How to Get Certified as a Plumber

person working under sink with plumbing tools

Whether you’re still in high school or are looking for a second career later in life, it’s important to understand the requirements for any job you’re interested in. If you’ve thought about plumbing as an option, consider what it takes to earn the credentials you’ll need.

What Plumbers Do

Plumbing is a huge field of study that covers everything from installing pipes to unclogging them. Plumbers map out systems for industrial, commercial, and residential locations. They evaluate existing systems and recommend upgrades. They also come out at all times of night and day to make urgent repairs when the need arises.

Plumbers install appliances such as dishwashers and water heaters. They also replace or install common fixtures like sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Plumbers can also work or specialize in septic system repairs and installations.

In addition to the physical plumbing aspects of the job, plumbers who are self-employed or own the business also manage employees, scheduling, payroll, taxes, bids, contracts, and office maintenance.

Job Titles

woman working with pipes under a sink

There are dozens of job titles within the field of plumbing. Some of the most common are commercial plumber, service and repair plumber, residential plumber, sanitary plumber, and water supply plumber.

With plumbing credentials you can also hold the title of business owner, pipefitter, steamfitter, pipe layer, gas service technician, or project manager.

Work Environment

Plumbing is a physical job where you can work indoors or outdoors, in a residential, business, ship, or factory setting. It often requires squeezing into tight spaces behind appliances, under sinks, and within walls. Plumbers often develop issues with back, neck, elbow, and knee pain from repetitive motion and crawling around in restrictive spaces.

Education, Licensing, and Certification

plumber with tools in bathroom

The road to becoming a plumber typically begins with a high school diploma. Following high school, trade schools offer specialized training specific to the field. Businesses can also offer these programs. Either route typically leads to a four to five year apprenticeship where most of the learning takes place. This is the most common path to earning credentials as a plumber.

Expect to take classes or acquire hands-on experience in subjects like pipe system design, safety, tool use, local plumbing codes and regulations, blueprint reading, and welding. Apprenticeship programs commonly include 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training along with applicable classroom instruction.

Most states require licensing in order to work unsupervised. You’ll need to pass an exam that shows understanding of local plumbing codes, safety, and common practices. Most employers also require a current driver’s license. Once you earn licensing, it’s your responsibility to monitor ongoing education and licensing requirements in your state. After passing the test, you’ll earn the title of journeyman plumber at which point you can work independently. Note that many employers require you to remain in their employment for a certain amount of time or pay back a portion of the training fees as a penalty.

Strong Personal Characteristics for Plumbers

Every job has certain personal characteristics that help the job be a more natural match for the person. Becoming a plumber requires strong organizational skills, a good memory, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, interpersonal and communication skills, creativity, mechanical and math skills, and project management skills.

plumber working on radiant heating device

Salary Range

Since plumbing is such a broad field, there is an equally broad salary range. The median range for all types of plumbers in the United States is around $51,450 annually, but can be over $75,000 in larger cities or under $35,000 in a small one. City plumbers could earn over $100,000 annually. The average hourly rate is around $25.

Job Outlook

As the population continues to grow and construction works to keep up with the growing needs for suitable or updated housing, the job outlook for plumbers stays consistent and optimistic.

The need for plumbers is on the rise in most occupations. For those looking into the future, plumbing related to population growth and green energy are likely to be high-demand areas. Consider hydro systems.


Plumbing brings inherent risks while on ladders and construction sites. Wet areas increase danger around electricity and can contribute to slips and falls.