Education and Training : Classroom and on job training, apprenticeships.
Average Salary : $46,660
Job Outlook: Very Good
Plumbers install and repair water fixtures like taps and shower systems, and electrical equipment such as water heating systems and dishwashers. Plumbers working with federal or local governments are also involved in technical installations like solar panels and water treatment facilities.
Construction plumbers are involved in the design process during the construction of new homes and high rise buildings. They are responsible for providing expert knowledge about pipe laying, pipe fitting, and sewage disposal to ensure the health and safety of people. Because of the nature of their work, they are also required to have some electrical knowledge of drilling and wire laying.
In addition to this, plumbers must be able to understand building plans and blueprints so they can work with their supervisors in the layout and planning stage.
They may also be employed at hospitals and infirmaries for installation of oxygen and other kinds of medical gas.
Education and Training Requirements
Plumbers can join the profession by training through apprenticeship programs or getting a certificate or diploma in plumbing from a technical training school.
Recommended high school courses for plumbers include mechanical drawing, drafting, algebra, blueprint reading, and mathematics.
Though there are no required college majors or courses for plumbers, apprenticeship programs provide comprehensive on the job and classroom training to prospective plumbers. All union and non-union apprenticeships last four or five years and include a minimum of 144 hours of classroom training. During this time, students are taught essential plumbing skills like drafting, blueprint reading, consumer safety, and local plumbing regulations. On the job training starts with basics like identifying types of pipes and moves on to installation and other complex plumbing tasks.
While most plumbers enter the profession through apprenticeships, some also start off with on the job training after completing a certificate course in plumbing.
State level licensing examinations must be taken to work in a state. Additional training programs are also available for skilled plumbers to help them advance in their trade.
Getting the Job
Because plumbers usually enter the profession through apprenticeship programs, getting a job is not difficult as most unions provide extensive on the job training. An apprenticeship program helps a plumber get started in the profession and contributes to a minimum five year work experience in their career.
It is not difficult to break into the plumbing field, however, those with state licenses and advanced certificates generally have a better chance of landing a job compared to those who don’t.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
56% plumbers in the United States are employed with construction companies, with the remaining working in other industrial and commercial units. Approximately 10% are self employed with their own operations or small businesses that mostly cater to consumers and work on call.
Employment opportunities are expected to grow 18% by 2018 with most of the demand coming from new construction and industrial businesses.
Most employers have reported about the difficulty of finding skilled plumbers for a job so the demand for educated and trained workers will increase and they have a better chance of staying employed.
Career development comes from adding skills like mechanical plumbing or medical plumbing, both of which are specialized areas. As a plumber gains more work experience, opening a business or advancing to a supervisor position is possible.
Working Conditions and Environment
Plumbers work in offices, residential areas, and outdoors. Since plumbers are frequently required to lift and work with heavy pipes and construction equipment, physical strength and stamina is a prerequisite for the job.
Though not a stressful job, plumbers employed in the construction or industrial business may work in night shifts for 40 hours a week. They may also be exposed to contaminants or minor injuries due to the nature of work.
Salary and Benefits
Plumbers are among the highest paid workers in construction companies and can expect a minimum starting salary of $27,000. The median wage for most construction plumbers is $50,690 while those employed in other employment settings have a median wage of $46,660. Those with more than ten years of work experience can earn between $60,000 and $80,000 annually.
Those employed with government agencies or corporations get the same vacation benefits as is the organizational mandate.
Where to Go for More Information
Home Builders Institute
1201 15th St. NW, 6th Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors National Association
180 S Washington St.
Falls Church, VA 22406
Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and HVAC Service Techs
3 Park Pl.
Annapolis, MD 21401