As you have probably gathered from the intensive classroom and on-the-job training necessary to become a plumber, plumbing is a trade that requires continuous learning. Not only do plumbers need to keep up-to-date on the newest equipment and technologies, but they also need to know the latest rules and regulations that apply to their trade. Building and plumbing codes change on a regular basis, for example, to account for new rules about water and energy efficiency. So, even after graduating from a technical school, completing an apprenticeship, and getting your Journeyman Plumber’s license, you will still be expected to engage in continuing education throughout the course of your plumbing career.
Plumbers take continuing education courses for two main reasons. First, in order to renew a plumber’s license, most states require plumbers complete a certain number of hours of continuing education. For example, in Oregon a Journeyman’s license must be renewed every three years, which requires a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education, eight of which must be related to plumbing code changes. In Georgia, a minimum of four hours of continuing education is required every year to renew a plumber’s license. As with everything else related to this trade, the requirements vary by state and locality, so be sure to check the laws as they apply to you.
The good news about these types of courses, especially those related to code changes, is that unlike core plumbing training they can often be completed online and according to your own schedule. A variety of organizations, including trade associations and independent course providers, offer online continuing education for plumbers that meets state requirements for licensing renewal.
The second reason plumbers take continuing education courses is to gain specialized skills to advance their career. There are a variety of professional certification programs available for plumbers who want to become experts in certain aspects of the trade. For example, plumbers may become certified in medical gas systems, green (aka environmentally friendly) plumbing systems, or plumbing systems design. These certification programs are intended for workers who already have experience in the plumbing field and are looking to further their career. They are also appropriate for plumbers who are interested in becoming supervisors and manager on job sites. In general, earning a professional certification can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year to complete, but they usually come with a higher paycheck.
By entering the plumbing trade, you are signing up for a lifelong educational experience. Starting from the first time you enter the classroom, you will be learning every day—in class, on the job, online, from mentors and coworkers, and more. Through these educational experiences, you will keep your brain sharp and your skills up-to-date—and you will certainly never be bored!
Oregon: Licenses, Permits, and Registrations. Building codes division—Plumbing.
Georgia Plumbers’ Trade Association. Continuing education.
American Society of Sanitary Engineering. Professional certification programs.