How to become a plumber

The main reasons for building a career in plumbing are the excellent income potential and, high demand for specialists in this sector and the prospects of starting your own business. To become a plumber you need certain qualifications, experience and physical stamina.

Job description
The work entails reparation and maintenance of hygiene and waste removal systems, temperature regulated and airing systems, and the installation and repairs to water pipes. The jobs in industrial environments include air-condition and extractor fan work. Some examples of the responsibilities are:

  • Regular repairing and maintenance of boilers and geysers
  • Waterproofing roofs
  • Installation of all pipes and related appliances

Types of employment
Apart from starting your own 24 hour emergency service for geyser and pipe bursts in homes, you can also become a plumber at chemical plants, hospitals, tankers and gas supply companies. Municipalities make use of plumbing companies for the installation and maintenance of pipes in their districts, while small companies focus on residential dwellings. Large facilities management companies employ people for the general maintenance of their buildings.

The NVQ/SVQ levels 2 and 3 together with a technical certificate are recognized in most European countries and the USA. You are also required to work as an apprentice to become a plumber. Most trainees complete the NVQ/SVQ on both levels 2 and 3 within four years although some complete the course within a shorter period.

Career paths

Job placement

You can either study full time and search for a job placement with the assistance of your training institute or study while you work. You can obtain a job placement by submitting your CV and an introductory letter to prospective employers, which you will be able to find on Internet directories and the yellow pages.

The most followed path to become a plumber is through a traineeship program. The trainee or apprentice works at a related business and earns a living while he does on the job training and attends classes during the evenings. Most trainees join a union. The total hours of work when you take this route is around 2000 training hours and more than 200 class hours.

If you are 25 years or older, you will find it difficult to use the apprentice route since the employers are unable to get compensation or sponsorship for older workers. Your best option is to study full time and work in a related business for a while and then apply for a plumbing position.

Skills needed

  • Technical aptitude
  • Ability to solve complex problems
  • Able to follow technical drawings and plans
  • Systematic work method
  • Physical strength and fitness
  • Mathematical and engineering type skills

There are very few women in this sector mainly due to the physical nature of the work. If you plan to become a plumber, you should spend at least two days with a professional in the field. It will give you an indication of the nature of the work and whether it would suit you. There is a definite shortage of workers in this industry in most countries due to the low starting salaries. If you are willing to start at the bottom and work irregular hours under difficult work conditions, you will be able to reap the financial rewards within a few years.