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.
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.
Training 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 hands-on 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 plumbing
- Residential plumbing
- Residential plumbing service
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
According to Projections Central, plumbing positions are expected to increase by 13.7 percent nationwide between 2018 and 2028. In job openings, this figure translates to an estimated 66,100 opportunities annually.
In other good news, wages in the state are well above the national average, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting an average annual salary of $72,830 in 2019 for Washington plumbers.
Plumbing Opportunities in Washington
Since plumbing structures exist in many places, plumbers can often decide what type of job they want, from full-time employment with paid benefits to part-time, home-based businesses. In Washington, organizations like Vancouver Public Schools, Seattle Housing Authority, Department of the Army and Washington Department of Health actively recruit for and hire plumbers. Regardless of where you start your career as a plumber, it has the potential to improve your future.