Essential Skills and Tools: What You Need to Start Your Career as a Plumber

Plumbers install and repair plumbing systems that supply water, drain waste and regulate indoor climate. Their duties include laying pipes, fixing sinks and toilets and locating leaks or blockages.

You can become a plumber by enrolling in a formal apprenticeship program or getting on-the-job training with a master plumber. Other qualifications may include certifications and professional memberships. Click to learn more.

Education and Training


Plumbers deal with plumbing systems and sewer lines, which are essential to the function of every building and must be kept in good condition. This is a skilled trade, and most states require that plumbers complete extensive training in order to work legally. Those who are interested in becoming plumbers should seek out education and apprenticeship opportunities at technical schools or through local trade programs. These programs usually last four or five years and allow apprentices to earn while learning.

In addition to classroom and lab work, these programs often include hands-on experience in a variety of different plumbing situations. These experiences can help prepare apprentices for the many tasks they will encounter on the job, including reading blueprints and designing plumbing systems. Additionally, some programs may offer students the opportunity to take business classes, which can be helpful if you plan to start your own plumbing company in the future.

After completing their education and apprenticeships, prospective plumbers can apply for licenses in their state or municipality. However, the licensing requirements vary from state to state. While some may only require that you pass an exam, others have more rigorous requirements, including two or five years of experience and a background check.

Once licensed, plumbers can work in a variety of different environments, including residential, commercial, and industrial. They can also choose to specialize in one area or pursue a more general career path. In addition to gaining hands-on experience, plumbers can also improve their chances of getting a job by building a network of professional contacts.

As plumbing systems become increasingly complex, plumbers must continue to update their skills. This means that they must frequently attend continuing education courses to stay abreast of changes in regulations and technologies. These courses are sometimes offered through their employers or trade schools, but they can also be found online. Additionally, some manufacturers offer training on specific products and systems that may be useful to plumbers. This type of training is especially beneficial for plumbers who want to specialize in certain areas. Continuing education can also help keep plumbers safe by teaching them how to recognize potential hazards and take the proper safety precautions.

Licensing Requirements

Most states and municipalities require plumbers to have a license before they can start work. There are several routes to get one, including completing an apprenticeship program, attending a vocational school or earning a college degree. Most plumbers learn their trade through an apprenticeship program under other professional plumbers. Some also take community college courses to increase their knowledge of plumbing, gas piping, sewers and other technical subjects. Regardless of the route taken to become a licensed plumber, an applicant should understand that state requirements vary and local regulations might have additional stipulations.

For example, the City of New York requires a master plumber to pass a written and practical exam. The written exam consists of multiple-choice questions that assess your understanding of NYC Constructions Codes, rules and regulations. The passing score is seventy (70) percent. Those who fail the written test can retake it after three years.

The city also requires a master plumber to pass a practical exam that tests his or her ability to properly install plumbing systems in single-family homes. The city provides a step-by-step guide on its website to help applicants prepare for the exam.

Besides meeting the educational and training requirements, a plumber must be physically fit and mentally alert to complete plumbing jobs. They should have good communication skills to listen to customer concerns and explain complex plumbing issues. They must be able to work as part of a team to perform installations and repair jobs. In addition, they must be able to read blueprints and other technical documents to correctly complete plumbing jobs.

As the need for licensed plumbers increases, there are more opportunities to find employment. However, prospective plumbers must remember that the competition is stiff, and if they want to be successful, they must continue to improve their technical skills and gain experience.

To stay competitive, some plumbing professionals have begun to add new technologies to their arsenal of tools and services. These include software solutions that allow them to track customer calls and provide reports to clients. Some also offer mobile payment acceptance, which eliminates the need for customers to carry cash or checks and speeds up the process of getting paid.


Plumbers must earn various certifications and licenses to work legally in their field. These can include a journeyman plumber’s license, master plumber’s license, and specialized certifications for gasfitting or water heater installation. There are also continuing education courses available to help plumbers keep up with industry best practices. Additional training and certifications can increase a plumber’s job prospects, salary, and marketability.

Certification requirements vary by state and locality, but many states require plumbers to pass a licensing exam. These exams often test the skills and knowledge learned during on-the-job experience, and may consist of both a written and practical portion. To prepare for these exams, plumbers can take preparatory courses, study plumbing textbooks and guides, and practice with friend or family members who are licensed plumbers.

In addition to the licensing and certification requirements, many plumbers must complete continuing education (CE) courses to maintain their licenses and stay up-to-date on new laws and safety standards. These courses can be found at many vocational schools, community colleges, and trade organizations. Many of these classes are offered online and can be taken at the convenience of a plumber’s schedule.

After gaining enough on-the-job experience, some plumbers choose to advance in their careers and become construction supervisors or project managers. This career path can be rewarding for those who are detail-oriented and have strong leadership skills. Some plumbers even choose to open their own private contracting businesses.

Some state and local governments set minimum licensing standards for plumbers, and may require applicants to pass a background check and drug screening to be licensed. For example, the city of New York City requires all plumbers to be licensed with the Department of Buildings, and must have at least 18 months of apprenticeship experience and pass a plumbing examination. Other cities and counties have similar but less stringent licensing procedures. Statewide, a license is available through the Illinois Department of Public Health, which requires sponsorship by a licensed plumber and a minimum of six years of apprenticeship training. Plumbers in Illinois must also pass a plumbing exam and complete backflow prevention device testing.

Job Outlook

Keeping the plumbing system in homes and businesses working properly is essential for daily life, as well as to protect against water-borne diseases. Plumbers significantly contribute to society by maintaining these systems and ensuring that people have access to fresh water and can eliminate waste safely.

Because of this, the job outlook for a plumber is positive. This is especially true in regions where there is a lot of construction activity. The demand for plumbers also remains steady even when the economy is slow, as people will always need to have their pipes repaired or replaced.

Plumbing jobs are typically very hands-on, requiring strong problem-solving skills and a variety of tools to perform duties. This can make the work challenging and exciting at the same time, depending on the individual’s strengths and interests. Plumbers can also earn competitive wages, with the potential to advance their careers and become master plumbers.

Plumbers who choose to become independent contractors have more control over their work schedules and choice of projects. They may also be able to charge higher hourly rates and establish their own plumbing businesses, increasing their earning potential. However, the job can be very physically demanding and requires the ability to work in uncomfortable positions and tight spaces. Plumbers must be punctual and willing to respond to calls during off-hours, as their services are highly needed in times of emergency.

As a plumber, you’ll need to stay on top of the latest technologies to ensure that your services are up-to-date and effective. This can require additional training and certifications, which can be a drain on your wallet. In addition, the work can be very fast-paced and stressful, so it’s important to have good stress management techniques.

The average American works well into their 60s, so it’s best to find a career that’s enjoyable and offers solid opportunities for advancement. Plumbers are in high demand, offering above-average salaries when compared to other trades. This makes them a great option for people who are looking to start a new career or move up the ladder in a different field.