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How to become a professional plumber

Billy Stutz, a Ferguson Marketing Manager

by Billy Stutz


Becoming a licensed plumber can open the door to numerous opportunities and unlock a variety of benefits. If you’re interested in pursuing a plumbing career, then the next step is to learn what it takes to make your goal a reality. The path to becoming a plumber varies significantly from state to state and even city to city. There are, however, a few requirements that most areas have in common. Discover the basics of earning a plumbing certification and find resources in your area to help you get started.

How much money can you earn as a plumber? Find out >>

Step 1: Set your foundation for education

Earning your high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED, is your first step on the path to becoming a professional plumber. Having a basic knowledge of reading, writing, science and math are critical to pursuing any career in the pro trade industry. For plumbers, having an advanced knowledge of math and science are absolutely necessary since the work often involves making accurate measurements and gauging water. Areas of your high school or equivalent education that will benefit you as a plumber include:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Metric units of measure
  • Thermodynamics
  • Biology

Pro tip: Keep your record clean

In addition to earning your high school diploma or GED, other factors that can impact your plumbing career are your driving record, your criminal background and your ability to pass a drug test. Training programs and future employers might be deterred from working with you for safety and insurance reasons if you have:

  • DUIs or DWIs
  • Reckless driving convictions
  • An extensive number of moving violations
  • Certain misdemeanor offenses
  • Felony convictions of any kind
  • Failed a drug test

If you have a valid driver's license, are drug-free and have a clean driving record and criminal background, then it will likely be easier for you to pursue a plumbing career.

Step 2: Enroll in technical courses

Once you’ve earned your high school diploma or equivalent, the next step is to enroll in technical plumbing courses. Many states require a certain number of hours in the classroom in order to become a licensed plumber. Technical course are offered by a variety of public and private schools and programs. Check out local community colleges, trade institutions, unions or professional plumbing associations for information about plumbing programs in your area. The curriculum will depend on your city or state’s requirements, but topics could include:

  • Pipe cutting and soldering
  • Draining and venting
  • Electrical basics
  • Water heating systems
  • Local plumbing codes

Recommendation: Joining the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Associations can help you grow your plumbing career. Explore PHCC membership benefits >>

Step 3: Find an apprenticeship

Depending on where you live, you will likely be required to work alongside an experienced plumber as an apprentice for a certain number of hours. The length of the apprenticeship will vary, but could take as long as two to five years. You might be able to complete your apprenticeship while you are enrolled in technical courses. In order to find a plumbing apprenticeship, you can start by checking with the trade school or organization through which you are receiving technical training. If they do not offer an apprenticeship program, they will likely have information about where to find one.

Pro tip: You can also check with local plumbing businesses to see if they are hiring apprentices. Not only will you receive valuable on-the-job training from a seasoned pro, but they might offer to pay you for the hours you work. This gives you the opportunity to earn while you learn.

Step 4: Take the test

Certain areas will require you to pass a written exam, a practical test or both in order for you to earn your plumbing license. If testing is required in your area, you will likely have to take it once you have completed your technical courses and your apprenticeship program. In general, you can expect the exam to be cumulative of what you learned on the job and in the classroom. Based on your state and local requirements, you might then be considered a licensed journeyman plumber once you pass the test. If so, then you might be legally allowed to complete plumbing contract work without the assistance of another qualified plumber depending on where you live.

Online plumbing license resources by state

Click the region in which your state is located to get started with finding information about the plumbing license requirements and programs in your area. Please note that some states have limited online resources, and that certain license requirements are mandated at the city or county level.

Billy Stutz, a Ferguson Marketing Manager
Billy Stutz

For more than 10 years, Billy has been a dedicated supply-chain strategist delivering quality information to his customers and offering solutions to drive actionable results to their bottom line.