Becoming a Plumber in Washington State

If you’ve been considering a career as a plumber, you are probably wondering if the profession is the right choice for stability and longevity. The short answer is yes. Tasked with managing a vital infrastructure, plumbers are essential to the ongoing functioning of society. Simply put, without plumbers to install, maintain and repair them, the piping systems that keep the community running would erode and stop working.

So, what does it take to become a plumber? Plumbers will need to become well-educated in their trade since they will be responsible for ensuring the safety and functioning of the systems they install. The ability to read blueprints, the use of trade-specific tools and knowledge of the local building codes are essential for plumbers. Additionally, they will need to possess a high degree of physical stamina and manual dexterity. Visual acuity will be crucial for inspecting pipes for leaks and other problems, often in low-light situations.

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Because the career has such good potential for business ownership, those interested in this route should familiarize themselves with local business codes and learn about business management as much as possible. Contractors will need to be able to appropriately price the cost of materials and labor in order to provide accurate estimates for clients. Communications skills are another must, as speaking with clients and consulting with other contractors will be common tasks.

Licenses for Washington Plumbers

Plumbers in the state of Washington need to acquire certification through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Plumbers in the state must typically begin as Plumber Trainees prior to applying for a higher level of certification as either a Journey Level Plumber or Medical Gas Piping Installer. To become a Journey Level Plumber, you must have worked at least 8,000 hours under the supervision of another plumber, with half of the hours logged in commercial or industrial plumbing. Medical Gas Piping Installers will need to have completed an approved 32-hour training course.

Plumbing Schools in Washington

Plumbers usually acquire training by taking a course or completing an apprenticeship. Obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent is a prerequisite to training as a plumber, whichever type of program you choose to pursue. For a potential apprenticeship in your area, this website can help.

For a training program in Washington, check out the partial list below:

  • Perry Technical Institute offers a one-year Plumbing Technician course. The program is designed to advance students into the industry with a diversified curriculum to help them master everything from plumbing basics to advanced techniques. Students will gain the required experience by completing an externship and be prepared to work in an entry-level position upon graduation.
  • Edmonds College offers a certificate in Construction Management. Courses are offered on both a part-time and full-time basis to accommodate working students.

Plumbing Apprenticeships in Washington State

Most experienced plumbers served apprenticeships at the start of their careers. As apprentices, they worked under the direct guidance of seasoned pros while developing their skills. Some states do not make an apprenticeship mandatory for beginning plumbers. However, in states like Washington, there are specific mandatory procedures you must follow.

Washington State regulates the plumbing industry through its Department of Labor and Industries. Department rules state that all experienced plumbers must be certified in order to work. And one of the key steps in getting certified is serving for several years as an apprentice, or plumber trainee. The amount of time you must spend as a trainee varies from two to four years depending on your chosen area of specialization. Such specializations include:

  • General journey level plumbing
  • Medical gas piping systems
  • Residential plumbing fixtures
  • Residential plumbing service
  • Industrial installations

In any state with plumbers’ unions, union locals are typically trusted resources for quality, paid apprenticeship programs. If you live in greater Seattle, union-backed Seattle Area Pipe Tradesis an excellent choice. This program allows you to specialize in commercial or residential plumbing as well as in several other related professions.

You can also seek out plumber training through other kinds of organizations and institutions in Washington. For example, Perry Technical Institute in Yakima offers a yearlong Plumbing Technician program. Edmonds College in Lynwood offers a Construction Trades Apprenticeship Preparationprogram that includes a dedicated plumbing component.

Career Growth and Wage Expectations

In Washington State, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters earn significantly higher wages compared to the national average. The average annual wage in Washington is $72,840, which surpasses the national average of $60,090. The lowest 10% of earners in Washington make $43,620 or less, while the top 10% earn as much as $129,500, which is also notably higher than the top national earners.

National vs. Washington Salary Comparison

Location Annual Low (10%) Annual Median (50%) Annual High (90%)
United States $37,250 $60,090 $101,190
Washington $43,620 $72,840 $129,500

Salaries by Regions in Washington

Region Annual Low (10%) Annual Median (50%) Annual High (90%)
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $46,320 $78,970 $135,560
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA $36,920 $61,970 $103,060
Olympia-Tumwater, WA $37,760 $72,600 $129,350

Plumbing Trends in Washington

The webpage provides employment trends for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in Washington state. It indicates that in 2020, the employment figure for this occupation was 11,540, which is projected to rise to 13,480 by 2030, reflecting a growth rate of 17%. Annually, approximately 1,660 job openings are expected between 2020 and 2030, which include positions due to growth and replacements. This rate of growth is significantly higher compared to the national growth projection of 2% for the same occupation over the period from 2022 to 2032.


Location Employment (2020) Projected Employment (2030) Projected Growth Projected Annual Job Openings (2020-2030)
Washington 11,540 13,480 17% 1,660
United States 482,700 493,600 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.

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