How to Become a Plumber in Oregon
Plumbing is a great career for anyone interested in the skilled trades. It doesn’t require a college degree, and you can earn a living through an apprenticeship as you work up to licensing. Demand for qualified, licensed plumbers in Oregon is high and salaries are above average, so this is a great place to get started.
As a plumber, you will install, maintain, repair and inspect plumbing systems. Most plumbers work for construction and plumbing contractors, but there are other options for employment, including starting your own business.
Plumbing training programs may cover some of the following topics:
- Plumbing codes
- Medical gas systems
- Hot water tanks
- Water heaters
- Garbage disposal units
- Drainage systems
Plumber Requirements in Oregon
There is more than one path to becoming a licensed plumber in Oregon. The state requires licensing for journey plumbers and for specific types of plumbing, like residential or solar heating and cooling.
To become a plumber in the state, begin by graduating high school or earing a GED. It is recommended that you take classes in math and science and earn good grades. Training and academic programs can be competitive, and these will give you an advantage.
Following high school, you have a couple of options:
- Enroll in and complete a registered four-year apprenticeship program.
- Complete 576 hours of classroom instruction in plumbing and a specific number of hours of work experience in residential and commercial settings.
Completing either of these paths will qualify you to apply for a journey license.
Plumbing Schools in Oregon
Whether you choose an apprenticeship or a combination of classroom learning and work experience, Oregon gives future plumbers a few choices when it comes to plumbing training:
- Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. This state department registers apprenticeships with qualified plumbing and contracting companies. The website lists available apprenticeships for which you will have to apply. In this program, you will earn a salary receiving on the job training for four years
- Lane Community College. LCC in Eugene also offers an apprenticeship program for young plumbers. You will take college classes and work and earn while training as an apprentice. To be qualified to enroll, you must be at least 18, have a valid driver’s license, have an understanding of basic algebra and have a high school diploma or GED.
- Chemeketa Community College. Another college and apprenticeship combination program is available at Chemeketa in Salem. You’ll take classes at the college and complete an apprenticeship through the local Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. You must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or GED and have completed high school algebra with a C grade or higher.
Plumbing Apprenticeship Opportunities in Oregon
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of a stubbornly blocked toilet or a leaky pipe gushing water in the middle of the night, you know how important plumbers are to our way of life. Running water and reliable sanitation are key parts of modern civilization, and plumbers—the professionals who repair, maintain, design and install these systems in our buildings—are highly trained and well-compensated.
In Oregon, as in most states, plumbing is a tightly regulated profession with high barriers to entry. To become a licensed journeyman plumber, you’ll need to have completed four years of apprenticeship and pass a challenging examination.
Apprenticeship is a form of work that has existed for hundreds of years. Instead of going into debt getting a university degree, apprentices sign up to work for an employer for four years. In exchange, they receive a good wage and are taught everything they need to know about plumbing by directly performing job tasks, supported and supervised by experienced, licensed plumbers. Apprentices also get to know the real-world conditions of the industry where they live, networking with customers and colleagues and building relationships in the field.
In Oregon, plumbing apprenticeships are available with private employers and through trade unions. The state website offers a comprehensive list of available opportunities. For example, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters in Tualatin operates a training center for apprentices. The Area III program is a non-union program serving Lane and Douglas counties.
Apprenticeship programs are often competitive, so good mathematics and physics skills and strong motivation to learn are to your advantage.
How to Become a Licensed Plumber in Oregon
Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services licenses plumbers in the state. After completing an apprenticeship or equivalent program, you can apply to be a licensed journey plumber. Requirements include one of the following:
- A certificate of completion or a referral from an approved four-year plumbing apprenticeship program.
- Completion of 576 classroom hours, 3,850 hours of residential plumbing work experience and 3,850 hours of commercial work experience.
You can also earn a license for specialty areas of plumbing, which require fewer work experience hours: water treatment installer, residential water heater installer, and solar heating and cooling installer.
After working as a journey plumber, you may choose to get a contractor or business license in plumbing. If you are not employing anyone else, you only need to get a Construction Contractors Board license and apply for a plumbing business license with proof of your training, licensing and job experience.
Career and Salary Outlook for Plumbers
The average annual salary for plumbers across the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is $59,880. In Oregon, plumbers earn $79,330 per year on average with the highest earners making more than $120,000. This is one of the highest salaries for the U.S.
Growth in careers for plumbers is also strong in Oregon. Projections Central reports nearly 11 percent growth in the state, as compared to 2 percent across all states. With the right training and licensing, you can enjoy both job security and a great salary in Oregon.
Working as a Plumber in Oregon
There are great opportunities for qualified plumbers everywhere in Oregon. The most jobs, though, are available in the big cities and their metropolitan areas: Portland, Salem and Eugene. You may want to start out working for a contractor and either stay in that position or start your own business. Most plumbers work as contractors or for contractor businesses.