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Plumbers: Employment Info & Requirements

Many plumbers are self-employed or work for companies that specialize in plumbing and other duct and pipe work. Learn about the training, skills, salary and job outlook to see if this is the occupation for you.

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Career Definition for a Plumber

Plumbers install, repair and maintain the pipe systems that are used to carry water, steam and air. Plumbers work on such fixtures as toilets, bathtubs and sinks. After a fixture is repaired or installed, plumbers check the pipes for leakage to ensure that water isn't escaping and potentially causing damage.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Necessary Skills Ability to read and understand blueprints, mechanical skills, communication, business knowledge
Median Salary (2015)* $50,620
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 12%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Prospective plumbers are required to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, most plumbers are trained through apprenticeship programs. These programs can last anywhere from four to five years, and trainees will learn all the necessary plumbing skills, such as materials, fittings, grades and different types of pipes. After going through an apprenticeship program, prospective plumbers will need to take a test in order to be licensed.

Skills Required

The field of plumbing involves installing and repairing a wide variety of piping systems and equipment. A majority of the work is found in the commercial segment of building and construction. It is essential that plumbers know how to read blueprints in order to understand the layout of a property and to determine the potential plumbing problems. Plumbers need to know how to use different types of tools, such as benders, drills, reamers, hammers, chisels and snakes, to complete specific jobs. Some plumbers work on a freelance or contract basis, and any business and communication skills they can develop will be highly beneficial.

Economic and Career Outlook

Career opportunities for plumbers include working with contractors on a freelance basis, though more plumbers find employment in factories or with companies and plants doing maintenance work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) shows that in May 2015, the median yearly salary for plumbers was $50,620. As a general rule, plumbers working in repair and maintenance tend to have stable and secure job opportunities, since it is a skilled trade that can't be outsourced or done away with even during economic downturns.

Alternate Career Options

Many skills you need to become a plumber will help prepare you for careers in other areas.

Construction and Building Inspectors

Those interested in ensuring that new construction or repairs follow specifications, codes and zoning regulations might be interested in a career as an inspector. Most of the skills can be learned on the job, but applicants with architecture or engineering backgrounds might have the best prospects. Some locations require certifications or licensing. The BLS predicted an 8% increase in jobs, which is about average for all occupations, from 2014-2024. It reported a median yearly salary of $57,340 for construction and building inspectors as of May 2015.

Construction Managers

Manager hopefuls might get into this occupation with high school diplomas or associate's degrees, along with construction experience. However, many employers look for managers with bachelor's degrees in construction science or other related fields. Average employment growth of 5% from 2014-2024 was projected by the BLS. In 2015, construction managers earned a median annual salary of $87,400, the BLS said.

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