How to Become a Plumber in Iowa
Plumbing is an essential resource in today’s society. Without it, there would be no potable water piped into homes and businesses, no convenient sewage removal and no heating and air conditioning to keep us warm and cool. Everyday uses aside, piping systems are responsible for carrying industrial chemicals and gasses, running specific manufacturing equipment and providing lifesaving medical gasses to hospitals. The bottom line is that all of these plumbing systems that are vital to survival need to be installed, maintained, repaired and occasionally rebuilt. As such, a career as a plumber has a lot of potential for the future.
If you are interested in working as a plumber, you will want to know more about the skills and abilities you will need to fulfill the job. The work a plumber performs is very physical and often requires working with heavy tools, carrying supplies and crawling into tight spaces. A good eye for detail will be necessary, as plumbers need to quickly assess a problem by visually inspecting pipes.
Education for the trade includes the study of:
- Building codes and materials
- Pressure piping
- Plumbing codes
- Water supply systems
- Sewer and drainage systems
You must also have a good grasp of basic math to calculate the volumes, pressures and temperatures involved in plumbing projects. If you are interested in specializing in certain types of work.
Those who work in the plumbing industry hold a great responsibility for public safety. For instance, a licensed plumber will need to know which types of piping to use to keep a water system safe or ensure a chemical delivery system will not leak. Plumbers should also have excellent communication skills, as they will need to coordinate with clients and other construction professionals.
Licensing for Iowa Plumbers
You will need to seek licensing through the Iowa Department of Public Health before working as a plumber. There are three types of licenses for plumbers in the state:
- Apprentice – An Apprentice is engaged in the trade as a primary occupation but is still learning
- Journeyperson – A Journeyperson has completed an apprenticeship but still works under the supervision of a Master
- Master – A Master Plumber is involved in planning the design of and supervising the installation of plumbing systems
Plumbing Schools in Iowa
Plumbers generally train in one of two ways, through an apprenticeship or by enrolling in a program to learn the trade. For either type of training, a high school diploma or GED will be required to begin. Those looking to get started right away as an apprentice plumber can use this website to search for possible matches in their area.
Programs for training in Iowa include:
- Kirkwood Community College offers a one-year Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship Diploma. Students will spend two semesters learning the basics of the trade, in preparation for an apprenticeship.
- Northeast Iowa Community College offers a Career Pathway Certificate in Building Construction. Students will learn basic construction techniques, building codes, electrical, carpentry and HVAC along with plumbing.
Plumbing Apprenticeships in Iowa
Skilled trades workers such as plumbers typically begin their careers as apprentices to more experienced professionals. The specific role and responsibilities for apprentices may vary from location to location within a state. However, they may also be mandated at a state level.
In Iowa, plumbing apprentices fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health’s Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board. This board issues licenses for newcomers to the industry. It also issues licenses to experienced journeypersons and master plumbers. Iowa’s rules state that all apprentices must be high school graduates or GED holders.
There are a couple of ways to get trained while at the apprentice level. The first option is to become a formal apprentice to a working professional. Alternatively, you can seek training in a college program.
For formal apprenticeships, plumbers’ unions are often great places to get started. Several union locals provide this kind of training in Iowa, including Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33 in Des Moines. As a rule, union-based apprenticeships are paid and last for four or five years. They provide truly comprehensive, real-world training, in addition to classroom instruction.
One Iowa college that features plumber training is Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Kirkwood’s Plumbing Pre-Apprenticeship helps you enter an apprenticeship with some experience already under your belt. Northeast Iowa Community College includes plumbing training in its Building Construction program. The program also includes training in a range of other core construction-related skills.
Career Growth and Earnings
There is every reason to expect this career to grow in the long term, with Projections Central predicting an increase of 17 percent over the next 10 years.
Plumbers in Iowa made an average annual wage of $60,510 in 2021, according to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries in the state ranged from $36,900 to $79,850 the same year. Those new to the trade should expect to start at the lower end of the scale, with the potential to increase wages significantly with more experience and qualifications.
Plumbers can find work in a variety of situations, including working a full-time, full-benefits job. If this interests you, possible employers in Iowa include Iowa State Bank, Tradesmen International, the University of Iowa and the Army National Guard. Others might prefer the freedom of small business entrepreneurship. In either case, a career in plumbing can help you meet your goals.