How to Become a Plumber in 2024

February 12, 2021

We’re all familiar with what plumbing is. The trade is so widely recognized, it’s even reserved a special space within pop culture. From the Super Mario Brothers to famed journalist Arthur Baer, who once wrote, “a plumber is an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source,” plumbing maintains a sturdy hold on the American mindset.

Still, questions remain regarding how to step into the position. How, exactly, does one become a plumber? You’ll find the answer isn’t as simple as some may expect.

Plumbing requires specific skills, training, and licenses. Breaking into the plumbing field involves a multi-step process that can take years to complete. Be sure to check out the information below for important tips on how to become a plumber.

How to Become a Plumber

Unlike other professions, the path to becoming a plumber is not black-and-white. Different folks will embark on different journeys to reach their professional goals.

Some will receive formal training, others will lean more heavily on onsite experiences. That said, there are a few steps along the way that all aspiring plumbers must complete. Keep reading for more information on how to become a plumber.

Step 1: Get Your High School Diploma or GED

Math is central to the plumbing trade. Individuals who are interested in becoming a plumber should have a strong background in algebra, geometry, metric units of measure, or thermodynamics should do well in these programs.

You might also want to earn a college degree or complete a formal training program before looking into plumbing apprenticeships. These programs are typically offered at community colleges or trade schools. While they aren’t required, they will help you stand out from other applicants.


Earn your degree in Plumbing & Heating from NEIT and begin your new career path today!


They might also be helpful to anyone worried about past digressions. Employers may be reluctant to bring on apprentices who have failed a drug test, have a DUI, reckless driving conviction, or misdemeanor offenses. The decision to enroll in a plumbing school will help communicate a newfound commitment to professionalism and productivity.

Step 2: Pursue a Plumbing Apprenticeship Program

Anyone who wishes to one day become a licensed plumber will need to complete a plumbing apprenticeship program. These programs will provide on-the-job training and introduce trainees to topics including OSHA safety, state codes, blueprint reading, and drafting. An apprenticeship must be carried out under the supervision of a master plumber.

Apprentices must complete a certain number before sitting for their license exam, which is why most apprenticeship programs take between 2 and 5 years to complete.

Step 3: Become a Journeyman Plumber

how to become a plumber

Once you complete an apprenticeship you can take a licensing exam to become a journeyman plumber. Unlike apprentices, who are only able to work under the supervision of a master plumber, journeyman plumbers are able to work independently.

These individuals are able to work across residential or commercial settings. Typical duties include installing and maintaining sewage disposal and gas lines, as well as fixtures or appliances.

Individuals must typically renew every three to five years, though some states require renewal to take place yearly. These professionals have not only mastered the basic skills of the trade but are familiar with the plumbing codes in their area. They should also possess developed customer service, managerial, troubleshooting, and mechanical skills.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers at this level can earn a median salary of $55,160 per year or $26.52 per hour.

Step 4: Become a Master Plumber

The next step in your career path is to become a master plumber. After a certain number of hours on the job as a journeyman plumber, you’ll be able to sit for the licensing exam to become a master plumber (typically between two to five years).

Different states have different requirements for master plumbers, so check with your local licensing board to see what regulations apply near you. In some cases, additional classes or plumbing training may be necessary.

Master plumbers must pass a written and practical exam to receive the title. Fees also apply. Some states may also require a background check.

Armed with this plumbing license, a master plumber will be able to offer more advanced plumbing services, oversee apprenticeship training, manage crews and offer specialty experience in a specific area of plumbing.

According to the BLS, the highest 10 percent of earners in this trade pocket more than $97,170 annually.

What Does a Plumber Do?

Before we walk you through the steps you need to become a plumber, let’s discuss what it is that plumbers actually do. According to the plumber job description provided by, the position revolves around the installation, repair, and maintenance of pipes, valves, fittings, drainage systems, and fixtures in commercial and residential structures.

Plumbers may also be asked to collaborate with general contractors, electricians, and manufacturing professionals when working on new construction.

responsibilities of plumber

Additional roles and responsibilities include:

  • Following building plans and blueprints
  • Responding to, diagnosing, and resolving emergencies across job sites
  • Performing routine inspections of plumbing systems
  • Light construction, carpentry, painting, plastering, flooring, ceiling, and electrical work as required
  • Preparing bids, budgets, and cost estimates
  • Keeping accurate records of time spent working, description of work performed and materials used

To exercise these responsibilities, plumbers must demonstrate a set of skills and qualifications including but not limited to the use of hand and power tools, knowledge of building codes, as well as safety regulations and practices.

Plumbers should also be comfortable reading blueprints and rough drawings and maintain proficiency in basic mathematics and the conversion of measurements. Familiarity with PVC, CPVC, PEX, cast iron, and copper is a plus.

Individuals who want to become a plumber should remember that it is a client-facing trade. Effective oral communication and interpersonal skills are necessary elements to conducting and maintaining business.

In a more broad sense, plumbers should demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills and be able to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Advanced plumbers should be confident in their ability to complete projects unsupervised and unassisted.

Plumbing Specialties

If you’re unsure of what direction you would like to see your plumbing career go in, take some time to explore the different kinds of plumbers out there. Generally speaking, there are five main categories of plumbers: general plumbers, pipefitters, steamfitters, sprinklerfitters, and pipelayers.

Check out the list below to learn the roles and responsibilities associated with each title.

General Plumbers

General plumbers repair the water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems in homes and commercial and industrial buildings. They also conduct maintenance services and installations for plumbing fixtures including bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets.

They may also be asked to install appliances such as dishwashers, waste disposers, and water heaters.

General Plumbers


Pipefitters assemble and maintain mechanical piping systems designed to withstand high pressure. They may be used in the installation of boilers, furnaces, water tanks, and other pressurized equipment. Pipefitters also monitor the controls for these systems. These individuals typically work across the industrial sector.

Be sure to check out this article for more information on how to become a pipefitter.


Steamfitters work on the same systems and projects a pipefitter may be assigned to, but they focus their expertise strictly on how to install pipes carrying high-pressure gases and liquids.


Sprinklefitters install, modify and inspect sprinkler systems. They must pay close attention to building code regulations as they relate to the space between sprinklers, pipe size, and the amount of water pressure each pipe can handle.


Pipelayers perform the initial groundwork before laying down pipes used for sewer lines, natural gas or oil pipelines, or large waterlines. They’re trained to work with different materials, including clay, concrete, plastic, or cast-iron pipe. Before laying the pipe, these individuals prepare and grade the trenches either manually or with machines.

Plumbing Schools

As mentioned, it is possible to begin a plumbing apprenticeship with just a high school diploma. Those who wish to advance to the status of a master plumber, however, will likely need to receive a more advanced education. You can find classes offered at either a trade school or community college.

The New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) offers an acclaimed program on plumbing systems and services. Those who enroll will be introduced to the basic theory and practices of heating and plumbing while receiving hands-on experience in a laboratory setting.

The four-term program includes the study of basic tools; methods of fabrication, fitting identification and usage, drainage, waste and venting, water piping methods and design, sewage disposal and treatment, water sources and distribution, and household and industrial maintenance.

Graduates will be prepared to pursue a number of different plumbing jobs after completion of the program. They will also be eligible to continue on for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management.


Earn your degree in Plumbing & Heating from NEIT and begin your new career path today!


You can check out this article to learn more about the technical degrees we offer and why they’re important.


How many years does it take to become a plumber?

It takes anywhere from two to five years to work independently as a licensed plumber. You must work for an additional two years to advance to master technician, meaning you’ll need anywhere from 7-10 years of on-the-job experience before you can claim the title.

Do plumbers make good money?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed plumbers can earn a median salary of $55,160 per year or $26.52 per hour. The highest 10 percent of earners took home around $97,170 annually.

Is plumbing a good career?

So long as you possess the skills and desire to work as a plumber, you can look forward to an incredibly fulfilling career. According to the BLS, plumbers will enjoy steady job growth and job security over the next decade. The profession also provides plenty of opportunities for growth. Those who step into leadership positions may also enjoy the luxury of setting their own schedules.

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