If you plan to complete a formal educational program and then enter into a plumbing apprenticeship, you will spending the next several years of your life in training. Granted much of that training will be paid on-the-job experience, but a lot of it will also be spent in the classroom or plumbing laboratory. Regardless of whether you attend a technical school or a community college, the core knowledge and skills you acquire will be standard. So, what will you be learning in plumbing school?
The National Center for Construction Education and Research is a non-profit organization that develops curriculums and accredits programs for the construction industry. Although the specific requirements vary by state, many states, including Louisiana and New Hampshire, use the NCCER plumbing curriculum as the basis for their programs.
In terms of general education, plumbers must be proficient at intermediate-level math, have basic language skills, and be able to use computers. These skills may be tested to determine eligibility for an apprenticeship program as well as on the state-mandated licensing exams.
The first year of plumbing school usually include courses in the history of plumbing, plumbing safety, and plumbing tools. Students also get an early start learning how to read construction blueprints and plumbing drawings, and then move on to learn about pipes, fittings, fixtures, and the various types of plumbing systems found in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.
After gaining these introductory knowledge and skills, students start learning how to install, test, and repair plumbing pipes and fixtures. These tasks make up the vast majority of most plumbers’ work, so training programs focus heavily on them, with plenty of opportunity for hands-on training and practice. Students also start learning how to read and understand plumbing and building codes, which are the standards to which all plumbing projects must legally conform.
After mastering the core plumbing skills, students explore more advanced topics like sewage and drainage systems, potable (drinkable) water treatment, and plumbing for swimming pools and hot tubs. At this point in their education, students may also have the opportunity to take specialized courses in pipefitting and steamfitting. Ideally, schools will also offer courses in welding, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates will be a highly in-demand skill for plumbers.
Finally, many plumbing programs, particularly those offered by community colleges, include basic English and business courses, like communication and accounting. These skills are essential for students who wish to someday own their own plumbing or construction business.
As I’ve noted before, the educational requirements for plumbers differ across states and localities. The core curriculum presented here is fairly standard, but be sure to check the specific requirements in your area before enrolling in a plumbing program.
New Hampshire Department of Education. Plumbing curriculum, 2013-2014.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.