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Guide to Plumbing Apprenticeships: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Guide to Plumbing Apprenticeships: What to Expect and How to Prepare

guide plumbing apprenticeships what to expect

If you’ve got plumber on your shortlist of potential careers, it’s worth the time to give the option a little extra consideration. This career may not be the most glamorous, but the truth is that plumbers do some pretty incredible work. It’s not just about installing toilets. Plumbers also create complicated pipe systems, install appliances, attend to emergencies, and save princesses from spiky kidnapping villains. *Cue Mario Bros. theme song.* 

Seriously, though, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are among some of the highest-paid and all-around best trade jobs out there, earning around $54,000 annually or about $26 per hour. On top of that, plumbers are very much in demand — in part because we’re in the midst of a measurable skilled trade shortage — and the earning potential could be significantly higher in the near future. 

One more pro for plumbers: this field has an excellent job outlook, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting a 14 percent increase (about 70,000 new job openings) in plumbing by the year 2028. But, as with any high-security, good-paying job, it takes time, effort, and commitment to become a plumber. And it all starts with an apprenticeship.

In this guide, we’re covering everything there is to know about plumbing apprenticeships so that you can determine whether or not it’s a good path for you.

What Is a Plumbing Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are defined as paid “learn-while-you-earn” programs which allow those with no training to earn a living while building knowledge in a very specialized skilled trade. They may also involve a formal curriculum or structured courses in a classroom setting in addition to on-the-job training. Typically, apprentices earn more and more money with the amount of skills they accrue, ultimately finishing their apprentice program earning the full wage of a skilled professional upon licensure.

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Plumbing apprenticeships generally receive hands-on training at job sites, where they learn how to do many of the most common daily jobs, as well as some technical instruction. They are usually governed by the local plumbers union or school, but may also be managed through a private company. You’ll learn the essential tools of the trade and may also pick up on some other components of the job, like the business and marketing sides of things. Topics such as OSHA safety, state codes, blueprint reading, drafting, and math may be covered as well. 

So are you an official plumber at the end of your apprenticeship? Not quite! At the end of the program, apprentices must pass a licensing exam to become a journey-level plumber, which allows them to work independently. Some plumbers also take on another year of apprenticeship to earn master status, which is required in some states to obtain a plumbing contractor’s license. From there, plumbers can get even more in-depth training in specialized areas.

How Long Does a Plumbing Apprenticeship Take?

Every apprenticeship program is different, but most take somewhere between two and five years to complete. While this may seem like a long time, consider that apprenticeships come with a lot more flexibility than some other career trajectories. While you may be spending up to five years learning the trade, you’ll be earning a substantial income the entire time you do it. Typically, courses are set up on an alternating schedule so they don’t compete with your work schedule.

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How Do You Get a Plumbing Apprenticeship?

The first step to becoming a plumber is to earn your high school diploma or GED, as most apprenticeships require this as a minimum. You then need to make sure your resumé and online student portfolio are dazzling and up-to-date. Next, you’ll want to get in touch with a representative from your local plumbers union and inquire about programs in the area. While the general recommendations are similar from one program to the next, each union will have its own guidelines and requirements, so reach out for the best advice.

A Great Career Path

A plumbing apprenticeship is a financially smart path to a solid career. Not only do you get to earn as you learn, but you also set yourself up for a life of work in a high-demand field where the income potential is substantial. So if you’re considering plumbing, we say take the plunge! You can get started by contacting your local plumbers union.