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.

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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

In Iowa, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earn an average annual salary of $61,240, slightly above the national average of $60,090. The lowest 10% of earners in Iowa make $38,780, which is slightly higher than the national figure of $37,250. The highest earners (top 10%) in Iowa can earn up to $82,770, which is lower than the national highest earners who can make more than $101,190.

National vs. Iowa Salary Comparison

Location 10% Low 25% Low Median 75% High 90% High
United States $37,250 $46,630 $60,090 $78,960 $101,190
Iowa $38,780 $47,930 $61,240 $78,480 $82,770

Salaries by Regions in Iowa

Region 10% Low 25% Low Median 75% High 90% High
Cedar Rapids, IA $39,630 $48,830 $75,710 $82,330 $87,840
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL $39,240 $50,330 $66,340 $79,470 $96,220
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA $36,750 $48,880 $64,870 $81,540 $89,310

Plumbing Trends in Iowa

The employment outlook for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in Iowa shows a robust growth trend. In 2020, there were 6,610 professionals employed in this sector. By 2030, this number is projected to increase to 7,730, marking a significant growth rate of 17%. This rate far exceeds the national average growth rate of 2% expected from 2022 to 2032.

Iowa is anticipated to see about 840 job openings annually from 2020 to 2030. These openings will be due to both new job growth and the need to replace workers who retire or leave the field for other reasons. This level of growth indicates a strong demand for skilled labor in plumbing, pipefitting, and steamfitting across the state.


Location Employment (Start of Period) Projected Employment (End of Period) Projected Growth Projected Annual Job Openings
Iowa 6,610 (2020) 7,730 (2030) 17% 840
United States 482,700 (2022) 493,600 (2032) 2% 42,600

Sources of data:

  1. State Data: The projections for this State from 2020 to 2030 are provided by Projections Central, which offers long-term projections for occupational employment.
  2. United States Data: The nationwide employment projections from 2022 to 2032 are sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which regularly publishes detailed employment projections for a wide range of occupations across the United States.

Career Opportunities

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.

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