How to Be a Plumber

Three Methods:Preparing Through SchoolJoining an Apprentice ProgramGetting Licensed

Despite the image of a man in low-rise pants, to be a plumber requires specialized training. Plumbers install and repair fixtures and appliances that are connected to a home or business' water system. To be a plumber requires an ability to read blueprints, a knowledge of pipe and construction materials, and a knowledge of water-conservation techniques.

Method 1
Preparing Through School

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    Take relevant classes. Even in high school, you can take certain classes that will prepare you for plumbing. A number of high schools offer vocational training for upperclassmen. Ideal courses would be in plumbing and heating. You can still prepare yourself by enrolling in classes in math, physics, and computer technology.[1]
    • You may also want to take classes in drafting and blueprint reading, if your school offers them.
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    Get your high school diploma or GED. You’re required to complete high school or get your GED to enroll in vocational training and apprenticeships. People working in your school’s career center may have connections and available programs for you.
    • Take advantage of the resources available to you.
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    Research higher education. Survey the available community colleges in your area. Depending on the school, you may be able to attend any state community college. Pick a school that has a program that specializes in plumbing. Some schools offer one year vocational degrees while others offer a two associate's degree.[2]
    • If you’re unsure about the options available, talk to your high school’s counseling services. Certain high schools have resources for advising and contacting colleges.
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    Enroll in vocational training. Once you find a plumbing program at a trade school, technical or community college, you’ll need to sign up for classes. You'll earn a certificate that covers water supply and drainage systems, as well as piping equipment. It is not necessary to get a degree in plumbing, but many companies and state agencies prefer it.
    • Not all plumbers get their vocational training in this manner.
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    Take specialty programs. Depending on the school you decide on, you might be able to take courses that specialize in niche areas of study. There is a major shift towards water conservation today and many businesses want plumbers who specialize in this.

Method 2
Joining an Apprentice Program

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    Research and apply to local plumbing companies. Some private companies offer apprenticeships to those willing to learn. Make your resume and try to list relevant skills and jobs that retain to being a plumber. It’s okay if you’ve never had a plumbing job, but a job in customer service will look good. Include your plumbing degree if you received one.[3]
    • Print off copies of your resumes and bring them to the managers of plumbing companies. Even if a company isn’t hiring, they’ll probably still take your resume and appreciate your effort.
    • An important part of your resume is to show that you can keep a job for over six months.
    • Never lie about the information you give to a prospective company. They’d rather work with no experience than a liar.
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    Apply to a plumber’s union. Unions can be difficult to join as an apprentice, but the training and experience will be beneficial. Research local unions and then consider the United Association (UA). UA is a long recognized union that branches beyond plumbing. There are opportunities for a union to provide classes and even opportunities for obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree.[4]
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    Work with a pro. Part the apprenticeship program is working day to day with someone who has already gone through the steps you're going through. Some apprenticeships assign you one mentor to work with, while others offer a rotating support group of experienced plumbers. Take as much away from these figures because you won't always have them around on the job.
    • Most apprenticeships will pay you while working under the program.
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    Work in the classroom. All apprenticeship programs require a certain amount of classwork. Subjects can range from trade mathematics, technical blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, computer science, water supply, drainage, code interpretation, and more. Certain programs will send you to local community colleges and have a member from the American Council of Education to evaluate your progress.[5]
    • Some programs will pay for you to go through school and give you the chance to earn an Associates in Science.
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    Complete an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs generally offer the most comprehensive training on becoming a plumber. They are usually administered jointly by either plumbers' unions or by non-union contractor organizations. Be prepared to put in the work while considering an apprenticeship.
    • Apprenticeships run 4 to 5 years beginning with basic plumbing skills and advance to more sophisticated work, covering all aspects of the trade.

Method 3
Getting Licensed

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    Research your state’s requirements. Plumbing licenses are not issued by the federal government. Each state administers a different application for becoming licensed. You’ll need to find out which government entity issues the license. Then you’ll need to figure out what education and work experience is required.
    • Most states use the state government to issue licenses, but some are deemed at the local level (county, city, or town) like New York.[6]
    • Certain states issue the license, but then some local governments set different requirements like Chicago.
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    Understand the factions of licenses. Different states and local governments will require different levels of plumbing licenses. For most metropolitan areas, you’ll be required to hold the highest level. These are some of the degrees of licenses:
    • Apprentice plumber does not need a license because she is in training to eventually hold a license.
    • Journeyman plumbing license requires at least fours years training under a master plumber.
    • Master plumbing license usually has the most rigorous requirements. You’ll typically already have a journeyman plumbing license as well as need letters of recommendation.[7]
    • Every states holds different requirements for these licenses.
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    Apply for the license. Once you consult your state's website, check over all the requirements and be sure you meet them. Some states have their applications online while others require you to fill them out by hand.
    • Have a record of all your past plumbing experience and have a few references for your file.
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    Study for the exam. Once you apply to the license that you’re qualified for, you’ll receive a packet of practice tests. Prepare by taking time in reviewing the practice materials and spend as much time as it takes till you understand everything.
    • It is best to keep your notes and textbooks from your apprenticeship to study.
    • Try not to cut corners and instead absorb the given material.
    • The exam will be anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours depending on what license you're applying for.[8]
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    Get licensed. Once you build up your application and complete all the requirements deemed by your state, you’re ready to take the exam. Being licensed is required to work independently as a plumber.
    • It is important to understand the materials on the exam because your license will expire at some point. When your license expires you'll need to reapply to keep your title.


  • Plumbers can also seek additional training and certification in a plumbing specialty. An increasingly popular area of specialization is in green plumbing techniques, designed to save both water and energy.

Article Info

Categories: Plumbing Drains Waste and Vents