The plumbing profession is a growing field boasting some of the highest-paid laborers in the construction industry. Here are some resources to help you decide if a career in plumbing-related technologies is right for you.
Plumbers install and maintain water, waste and drainage systems at residences, commercial buildings and industrial sites. Pipefitters install and maintain piping used for manufacturing, controlling the temperatures in buildings and producing electricity. Pipelayers put in outdoor piping for water mains, gas lines, sewers and drains. Sprinklerfitters supply fire protection by installing automated sprinkler systems in structures. Steamfitters install high-pressure piping that moves gases and liquids.
The services of plumbing professionals are in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals are among the best-paid construction occupations (www.bls.gov). Plumbers, pipefitters, sprinklerfitters and steamfitters earned a median yearly wage of $46,660 as of May 2010, the BLS said. Pipelayers earned a median annual salary of $34,800 as of May 2010. The BLS predicted job opportunities for plumbing professionals would rise 16% between 2008-2018, which is faster than the average.
As a plumbing professional, you'll need physical strength to perform the job and mental agility to solve problems and focus on details. You'll require computer literacy because you'll utilize computers to make blueprints. Fluency in Spanish to communicate with workers is another helpful skill for plumbing professionals.
If you're interested in a career as a plumber or in other plumbing-related technologies, several educational paths are available. Most plumbing professionals receive on-the-job training in an apprenticeship, during which they work with an experienced professional or master plumber. Many technical schools and community colleges offer programs to prepare you for a plumbing career. Some schools offer online plumbing programs.
If you choose an apprenticeship, you'll receive a wage while gaining expertise via four or five years of on-the-job training. Depending on the apprenticeship, you might spend a minimum of 144 hours or a minimum of 246 hours each year in classrooms, studying topics like sanitation, blueprints, science, drafting, math, welding, bacteriology and local plumbing rules. Plumbing programs at community colleges and technical schools may include hands-on training and instruction in welding, drafting, water efficiency, local plumbing regulations, safety procedures and renewable energy options.
Many states and local authorities demand licensing for plumbers. You probably need to meet work experience and testing requirements, but the exact requirements differ by state. Pipefitters need a license to work in some states. The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, commonly called the United Association, offers certification to highlight skills in specialties like green knowledge, welding or valve repairs (www.ua.org).