Plumbers and Pipefitters


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A high school diploma is required to enroll in a good apprenticeship program. High school preparation should include courses in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, as well as some shop courses.

Postsecondary Training

To qualify as a plumber, a person must complete either a formal apprenticeship or an informal on-the-job training program. To be considered for the apprenticeship program, individuals must pass an examination administered by their state employment agency and have their qualifications approved by the local joint labor-management apprenticeship committee.

The apprenticeship program for plumbers consists of four or five years of carefully planned activity combining direct training with at least 144 hours of formal classroom instruction each year. The program is designed to give apprentices diversified training by having them work for several different plumbing or pipefitting contractors.

On-the-job training, on the other hand, usually consists of working for five or more years under the guidance of an experienced craftsworker. Trainees begin as helpers until they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for more difficult jobs. Frequently, they supplement this practical training by taking trade (or correspondence) school courses.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Most states require plumbers to be licensed. To obtain this license, plumbers must have two to five years of experience and pass a special examination to demonstrate their knowledge of local building codes as well as their all-around knowledge of the trade. To become a plumbing contractor in most places, a master plumber's license must be obtained. Several states require plumbers who work on gas lines to have a special license. Check with the state that you plan to work in to determine the requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

To work as a plumber or pipefitter, you will need experience before you can start, preferably through an apprenticeship.

You should like to solve problems and should not object to being called on during evenings, weekends, or holidays to perform emergency repairs. As in most service occupations, plumbers should be able to get along well with all kinds of people. You should be a person who works well alone, but who can also direct the work of helpers and enjoy the company of those in the other construction trades. Other important traits for plumbers and pipefitters include an aptitude for working with tools, manual dexterity, good physical condition, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.