Be a Journeyman Plumber: Training and Career Information

Mar 10, 2020

Learn how to become a journeyman plumber. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in plumbing.

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Should I Become a Journeyman Plumber?

A journeyman plumber, or journey worker, is an individual who has completed the 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program required to work alone. These professionals work with water and drainage systems in residential and commercial settings. This includes installing and maintaining sewage disposal and gas lines, as well as kitchen, bathroom and laundry fixtures or appliances.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of injuries for plumbers is higher than the national average. These professionals must take precautions to prevent burns from hot pipes and cuts from sharp tools. Many plumbers work evenings or weekends and are on-call for emergencies. Self-employment opportunities are available, and overtime is common. The median annual salary for plumbers, pipe fitters and steam fitters, as reported by the BLS in 2018, was $53,910.

Career Requirements

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; apprenticeship or trade school required
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure
Experience Apprenticeship programs of 4-5 years (provides on-the-job training)
Key Skills Solid customer service, managerial, troubleshooting and mechanical skills; expertise with plumbing tools such as drain and pipe cleaning equipment, pipe and tube cutters, pressure gauges and wrenches; physical strength; an understanding of accounting, cost estimating, business data, word processing, and computer-aided design (CAD) software
Median Salary (2018)* $53,910 (for plumbers, pipefitters and steam fitters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*

While a degree is not required, you will need some postsecondary training through an apprenticeship or trade school. An apprenticeship will usually last 4-5 years and provides on-the-job training. In addition, most states require licensure. You'll also need solid customer service, managerial, troubleshooting and mechanical skills; expertise with plumbing tools, such as drain and pipe cleaning equipment, pipe and tube cutters, pressure gauges and wrenches; physical strength; and an understanding of accounting, cost estimating, business data, word processing and computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Steps to Become a Journeyman Plumber

Let's look over what steps are required to become a journeyman plumber.

Step 1: Complete an Apprenticeship Program

According to the BLS, most plumbers begin their training through either an apprentice program or a career-training program at a community college or vocational school. A certificate or degree program in plumbing includes courses in subjects like construction materials, domestic piping, blueprint reading, cost estimating and plumbing code. However, the journeyman plumber designation usually refers to individuals who have completed an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs are usually offered through unions or private businesses as paid positions. Apprentices must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and pass drug screening and basic mathematics tests. It typically takes an apprentice 4 to 5 years to accumulate the required hours of hands-on training needed to take the journeyman licensing test.

The United Association of Journeymen (UA) offers a 5-year apprenticeship program that is divided into classroom and on-the-job training. The UA's journeyman program includes a minimum of 246 classroom hours and between 1,700-2,000 paid, on-the-job training hours. After general classes in welding, science and pipefitting, apprentices can choose a specific career-training path in plumbing. Upon completion of the 5-year training program, apprentices become journeyman plumbers and are considered qualified to work independently.

Become familiar with computer concepts. Journeyman plumbers use a variety of different computer software in their work, including accounting and CAD software. If computer courses are available, it may be advantageous to enroll in them and become familiar with these software programs.

Step 2: Get Licensed

After completing their training programs, journeyman plumbers must become licensed to begin work. Requirements vary by state, but in general, you must have 2-5 years of experience and pass an examination that tests you plumbing knowledge and training. You should research the specific requirements for their states.

Step 3: Complete Continuing Education

Most states required journeyman to complete continuing education as a condition for license renewal. Some states require renewal every 12 months while other state licenses last three years. The required number of hours and specific courses needed for continued education also vary by state.

Step 4: Earn Master Plumber Status

Journeymen plumbers who would like to take on supervisory roles or provide additional services, such as the planning and design of plumbing systems, can pursue the master plumber designation. Qualifications generally include around two years of work experience as a journeyman as well as passing scores on written and/or practical exams.

To become a journeyman plumber, you need to go through an apprenticeship or complete training at a trade school, get licensed, and maintain your license.

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