Become a Plumbing Contractor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Mar 13, 2020

Find out how to become a plumbing contractor. Research the training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in plumbing.

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Plumbing Career Info

Plumbing contractors assemble, install and repair water, gas and drainage pipes in residences and commercial facilities, including businesses and schools. They also might install and repair various plumbing fixtures and appliances, such as toilets and dishwashers.

Plumbing contractors might own their own plumbing business and be responsible for other employees. These contractors often are needed for plumbing emergencies, which means they might work evenings and weekends.

These professionals should have strong customer service, troubleshooting, mechanical and people skills, as well as physical strength and in-depth knowledge of plumbing systems and tools. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the plumbers earned a median salary of $53,910 per year.

Become an Apprentice

Upon earning a high school diploma or GED, prospective plumbing contractors need to begin a plumbing apprenticeship. Apprentice programs are the most common way for plumbers to learn the skills needed to become successful in the trade. Most apprenticeships are sponsored by local unions, companies or contractor organizations. Programs typically last four to five years and require apprentices to complete a certain number of on-the-job training and technical education hours each year.

On-the-job training usually entails working with water pipes, waste systems, fixtures and appliances. The technical education hours typically take place at local technical or trade schools. During these hours, apprentices learn safety practices, plumbing codes and various regulations. Blueprint reading, physics, drafting, math and chemistry are also common areas of study.

Get Master Plumber License

Individuals who successfully complete an apprenticeship program can become licensed journeymen, which means they can perform plumbing work without supervision. To do this, qualified individuals must successfully submit all applications and fees to their state licensing agency and pass an exam. Depending on state laws, licensed journeymen typically qualify to become licensed master plumbers after 1-5 years of documented experience. To obtain a master plumber license, qualified individuals must typically pass an additional exam and meet specific state requirements, which may vary.

Get Contractor's License

The next step for an aspiring plumbing contractor is to earn a contractor's license. Licensed plumbing contractors can own their own plumbing business and hire or subcontract work to other licensed plumbers. State licensing requirements for plumbing contractors generally include paying an application fee and passing a comprehensive business, law and building code exam. Some community colleges and technical schools provide contractor's license preparation and renewal courses. Additional requirements for prospective plumbing business owners might include proof of financial credibility, insurance and net worth.

Licensed plumbing contractors may be required to complete continuing education to renew their license. Licenses are typically renewed on an annual basis. However, requirements vary from state to state.

Consider Earning Business Degree

Plumbing contractors who want to run their own plumbing business might consider completing a postsecondary business degree program. Although these programs are not a requirement for plumbing contractors, they can provide the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for those who want to become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners.

To recap, those individuals who want to work as plumbing contractors should first complete the apprenticeship requirements to become a master plumber before seeking out a contractor's license and additional training.

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