How to Become a Plumber in 6 Steps (Plus Duties and Skills)
Updated June 26, 2023
Plumbers are professionals who repair various water, heating, and sanitation systems. Regardless of your current experience and background, you can develop the skills and competencies necessary for a plumbing career. Learning how to become a plumber can have a positive effect on your career trajectory and you can achieve it by researching the subject. In this article, we discuss the steps you can take to become a plumber, list common responsibilities associated with the job, and mention some relevant skills for the role.
How to become a plumber
Learning how to become a plumber generally involves gaining the necessary skills and competencies. You can follow these steps to improve your chances of working as a professional plumber:
1. Earn your high school diploma
The basic prerequisite for becoming a plumber is earning a high school education. While in high school, you can prepare for a plumbing career by focusing on physics and chemistry courses, as they're likely to be useful later on when attempting to understand plumbing concepts and procedures.
If you decide to become a plumber while still in high school, you can join the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), which is an apprenticeship program specifically designed for high school students who already know what career they want to pursue. After graduating high school, the high school apprenticeship automatically transforms into a regular apprenticeship.
2. Join a technical school or community college
Although it's technically possible to become a plumber with only a high school diploma and formal apprenticeship, furthering your education through a vocational or technical college can improve your chances of career success. These educational facilities offer both plumbing training classes and direct on-the-job training, providing a complete educational experience for aspiring plumbers. Completing such a program can help you get residential and commercial plumbing jobs.
3. Complete an apprenticeship program
Plumbing apprenticeship programs typically last four or five years. They offer students practical experience and at least 144 hours per year of classroom training, in subjects like drafting nuts and bolts, plumbing codes, mathematics, plumbing security, applied and material science, and outline perusing. Apprentices also learn essential plumbing concepts, like how to use various plumbing devices, how to distinguish between different types of pipe, and securely disposing of discarded plumbing materials.
4. Get your license
Some provinces or territories, such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, only allow certified plumbers to operate. If you plan on working in one of these regions, getting professional certification is required before starting to work as a plumber.
You can earn your certification by passing the Certification of Qualification exam with a score of at least 70 percent. Even if the region you wish to operate in doesn't specifically require certification, earning it may lead to more employment opportunities, as it acts as proof that you have relevant knowledge regarding plumbing systems and safety codes.
5. Gain plumbing experience
Once you've received your plumbing certification, you can gain professional experience as a plumber. This is likely to expose you to a wide variety of situations, helping you improve your skills and knowledge base. You can use the contacts you've gathered when completing your apprenticeship and education to enquire about available entry-level plumber jobs in your area. You can also use job websites to discover open plumbing positions.
6. Pass the plumbing exam
The final step toward being able to work as a professional plumber anywhere in Canada is passing the Red Seal Plumbing Exam, which is administered by the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA). It includes multiple-choice questions gathered from real-life situations reported by professional plumbers, it has a time limit of four hours, and its passing score is 70 percent. Besides allowing you to work anywhere in the country, passing the Red Seal exam acts as further proof to potential employers that you have the knowledge for achieving success in the role.
What do plumbers do?
As a general description, plumbers are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining water/gas supplies, heating systems, sanitation units and other related fixtures in both residential and commercial settings. They are also required to assess and design plumbing systems to ensure they follow all codes and regulations. They typically work alone and may be required to travel long or short distances on a regular basis to complete the necessary repairs. Plumbers may also be expected to install things such as toilets, sinks, bathtubs and other related appliances.
Some specific plumber duties are:
Visiting businesses and residential homes to assess and repair various plumbing issues
Use their expertise to analyze situations and offer accurate repair estimates to clients before executing the work
Repairing issues and providing recommendations for preventing similar situations from occurring in the future
Reading and analyzing building blueprints when planning new installations
Fitting pipes and other plumbing-related devices
Using special equipment to discover and assess various issues with plumbing systems
Repairing various plumbing-related appliances
Cutting, assembling and welding tubes, pipes, fittings and other related fixtures
Making sure that all work is fully compliant with local and national safety codes and regulations
Relevant plumber skills
Being successful as a plumber generally requires a specific mix of hard and soft skills. Some common plumber skills are:
Plumbing is usually a physically demanding job, as it involves carrying metal pipes and devices and spending many hours in awkward body positions. Some important physical attributes of a plumber are:
Physical strength: Besides carrying heavy pipes and equipment, plumbers also require the strength to tighten clasps and to fit large metal pieces.
Flexibility: Most pipe areas are located in hard-to-reach places, like under cabinets or underground.
Motor skills: Being able to work with small parts and tools requires the dexterity to fit them into place, fasten them, and operate them effectively.
Vision: Good eyesight is required when working in dark areas and operating small pieces of equipment.
As a plumber, you're required to have extensive knowledge regarding various tools and machinery. Besides being able to perform standard repair and maintenance jobs by selecting appropriate tools, you may also require the skills to assess novel situations and use your knowledge to resolve them. Being adept at using physical objects is an essential trait for a plumber.
Besides being able to perform various types of plumbing jobs, successful plumbers also usually have the communication abilities to effectively interact with those around them. They're typically in constant communication with multiple parties, such as clients, supervisors, managers, call operators, and suppliers, and communicating effectively can help them resolve various issues quickly. Plumbers also sometimes have to explain technical aspects of their activity in simple terms to their clients.
Aside from regular maintenance work on plumbing systems, plumbers spend most of their working time resolving problems. They require the ability to correctly identify each issue, diagnose its root cause, and provide appropriate solutions. They also typically have to quickly go through the problem-solving process and maintain a positive attitude in situations when multiple complex issues occur.
Business and administrative skills
Plumbers also spend a portion of their working time performing office work, like managing various aspects of the plumbing projects they're involved in or determining the required budgets for certain plumbing operations. They can successfully perform these tasks by gaining some administrative skills, like being able to use common computer software apps, as well as their employer's specific software.
They also have to write reports regarding their work, which requires basic spelling, grammar, and vocabulary knowledge. After gaining plumbing experience, you may want to start a plumbing company, which requires basic business and management skills.
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