Plumber Job Description: What Does a Plumber Do?

Have you ever wondered about becoming a plumber? This highly skilled career offers stability and a chance to solve important problems every day. 

A plumber installs, repairs and maintains water and gas supply lines and all the related fixtures, such as toilets and water heaters, in residential and commercial buildings.

From installing fixtures and appliances to measuring and cutting pipes to fixing leaks to repairing water lines, no two days will be the same.

Plumbing requires good communication and teamwork skills, whether you are interacting with a customer at a residence or a business. It’s a steady job with great career prospects because everyone needs a good, reliable plumber. 

Thousands of companies are looking for plumbers, and some offer on-the-job training with technical instruction. Many companies and trade unions offer paid apprenticeship programs, so you can earn while you learn. 

It’s important that you have some form of general work experience if you’re trying to get a plumber apprentice job.

Even after you’ve gone through training and become a journeyman, there will be opportunities to advance, learn new skills and earn a higher plumber salary.

That’s just the start. Keep reading to learn more about what it takes to learn this essential trade.

$ 33,100 - $ 72,000
$ 48,400
A plumber replaces a pipe fitting
A good plumber can quickly size up a situation and solve the problem. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Job Responsibilities

  • Install and repair pipes for water, gas or other services
  • Interpret blueprints for pipe laying
  • Assemble fittings and valves
  • Install fixtures, appliances and supports for pipes and equipment
  • Inspect and test plumbing systems for leaks and problems
  • Follow all codes and regulations
  • May work on septic systems
  • Estimate costs and prepare bids

How to Become a Plumber: FAQs

What steps do I need to take to become a plumber?

First, you’ll need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent. If you haven’t graduated yet, get a head start and take classes in science, math and technology. If drafting classes or vocational programs are available, take them. 

Next, start learning the trade through an accredited technical college, trade school or community college program. (Most, but not all apprenticeships require that you have some training prior to starting an apprenticeship.) Programs at this level will cover pipe system design, general plumbing safety and tool techniques.

If you need financial help for this step, there are plenty of trade school scholarships and grants available.

Your initial training will prepare you for the next big step: Learning on the job through an apprenticeship offered by an employer, union, trade group or industry association. 

Apprenticeship programs that do not require previous training will incorporate classroom time into the schedule. 

During an apprenticeship, you’re learn more specialized skills including local plumbing codes, safety protocols, blueprint reading, math, applied physics and chemistry. Most apprenticeships also cover plumbing hydraulics, pneumatics and mechanics plus electrical basics. 

Hands-on training will include installing and/or repairing pipes, fittings and fixtures, soldering and welding, and use of specialized machines.

Pass the local code and trade knowledge exams to get your plumber's license or certification. (State and city laws vary on which you’ll need, so be sure to check out SkillPointe’s licensing and certification requirements calculator to understand the rules where you want to work.)

With two to five years of experience, you can become a journeyman plumber and work independently.

Increase your salary potential and job opportunities by earning specialty plumber certifications, such as plumbing design, drainage systems or computer-aided design (CAD) software, which uses 3D imagery to help design plumbing systems for large projects.

From there, you could become a master plumber or even own your own business. In order to become a contractor in some states, you’ll need to reach the master plumber level. That level of training is also required to supervise other plumbers and apprentices.

Regardless of the path you choose, there’s so much potential in this career!

Are there any other plumber qualifications to consider?

Plumbers drive on a regular basis to get to jobs, so you’ll need a driver’s license.

Some apprenticeship programs have age requirements (typically 18 years old), and some require background checks and drug tests.

Don’t skip the licensing step mentioned above. Though some states don’t require a license, others have penalties for working without a license. Do your homework and understand the local state and city requirements.

How long does it take to become a plumber?

Plumbing programs at technical schools vary in length. An apprenticeship will typically last four or five years, but you’ll be earning a paycheck during this phase. In fact, an apprentice’s wages increase each year as they progress through the program and learn more skills.

After you become a licensed plumber, it will take several more years of work before you can earn master plumber status.

Is there a demand for plumbers?

Yes, there is always demand for plumbers — in good times and bad. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 48,600 openings each year for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters from 2021 to 2031. (Pipefitter and steamfitter are related jobs that with specialized training could be another career path to take.)

Demand for plumbers will remain steady because, as we mentioned, everyone needs a plumber at some point! Plumbing skills are needed for new construction and existing residential and commercial properties. Plus, many current plumbers are nearing retirement age, so there’s a good opportunity for young people who want to explore this career.

What hours do plumbers work?

Plumbers work full-time, including nights and weekends because a plumbing issue is often an emergency that can’t wait for regular business hours. 

The most common plumber employers are plumbing, heating and air-conditioning contractors. Some go on to become self-employed.

One other consideration is that plumbers may work outdoors and indoors, and the work conditions can be demanding.

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Successful plumbers tend to share certain traits, including: 

  • Good problem-solving abilities
  • Good communication and listening skills
  • Good at operating machinery and tools
  • Excellent dexterity
  • Able to handle heavy materials and tools
  • Being safety-conscious
  • A teamwork mentality

How can I find a plumbing apprenticeship?

Finding plumbing apprentice jobs will usually require you to reach out to plumbing companies, unions or associations near you. 

Contact plumbing companies in your area and ask if they are accepting apprentices. Many companies offer apprenticeship programs.

You can also check with plumbing trade organizations, such as the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC), to see if they offer apprenticeship programs or can connect you with companies that do.

Attending job fairs is a great way to get a plumber apprenticeship or even an entry-level plumbing job. Many companies will post that they’re hiring a few apprentice plumbing students. This can be a fast-track to meeting with someone and getting an interview on the spot.

How much does an apprentice plumber make?

Plumber apprentice jobs will vary based on location, company and level of experience. In the United States, the average plumber apprentice salary will be around $15-20 per hour. 

This can increase as the apprentice gains more experience and moves up in rank. Apprentices earn less than licensed plumbers because they are still in training.

The bottom line:

This in-demand trade job offers the promise of a well-paying job with stability over the long term. To learn this trade, you'll need considerable training, but for most of it, you can earn while you learn. There aren't too many jobs that present such a complete package. 

So, if you like problem-solving and working with your hands, consider this career. Look at SkillPointe's training programs near you to get started.



Being a Plumber: What It's Like

Being a Plumber: What It's Like

For Shawn Powell, being a plumber runs in the family, so he knows what he's talking about.

“There’s good money to be made in this always-in-demand trade,” he says. It's a great choice for anyone who isn’t afraid of hard work.

Watch the video and learn why he thinks being a plumber is so worthwhile.

Ask the Expert

Erin Izen in Home Depot store with apron

Ask the Expert

Erin Izen is Director of Workforce Development and Military Relations at The Home Depot. She has seen some big changes in the construction trade in recent months.

“The opportunities in construction now are unprecedented," she says. "There are lots of options, so you can always find a training program that suits your lifestyle. There will be millions of jobs open in these roles in the next eight years.”

Read more about the opportunities in construction and why she's such an advocate for trade jobs.

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The Home Depot
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