How to Get a Plumbing Apprenticeship

If you’ve been considering a career in plumbing and are wondering where to begin, you might want to consider finding an apprenticeship. Apprentices work under a master or journeyman plumber, assisting them with installations, maintenance and repairs while learning the trade. Not only is it a great way to acquire hands-on learning, but it also allows you to experience what it’s like working as a plumber every day. 

One of the biggest perks of training through an apprenticeship is the ability to earn money while learning the necessary skills of a potentially lucrative career. While other careers require you to pay a lot of money for training, trades like plumbing allow you to begin your career without a large amount of student debt. In fact, apprentice plumbers are often able to make a living wage.

According to the website, apprentice plumbers make an average wage of $15.14 per hour. By comparison, journeyman plumbers and master plumbers make average hourly wages of $24.61 and $27.82, respectively. Apprentices may also receive bonuses, commissions and profit-sharing, which can boost their earnings considerably. 

So, what’s the best way to find a plumbing apprenticeship? It depends on how you prefer to learn. Some prefer to start their training by entering a trade school program. Trade schools will often teach students with a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on learning. In some cases, that might mean being placed as an apprentice for the duration of the training, while other programs will place apprentices after the completion of training. Some schools provide training only, allowing students to find an apprenticeship for themselves after graduation. 

In some states, like Vermont, apprenticeships are mandatory and regulated by the state. This type of training may be offered in cooperation with various technical schools that provide classroom instruction as a supplement to on-the-job training. A similar option is to seek training through a construction or plumbing union. Unions will usually require a specific amount of classroom time and worksite time to complete an apprenticeship. 

The final option for training is to enter it less formally. Usually, this consists of applying for an open position as a plumbing apprentice. In this case, you may find yourself competing for jobs against those who have already undergone formal training. If this is an option you are interested in, this website is a great place to start. 

How Long Do Apprenticeships Last?

Regulations can vary depending on the state and locality, but apprenticeships typically last about four to five years. Aside from the regulations, training will continue until you have obtained all of the required knowledge to be considered a fully qualified plumber. You will typically need to prove your skills by taking and passing an examination before being promoted to the next level. 

So, what is the next level? Plumbers who have completed an apprenticeship and procured the required license will be qualified to work as journeyman plumbers. Unlike the apprentice, the journeyman plumber will be able to work more independently, with only light supervision. Journeyman plumbers are also qualified to supervise the work of apprentice plumbers.

If you want to go all the way to the top with your career, you can take an additional examination to obtain a license as a master plumber. Master plumbers can supervise both journeyman and apprentice plumbers. They are also the only plumbers who can work independently, design piping systems, make schematics, own a business and consult with permit agents. 

Do Apprentice Plumbers Need a License?

Licensing requirements vary significantly from state to state, with most states only requiring journeyman and master plumbers to be licensed. Very few states require licenses for apprentice plumbers, but there are some that do. Cities, counties and towns can also require licenses, so it is essential to research the requirements in the areas in which you will be working. Your employer may be a potential resource to help you find the licensing requirements where you work. 

What’s it Like to Work as a Plumber’s Apprentice?

Plumbing work often means hard physical labor, and this may be even more true for apprentice plumbers, who typically fill the need for plumbing assistants. The job will likely require you to carry heavy tools, pipes and equipment to and from a worksite. If another tool needs to be fetched, you will usually be the person who is sent for it. Even when doing actual plumbing work, you will need to use physical strength to loosen and tighten fittings. Plumbers also need to climb into tight, dimly lit spaces and work with various types of machinery. Common tools of the trade include basin wrenches, toilet augers, pipe wrenches, flashlights and tube cutters. Welding is also a necessary part of the work and a skill you will learn during training. 

All of this physical labor comes with the added burden of learning how to use the appropriate tools to perform necessary repairs. Additionally, plumbing apprentices will need to know local and statewide building codes, how to read blueprints, how to work safely on a job site and which materials are appropriate for various types of projects.

Working as a plumber comes with a great deal of responsibility for public safety. Pipes that are installed improperly could contaminate drinking water or leak dangerous chemicals into the surrounding environment. As such, it is necessary to underscore how important it will be to study diligently for the exams you will take upon the completion of your apprenticeship. 

Your Apprenticeship

Your plumbing apprenticeship will be hard work, but it is the basis on which you will build the rest of your career. Keep in mind that working under the auspices of journeyman and master plumbers is an excellent opportunity to be mentored by those who are at the top of the field, with many years of experience. It is essential that you learn as much as you can under their tutelage because someday you will become a master plumber and train new apprentices in the trade.