Construction: Educational Requirements for Becoming a Plumber
Plumbers install, service and repair water and gas systems for homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities. These tradesmen generally begin as apprentices, learning the required skills and techniques for several years before advancing to journeymen.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most plumbers are trained through apprenticeships, because these programs offer the most comprehensive training in the field (www.bls.gov). Apprenticeships may be available through local branches of contractor organizations and unions, like the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry. Programs generally last 4 to 5 years and combines classroom instruction with paid, on-the-job training.
Classroom training generally lasts between 500 and 750 hours. Coursework begins with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training courses. First-year requirements may also include completing first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training. Thereafter, apprentices take courses in mathematics, blueprint reading and plumbing basics, including instruction on pipes, valves and fittings. Intermediate courses in apprenticeship programs often cover a host of topics ranging from gas lines to bathtubs.
Most apprenticeships require completing 7,500 to 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Working with journeymen and master plumbers, apprentices learn to cut holes in studs, walls and floors, as well as install piping and fixtures. They're trained to use soldering irons and power tools, like reciprocating saws. Additionally, apprentices receive instruction in plumbing and building codes, dealing with clients and answering questions for inspectors.
Once formal training is complete, apprentices become journeymen plumbers. Most states require journeymen plumbers to be licensed. Although requirements vary, the BLS reports that most states require 2 to 5 years of experience and successful completion of a state board examination. Continuing education is generally required in order to keep the license current.
Career and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a faster than average job growth for plumbers, steamfitters and pipefitters for the years 2010 through 2020. These workers earned $49,140 as a median annual wage in 2012, according to the BLS.
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