How to become a plumber

Published: Tuesday 9th March 2021

Male plumber workign on a sink wondering how to become a plumber

Are you thinking of becoming a plumber? You’re not alone! Thousands of Americans enter this reliable and rewarding field every year. If you want to become a plumber you need to love working with your hands and tools. Interested?

Here’s how to become a plumber.

What is a plumber?

Plumbers work to install and repair plumbing systems, usually in residential homes or offices. They install pipes that carry water and other fluids and substances. Plumbers use their skills to analyse and assess what aspects of the system are needed to be repaired or installed, and what parts are needed for the job. They work with tools like drills, saws, fitting tools, welding torches, and drain cleaners. The types of materials a plumber works with will depend on the job. For example, a plumbing installation in a residential setting may require copper, steel, or plastic pipes. Industrial settings may require a different type of material. 

Plumbers will frequently install or repair fixtures and appliances like bathtubs, toilets, dishwashers, and water heaters. They also clean drains, clear obstructions in pipework, and repair and replace broken parts. They may also help to maintain septic systems.

Plumbers tend to take on apprentices to do less complex work in exchange for training. 

You could also work as a master plumber on a construction site, helping to develop blueprints to show the placement of pipes and fixtures and ensuring that the structure’s plumbing meets building codes and stays within budget. 

What education do I need to become a plumber?

To become a plumber, you will need a high school diploma. You may also choose to take courses on subjects like pipe system design, tool use, welding, and others from a vocational college. 

Do I need any other qualifications/experience?

Young female plumber working on a sink

Most plumbers undertake an apprenticeship to become a plumber, which usually takes around 4-5 years. This work is paid and usually includes on-the-job training and technical instruction. This can include instruction on safety practices, local plumbing codes, and blueprint reading, along with other subjects like math, physics, and chemistry. Apprenticeship programs tend to be sponsored by unions, trade associations, and businesses. To complete the apprenticeship, you must complete the program in full and pass a licensing exam. Doing so will allow you to become a journey-level worker, which will allow you to do tasks independently. With several more years of experience, you can pass another test to earn master status. 

Most states require plumbers to be licensed before they can practice. You can also get certifications in subjects like plumbing design to expand your career opportunities. 

Main duties

Your duties as a plumber will vary depending on your role. However, most plumbers will:

  • Install and repair plumbing systems
  • Assess plumbing systems for what interventions may be needed
  • Assess the surrounding environment to determine what effects a plumbing system may have
  • Troubleshoot malfunctioning systems
  • Choose and order parts
  • Prepare cost estimates for clients
  • Train apprentices
  • Read blueprints and following building codes
  • Test systems to ensure they operate properly

Where are all the plumber jobs?

Male plumber workign on a sink with tools all around him

As a plumber, you can work anywhere in the country where plumbing services are needed. They can work in factories, businesses, and other places that have plumbing systems. You may have to work in tight spaces and life heavy materials. 


The median annual salary for a plumber in the US is around $55,000, though this can rise to $97,000 with experience.

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