Plumbing is a highly specialized trade, requiring many hours of classroom education as well as on-the-job training. However, don’t worry that you will have to spend the next several years in school and not earning any money. One of the best parts about entering a trade like plumbing is that you can earn while you learn. Here is a four-step guide to becoming a plumber.
Step 1: Graduate from High School or Get a GED
Most plumbers get the majority of their education and training through an apprenticeship program, and having a high school diploma or GED is required to be eligible for an apprenticeship. While getting your high school diploma, focus on developing your basic math skills and boosting your computer skills—these are essential skills for plumbers and you will likely be required to pass a basic math test to qualify for an apprenticeship program.
Step 2: Attend a Technical School for Plumbing (Optional, but Recommended)
Graduating from a technical school is not required to become a plumber, but it is a good idea for many students. Technical schools offer courses in everything from how to read plumbing drawings and understand codes to pipes, drainage, and water supply systems. Students in these programs may also take courses in math, English, and business topics. Plumbing apprenticeship programs are highly competitive, so attending a technical school to get the basics can help give you a leg up on the competition.
Step 3: Complete an Apprenticeship Program
Apprenticeship is a time-honored method of learning a trade. It combines classroom education with on-the-job training. In most states, apprenticeships last four to five years and require up to about 250 hours of classroom education and 2000 hours of practical training per year. It may sound like a long time, but unlike other formal training courses, apprenticeships are paid, so students can earn a living while they are learning their trade. At the end of an apprenticeship, plumbers are ready to take the exam to receive their plumber’s license.
Step 4: Pass the Licensing Exam
In most states and localities, plumbers must be licensed before they can work on their own. The requirements vary by location, but in general, plumbers must have a certain amount of experience and pass a locally accepted exam. If you participate in an approved apprenticeship program, you will likely be ready to take the exam required in your state or locality, but it’s a good idea to make sure by checking with your state licensing board.
It may sound like a lot of training, but remember that most of your hours will actually be spent on the job. So, after graduating from your technical program, the rest of your training is more like a job than school. If this sounds like the perfect path for you, explore the training opportunities available in your area.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Atlanta Technical College. Plumbing.