The most important credential for a plumber is experience, achieved through several years of an apprenticeship, and possibly a trade school or a vocational program, that has been accredited by a national trade union. Most plumbers have to be licensed as required by state laws.
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Plumbers are technically skilled individuals with expert knowledge of pipe systems, sewage removal and septic tanks. Though requirements vary between states, plumbers are generally expected to possess substantial field experience and pass state-approved exams to obtain certification or licensure. Most train through apprenticeship programs that offer classroom instruction and on-the-job learning, although a few attend community colleges or vocational schools. Applicants to these programs need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
|Required Training||2- to 5-year apprenticeship programs are most common|
|Licensing Requirements||Pass examination on skills and local plumbing codes; experience requirements vary by jurisdiction|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||12% for Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters (faster than average)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$50,620 for Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education Information for Plumbers
Before earning plumbing certification, candidates must complete between two and five years of experience earned through apprenticeships or training courses. Training through community colleges, technical schools and vocational programs offers the most comprehensive education. Accreditation and educational standards of apprenticeship programs are maintained by industry-related unions, such as United Association of Journeymen and the Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada. Non-union training courses are also provided by some companies that rely heavily on a steady supply of competent plumbers, such as heating and cooling contractors and fire sprinkler installers.
In addition to on-the-job training, apprenticeship programs require a minimum classroom commitment of 144 hours every year. Students must demonstrate extensive knowledge of drafting, local safety regulations and mathematics. Aspiring plumbers must also be able to handle materials and tools safely, identify different kinds of pipes, and install various plumbing fixtures. Applicants to an apprenticeship program or training course have to possess a high school diploma and might need to pass a drug test.
There are no national licensing requirements for plumbers. Professional practice in any state requires an official licensure issued by the appropriate agency, usually the local Department of Labor and Industry. While states can grant reciprocal recognition of plumbing licenses, most localities force plumbers to qualify for licensing usually through examination. States generally have plumbers renew their licenses every two years.
Additional specialty certification might be necessary for specific types of plumbing work. Many states have laws mandating official certification for water conservation and work on gas lines. Earning a specialty certification requires experience and examinations. These certifications are administered by state agencies or non-profit organizations and must be renewed periodically through continuing education courses or testing.
Plumbers hone their skills through extensive hands-on experience in addition to classroom work, which are both obtained from an apprenticeship, vocational, or trade program. They must be proficient in their work, displaying their knowledge by passing biennial examinations for license renewal.