls from the general contracting team
Inspecting equipment and performing tests to determine the cause and location of trouble
Making recommendations and communicating estimated costs of installations and repairs to customers
Working alongside other construction workers and helping get necessary permits for plumbing work
Adhering to current rules and regulations related to plumbing so systems pass inspection the first time
Your specific responsibilities as a plumber will vary based on the industry you are in and the size of the job.
Plumbers may work full-time or part-time schedules. Their salaries vary depending on their level of education and relevant work experience, the company size and geographic location. These professionals may also earn additional compensation in the form of overtime. Some plumbers are members of labor unions that negotiate wages on their behalf and they must pay membership fees to these unions. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.
Common salary in the U.S.: $24.30 per hour
Some salaries range from $7.25 to $54.95 per hour.
The requirements to secure a position as a plumber may vary depending on factors such as the industry the job is in. The requirements typically include:
Plumbers need a minimum of a high school diploma or GED to get into a plumbing apprenticeship program. Once you are done completing a plumbing apprenticeship program your knowledge typically includes an understanding of the technical plumbing and construction skills needed to be successful in the role, industry safety guidelines and local codes and regulations.
Most plumbers learn the specific skills related to their role in their apprenticeship program. These programs typically last between four and five years and include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
Most states require plumbers to get licensed to work independently. Plumbers can also earn certifications to gain more career advancement opportunities. The typical licensing and popular certifications for plumbers are as follows:
State journeyman licensure
To get this license, you must have completed a plumbing apprenticeship program and must also have a certain amount of on-the-job experience. The amount of time you need to gain work experience before earning licensure varies based on the state you live in. Once you have met the minimum requirements for your state, you will need to pass the journeyman licensing exam. Then, you may need to complete continuing education requirements to maintain your licensure.
Certified Plumbing Design Technician (CPDT)
The American Society of Plumbing Engineers offers this certification to provide professional recognition to individuals who meet the required qualifications to design plumbing systems. Recipients must meet work experience requirements, pass an exam and complete continuing education requirements. They must renew their certification every two years.
International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) certification
The IAPMO offers the Commercial Plumbing Inspector certification, Plumbing Plans Examiner certification and Residential Plumbing Inspector certification. To achieve any of these certifications, individuals must meet work experience requirements, pass an exam and complete continuing education requirements. They need to renew their certification every three years.
STAR Plumbing Mastery certification
To get this certification, you must show mastery of the trade and have experience in several areas of the industry such as design, installation, maintenance and repair of various systems. You must also have a thorough understanding of national, state and local plumbing codes and laws. Individuals with this certification must meet work experience requirements, pass an exam and renew their certification every five years.
STAR Steamfitting-Pipefitting Mastery certifications
To earn this certification you must show mastery of the trade and have experience in fabricating, preparing, rigging and installing pipes, tubing and equipment. You must also show your ability to follow plans, specifications and standard pipefitting practices while complying with local and jurisdictional codes to complete the project safely. Individuals with this certification must meet work experience requirements, pass an exam and renew their certification every five years.
Plumbers need a combination of hard and soft skills to succeed in their roles. Some of the most common skills for these professionals include:
These skills involve the ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally by using active listening, observing, speaking and empathizing. They are critical for plumbers to have because they need a clear understanding of what the client wants and expects. They also need to be able to clearly make recommendations and provide customers with price estimates.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
These skills involve the ability to break a problem down into its parts, find the source of an issue and make recommendations on the solution. Plumbers need the ability to analyze information when they are working on repairs to find the root of the problem and provide appropriate solutions.
Plumbers need certain industry-specific skills and knowledge to properly complete their work, such as blueprint reading, installation and repair of plumbing pipes and fixtures and understanding industry-specific codes and regulations. They must also have familiarity with the tools and materials needed to properly complete their job responsibilities.
Attention to detail
Plumbers need to pay close attention to details to ensure they properly complete their projects without leaving errors behind in their work.
This involves the ability to balance and prioritize projects in a manner that helps you complete your work on time while also maintaining a work-life balance. Experienced plumbers often spend a good portion of their workday alone and without direct supervision. This means they must be able to work efficiently to get their projects completed by their deadlines without being told what to do.
Physical strength and stamina
Plumbing is a physically demanding job that requires the ability to stand, sit, bend and lay down while working in tight spaces on pipes and fixtures for long periods of time. Plumbers need to have the physical strength and stamina to meet the demands of the job without getting hurt.
Plumber work environment
Plumbers typically work indoors but may also work outdoors in a variety of work environments that usually involve tight spaces. Some plumbers work on residential homes and buildings while others work on commercial or industrial buildings. Some plumbers work on both residential and commercial or industrial buildings.
Plumbing is a physically demanding job that requires extensive standing, bending, kneeling and reaching. A plumber’s work environment may include exposure to various weather conditions and uncomfortable positions. These professionals often have to be available on-call for emergencies. Weekend, evening and overtime hours are common.
How to become a plumber
Here are the steps you should take to become a plumber:
1. Get your education.
You need to have a high school diploma or GED before you can join a plumbing apprenticeship program. Important course work includes math and communications to help you calculate project costs and communicate with clients.
2. Complete a plumbing apprenticeship program.
All plumbers must complete an apprenticeship program that combines classroom instruction and paid on-the-job training. These programs typically take between four and five years to complete and teach the fundamental technical skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the role.
3. Get experience.
The level of experience or training you need will vary depending on the size of the job and the company you are applying for. Some employers prefer candidates who have already completed their plumbing apprenticeship program and have gotten their license, while other employers may hire you as a plumber helper while you work your way through a plumbing apprenticeship program.
4. Earn your journeyman license.
Each state has its own requirements for licensing, so you will need to research the requirements for your area. Most states require plumbers to have a license before they can work independently. States typically require you to have a certain amount of work experience, usually between two and four years, in addition to having completed a plumbing apprenticeship program. While you are gaining the experience you need to qualify for licensure, you must work alongside a licensed journeyman.
5. Get certifications.
Certifications help you prove your industry knowledge, skill and experience. The plumbing industry has multiple certifications that can help you stand out to employers as the best candidate and can help you advance your career.
Plumber job description example
Our construction company is seeking a licensed and experienced plumber to join our rapidly growing team. In this position, the plumber will be responsible for all aspects of the installation, maintenance, inspection and repair of the plumbing systems in new and rehab residential and commercial properties. The ideal candidate will have five or more years of experience as a plumber. The successful candidate will have a thorough understanding of local and state codes, regulations and safety practices and will be an excellent communicator who is deadline-oriented. We offer competitive pay, a comprehensive benefits package and consistent, long-term work.
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