A Career in Plumbing in Tennessee
If you’ve been considering a career as a plumber, you might be wondering what kind of future you can expect from the trade. Plumbing is essential to the continuation of modern society. If not for plumbing systems, water delivery, waste removal and heating and cooling would be far more difficult. Furthermore, beyond the mundane day-to-day uses for piping, it is also crucial for medical and industrial purposes, making lifesaving treatments and manufacturing possible. With all of these vital systems relying on plumbing to keep things running smoothly, plumbers can expect a secure future, installing, maintaining and repairing them.
As a plumber, you will need to acquire a great deal of knowledge about the systems you will be responsible for, including which materials and methods are safest for various purposes and how to maintain compliance with building codes. Plumbers will also need a great deal of physical stamina, as the job requires carrying heavy equipment, working with tools and working in tight spaces. A good eye for detail will be needed for inspecting pipes and deciding which parts require repair or replacement.
For those interested in business ownership, it will be necessary to understand basic business practices such as accounting and marketing. Business owners will also need to accurately approximate the cost of materials and labor to prepare written estimates for clients or contracting bids for large projects. Excellent communication skills are a must, as you will often need to coordinate services with other contractors around a specific client’s needs.
Plumbing programs typically cover some of the following topics:
- Repair electrical wiring
- Electrical control systems
- General plumbing fixtures
- Water supply systems
- Safety plumbing tools types
- Plumbing codes
- Pipe fabrication
Tennessee Licensing for Plumbers
In Tennessee, plumbers are required to have a license to practice. Licenses are granted by the Tennessee Department of Commercial and Insurance in two forms, a Limited License and a Contractor License. Limited Licenses are for those whose per-project value is less than $25,000, while Contractor Licenses are for anyone providing work valued at over $25,000.
Plumbing Schools in Tennessee
Prior to training as a plumber, a high school diploma or equivalent will be necessary. Once completed, plumbers generally train through an apprenticeship or certified training program. A few of the choices for training in Tennessee include:
- Moore Tech College of Technology in Memphis offers a Plumbing Certificate Program. The program promises to prepare students for a career in the industry through lectures and hands-on lab work.
- Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Morristown offers a certificate program in Pipefitting and Plumbing Technology. Students will learn the basics of the plumbing trade including safety, building codes, basic math, plumbing materials and industry standards.
- Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Knoxville also offers a certificate program in Pipefitting and Plumbing Technology. The plumbing construction technology program promises to teach students the basics of the pipefitting trade including fabrication, installation, blueprint reading and measurements.
Plumbing Apprenticeships in Tennessee
Becoming a plumber requires hands-on training. The ideal way to learn the trade is through an apprenticeship, a period of working under a licensed plumber. It allows you to learn the skills needed to be a plumber while also earning a salary and even college credits.
Tennessee licenses plumbers through the Department of Commerce and Insurance. The state offers two levels of licenses: limited and contractor. You must pass an exam to become licensed.
Several local unions in Tennessee have Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees offering apprenticeship programs for aspiring plumbers. The apprenticeships typically last five years and include college credit. Placement can be competitive, so it’s best to have a strong high school transcript. Some options include:
- Plumbers and Steamfitters UA Local 43 in Chattanooga
- Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union #102 in Knoxville
- Tennessee Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors, Inc. in Knoxville
- UA Plumbers Local 572 in Nashville
- Memphis Plumbers Local 17 in Memphis
You can also find non-union apprenticeships in the state by searching an online job site. For example, recent listings at Glassdor.com include these options: apprentice plumbers, ULG Skilled Trades in Nashville;plumbing apprentice, Rogers Mechanical in Knoxville; and plumber apprentice, Tradesman International in Chattanooga.
Another option for hands-on plumbing training is to complete a community or technical college program. Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Morristown offers a pipefitting and plumbing technology program that takes 12 months to complete. Moore Tech’s 12-month plumbing diploma program is available in Memphis.
Earning and Job Growth Potential in the State
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported average annual earnings of $48,600 in 2021 for plumbers in Tennessee. Although somewhat below the national average of $59,880, salary data must be considered in light of the local cost of living, which can vary significantly from state to state.
The state’s job growth potential for plumbers is positive, with a predicted 11 percent growth between 2020 and 2030, translating to an average of 850 job openings annually.
Job Outlook for Plumbers in Tennessee
With organizations like the University of Texas, Aerotek, Interstate Mechanical Contractors and Roane County Schools recruiting, Tennessee has promising opportunities for plumbers. However, many plumbers prefer to work more independently or run a business of their own. Whichever career track you choose, obtaining qualifications as a plumber is a great way to meet your goals.