Beginning a Career as a Plumber in Virginia

As a vital infrastructure that keeps society functioning, plumbing is needed nearly everywhere humans live and work. Although you might think about plumbing only in terms of it bringing water to and wastes away from your home, did you know that plumbing has myriad other uses? Piping systems make heating and air conditioning possible, bring natural gas to your home for cooking and bring essential gasses to medical facilities, laboratories and industries. With piping being so prevalent in society, a career in plumbing holds a lot of promise for anyone looking for a lucrative career opportunity.

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Plumbers need to obtain a great deal of knowledge prior to working on their own. Your training should include becoming familiar with the tools of the trade, the various materials used for different types of systems, and state and local building codes. The work comes with a great deal of responsibility for public safety and handling of materials.

Plumbers will need to have good physical stamina, as they will be required to perform physical tasks for most of the workday. Often this includes working in dark, enclosed spaces, where crawling or sliding is necessary. Good hand-eye coordination and an ability to see fine details will be greatly needed, as plumbers will often need to inspect pipes for areas in need of repair.

Since small business ownership is common for plumbers, it will be necessary for those who wish to work on their own to familiarize themselves with good business practices and local regulations. Business owners will need to have excellent communication skills as well as the ability to prepare estimates for specific projects. Marketing and accounting skills will also be required for successful business ownership.

Virginia Licensing Requirements

In Virginia, plumbers are licensed by the state. Licensing is regulated by the Department of Professional Regulation and overseen by the Board for Contractors. Some trades are also regulated at a local level, so it will be essential to check for regulations in the areas in which you wish to work.

Virginia Training for Plumbers

In Virginia, plumbers train through participation in a registered apprenticeship. The program combines on-the-job training with 144 hours of classroom instruction through local community colleges. Students will work with an appropriate sponsor to obtain 2,000 hours of supervised practice. The program takes an average of four years to complete.

Finding a Plumbing Apprenticeship in Virginia

If you live in Virginia and are interested in training to become a plumber, you might want to know more about plumbing apprenticeships in the state. In Virginia, undergoing an apprenticeship is essential to becoming a licensed plumber. Specifically, those looking to become licensed journeymen must have at least four years of experience in the field and 240 hours of formal training. Alternatively, applicants for licensing may have two years of experience with an associate’s degree, or one year of experience with a bachelor’s degree. In any case, completing on-the-job training in the form of an apprenticeship is required for all plumbers in Virginia. 

Apprenticeships are a great way to support both trainees and trade professionals symbiotically. The apprentice works for the master or journeyman plumber as an assistant, helping to complete small tasks, carry supplies and fetch equipment as needed. In return, the qualified plumber allows the apprentice an opportunity to work in the field, performing hands-on tasks under their supervision and tutelage. As a member of a crew of workers, apprentices are paid for their efforts, offsetting the costs of training, housing and other needs. 

Apprenticeships can be entered through a union organization or by partnering with any non-union tradesman. Union apprenticeships generally offer higher pay but require apprentices to pay union dues.

In Virginia, you can apply for an apprenticeship program through Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) VirginiaPlumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors of VirginiaUA Local 110 and University of Virginia.

Certifications for Career Specialization

Attaining certifications is an excellent way for an individual or business to fill a specific need in the community. There are a variety of certifications for which a plumber can apply, many of which fill a highly specific purpose. Some examples of certifications include UPC Journeyman Plumber, Water-Based Fire Protection Systems Layout, IAPMO Plumbing Inspector and Commercial Plumbing Inspector.

Salary and Career Expectations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers in Virginia made an average annual wage of $51,330 in 2019. The range of salaries in the same year fell between $33,200 and $69,390.

The outlook for career growth in the state also looks good, with Projections Central predicting an 11.2 percent increase in plumbers between 2018 and 2028.

Opportunities in Virginia

Data from the BLS show plumbers are most often employed by building equipment contractors, utility systems construction groups, non-residential building contractors, local governments and employment services. However, because the field has so many possibilities, plumbers can be found in a large variety of situations and settings, from government buildings to hospitals to small home-based businesses.

Some of the possible employers in Virginia include The Bell Company, Loudon County Public Schools, TradeSource, Bon Secours Health System and the City of Norfolk.