Make your pipe dreams a reality
Plumbers install and maintain pipes and other water distribution fixtures in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. But a typical plumber's job involves much more than this - it also includes reading blueprints and other drawings that illustrate water networks and systems; working with contractors and others (including homeowners) to ensure safety and feasibility of plumbing systems; locating and marking positions for pipe connections, holes and fixtures in walls and floors; and also measuring and cutting pipes using hand tools and other machines.
If any of the following points describe you, you have the makings of a professional plumber:
- You work well with people. Plumbers are constantly dealing with people. Those working in plumbing repair (as opposed to plumbing installation) will need to deal with clients who are upset and distressed by leaking pipes and flooding.
- You are interested in how systems work. Plumbing systems can be intimidating, but are actually very logical. If you have a practical mind, you will be well suited for a plumbing career.
- You enjoy problem solving. This can be the most satisfying (and challenging) aspect of working in a field like plumbing. Whether you work in plumbing installation or repair, you will be forced to solve problems involving hookups, system design and more. Solving those problems calmly and rationally is one of the hallmarks of a great plumber.
- You don't mind getting a bit dirty. As plumbers will tell you, "dirty" is probably a nice way of putting it.
There are a number of ways you can learn about plumbing and get certified as a plumber. Before you begin, you will need some basics, including a high school diploma with credits in all fields (an emphasis on technical courses such as welding and electrical systems is a plus) and a passing grade on an aptitude test (test varies from state to state).
Most people learn plumbing through an apprenticeship. A typical apprenticeship programs run about 10,000 hours. Some trade schools offer courses in plumbing, including classes in plumbing codes, reading blueprints, AutoCAD and math.
Plumbing pays very well, as many people know, but consider other aspects besides money before deciding on plumbing as a vocation. Plumbing is demanding work, and often requires long and irregular hours (since plumbing emergencies can occur at any time of day).
Installation is the neat and clean end of the plumbing business. While repair can be quite messy, it can also be quite lucrative. Many plumbers do jobs in both categories, but some choose to specialize in only one.