Have you thought about a career as a plumber? Plumbers are responsible for installing and maintaining plumbing fixtures in both commercial and residential properties. They work a variety of systems such as water systems and gas pipes as well as installing systems such as drainage, waste disposal, heating, and appliances.

As a plumber, it’s recommended to have a high mechanical aptitude as well as excellent problem-solving skills and manual dexterity.

Plumbers often work on-call, which includes weekends and late nights. The job requires a lot of travel, moving from site to site and there are high risks of smaller injuries such as cuts, scrapes or burns.

With a move into sustainable energy, many plumbers are now working with solar and other renewable energy systems. The demand for this is expected to rise and plumbers who specialize in these areas can expect to see their demand continually increase.

Career Profile: Plumber

Education & Training

Plumbers usually attend trade or technical schools and complete formal training programs to become qualified. In these schools, trainees will cover a range of topics including understanding how water supplies and drainage systems work, as well as learning about piping, venting, fittings, and valves. They’ll learn how to install and maintain systems before moving on to start their apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are provided by unions and their affiliates. They last for 4-5 years and provide classroom instruction with paid experience. Saying this, some companies offer training with unpaid internships, however, this is not feasible for many. On the job training amounts to between 1,700 and 2,000 hours per year.

As an apprentice, you’ll learn local plumbing codes as well as all types of plumbing procedures. This includes primary installation of plumbing fixtures to repairing and maintaining water pipes. Once the apprenticeship has been completed, plumbers need to be licensed. There is no singular board responsible for this and it will vary state-by-state.

To receive your license, you will need to complete an exam to test your knowledge of local codes. If you want to work with gas lines then many states will also require you to take additional examinations.

Duties

A plumber’s responsibilities may vary depending on their specialization. However, common duties include:

  • Assembling pipe sections, tubing, and fittings
  • Welding and soldering.
  • Observe pressure gauges to detect and locate leaks.
  • Review blueprints and building codes and specifications to determine work details and procedures.
  • Prepare written work cost estimates
  • Negotiate contracts.
  • Study building plans and inspect structures to assess material and equipment needs.
  • Plan installation around obstructions such as electrical wiring.
  • Keep records of assignments
  • Produce detailed work reports.
  • Perform complex calculations and planning for special or very large jobs.
  • Locate and mark the position of pipe installations, connections, passage holes, and fixtures in structures
  • Measure, cut, thread, and bend pipe to required angle
  • Use machines such as pipe cutters, pipe threading machines, and pipe-bending machines.
  • Install pipe assemblies, fittings, valves, and appliances
  • Cut openings in structures to accommodate pipes and pipe fittings
  • Repair and maintain plumbing
  • Install underground storm, sanitary and water piping systems
  • Use specialized techniques, equipment, or materials.

Career Paths

Plumbers can also choose to pursue certification. While not required, this can be beneficial for a plumber who wants to advance in their career. This is particularly useful with the push for renewable energy and the movement to conserve more water.

Many systems are now being signed off on their energy efficiency and new and old buildings are looking for sustainable systems to be installed.

Many plumbers choose to go down the route of self-employment. Business skills will be needed to make sure you stay on top of the extra work required and many choose to specialize in order to differentiate themselves from other plumbers.

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