The Career of Plumbing

Plumbing encompasses the pipes, fixtures, and valves that convey water, gas, and waste in a home or other building. It ensures a building’s occupants have clean, potable water and removes waste to prevent hazardous conditions.


This career requires a high degree of detailed knowledge and specialized training, which can be acquired through trade school, community college, or a learn-while-you-earn apprenticeship. Read on to learn more about what it takes to be a plumber.

A career in plumbing encompasses all aspects of fluid conveyance using pipes, tanks, and faucets. It is a highly technical field with many different specialties within the industry. The plumbing trade offers a variety of educational opportunities, including certificate programs, diplomas, and degrees. Some vocational schools also offer apprenticeships and on-the-job training that can help you obtain a job in the field.

You can get started in the field with a short-term plumbing course that will provide you with the skills to perform basic plumbing functions. These courses are designed to teach you about tools of the trade, safety procedures, plumbing drawings, water distribution systems and drain, waste and venting systems. In addition, these courses often include instruction in assembling and installing residential plumbing fixtures.

Some vocational schools also offer online courses that allow you to study at your own pace. These courses are ideal for people who want to start a career in the plumbing profession, but do not have time to attend traditional classroom courses. These courses usually include a combination of video and audio lectures as well as practice assignments.

Most municipalities require plumbers to complete formal education and work experience to become licensed. For example, the city’s Department of Buildings oversees the licensing process. In other parts of the state, a city or county may have its own licensing requirements.

In some cases, you can begin on-the-job training as a plumber’s helper and advance to a licensed journeyman. This is a good way to learn the trade while earning money at the same time. Many employers are happy to assist with paying for your schooling while you are an apprentice.


Getting licensed to practice as a plumber is necessary to ensure the work you do meets state and local plumbing codes and regulations. Without a license, poorly executed plumbing work could lead to flooding, waterborne illness, foundation degradation and other problems. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In New York, for example, you must have at least two years of hands-on experience in the installation, maintenance or service of plumbing systems. You can substitute directly related academic or technical training for up to a portion of the experience requirement. You also must pass a technical exam and a business and law exam.

To become a journeyman plumber, you must complete an apprenticeship program that includes practical and classroom instruction in plumbing, basic tools, construction principles, OSHA safety guidelines and other relevant topics. You can find an apprenticeship through a local plumber’s union, trade school or private company. The apprenticeship usually lasts about 4-5 years and is paid. Some states have programs that help you earn a high school diploma or GED while completing the apprenticeship.

Once you have met the education and experience requirements in your state, you are eligible to take a licensing exam. The content of the exam varies from state to state, but each test covers common topics like commercial and residential water systems, drains and sewers. You may also need to submit a written background history, affidavits from employers attesting to your experience and moral character and proof that you are up to date on child support payments.

After passing the licensing exam, you can perform work under the supervision of a master plumber or an architect. You can also get a permit for your work and inspect your own plumbing projects. Some cities and counties require that you renew your license annually.

In addition to a license, you will need liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance and a surety bond before starting your own independent contracting business. You must also register your business with your city or county and have a business plan detailing how you will make money.

Work Environment

The work environment of a plumber can vary depending on the type of facility. Residential plumbing systems are typically installed in homes, where plumbers may spend most of their time working on indoor fixtures. Commercial and industrial facilities, on the other hand, often involve installing, maintaining and repairing large-scale plumbing equipment. In these settings, plumbers frequently collaborate with other construction and maintenance teams to ensure the smooth functioning of complex plumbing infrastructures.

Plumbers working in occupied environments must be comfortable communicating with customers to inform them of work progress and estimated completion times, as well as to answer any questions or concerns. They also must be able to safely use tools and follow building codes when performing repairs or installation tasks.

As a member of the Maintenance Team, the incumbent performs a variety of plumbing and piping-related duties in connection with the distribution of water supply lines, water closets, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, shower baths, installed dishwashers, laundry appliances and garbage disposal units and their connections to sanitary and storm drainage systems. In addition, the position provides support by repairing and replacing various types of plumbing controls and components.

Observe and monitors plumbing system operations to identify and initiate necessary preventive maintenance actions. Inspects, troubleshoots and repairs plumbing systems, and installs new or replacement fixtures and piping, following blueprints and building codes. Collaborates with other trade professionals, facility managers and general contractors to maintain a safe and productive work environment. Plans, stages, loads and unloads tools and equipment for job assignments. Maintains accurate records of time worked, work performed and materials used.


Many plumbing tasks require plumbers to handle chemicals that can be hazardous to their skin, eyes and lungs. They also work in tight and confined spaces where oxygen levels are low, such as sewers, ducts, and storage tanks.

These hazardous materials pose a risk of illness, injury and even death to plumbers who are not careful. This is why it is important for plumbers to wear gloves, goggles and a mask when handling such substances. They should also be mindful to dispose of rags and cleaning products properly so they don’t contaminate the area where they are working. It is also recommended that plumbers wear safety glasses, especially when drilling or cutting into walls or other structures that can expose them to glass fragments.

A plumbing company should have hand sanitizer, latex gloves and masks readily available for employees to use before and after each job. This helps reduce the spread of bacteria and germs, particularly from raw sewage. It is also important to educate plumbers on the proper handling of tools and equipment to avoid accidents. A good practice is to have plumbers check the water supply connection before starting any repairs or installations and always leave the water shut off when leaving a job site.

Plumbers may also face musculoskeletal injuries from climbing into cramped spaces and using heavy machinery or lifting and carrying equipment. Plumbers can also be exposed to dangerous fumes and electricity, as well as to extreme temperatures or noise.

Many plumbers also encounter building materials that could contain lead or asbestos, which can result in respiratory problems. It is important for plumbers to ask property owners about the history of the house before beginning any work, so they can take the necessary precautions.

Plumbing can be a demanding and physically challenging profession, but it is an excellent choice for those interested in a construction career. There are many opportunities for advancement, and with the right training and work environment, you can succeed in this rewarding field.