Career Development

What Does a Plumber Do?

Find out what a plumber does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a plumber.

Plumbers are responsible for installing, repairing and maintaining the piping systems that deliver water, sewage and other liquids to our homes and businesses. They’re also tasked with diagnosing and resolving any issues related to these systems—from clogged pipes to broken water heaters.

Plumbers must have a wide range of skills in order to do their job effectively. They need to be able to read blueprints and diagrams, as well as understand how various pieces of equipment work together. They also need strong communication skills so they can explain what they’re doing to customers or other members of the team who may be present during the service call.

Plumber Job Duties

Plumbers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Diagnosing problems and determining solutions to repair or replace plumbing systems such as pipes, faucets, or toilets
  • Inspecting buildings for potential hazards such as leaky roofs or insect infestations that could lead to mold growth in plumbing systems
  • Installing new plumbing systems in homes or businesses, including pipes and fixtures
  • Inspecting plumbing systems for leaks or other damage that could lead to water damage in a building
  • Repairing leaks in pipes or other components of plumbing systems using hand tools, power tools, and other equipment such as blowtorches
  • Diagnosing problems with plumbing systems by listening for gurgling sounds caused by air in the system or observing bubbles in the line for leaks
  • Repairing damaged pipes by replacing broken sections or adding new sections to lengthen the pipe
  • Installing drainage systems in basements to prevent flooding
  • Repairing leaks in faucets and toilets, replacing faulty valves, and tightening loose handles

Plumber Salary & Outlook

Plumbers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location. Plumbers who work for a plumbing company typically earn more than those who work for an end-client.

  • Median Annual Salary: $60,500 ($29.09/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $121,000 ($58.17/hour)

The employment of plumbers is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for plumbing services will stem from a variety of sources, including new housing construction and renovation projects. In addition, demand for plumbing services will be driven by the need to replace aging infrastructure in existing buildings.

Plumber Job Requirements

A plumber typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Plumbers need to complete a technical education program before they can start working. These programs are typically two years long and include courses in plumbing, mathematics, blueprint reading and building science.

Training & Experience: Most plumbers learn the specific skills and techniques they need for their role while on the job. Training for this role typically includes shadowing a current plumber for a few days or weeks. During this time, the trainee will learn how to complete various tasks, such as installing and repairing pipes, unclogging drains and clearing clogs.

Some plumbers may receive additional training in the military or through vocational programs. Military plumbers receive training in a variety of areas, including basic plumbing, advanced piping, welding and carpentry. They may also learn how to use explosives and operate heavy machinery.

Certifications & Licenses: Most states require plumbers to get licensed to work independently. To gain licensure, you must have completed a plumbing apprenticeship program and must also have a certain amount of on-the-job experience. The amount of time you need to gain work experience before earning licensure varies based on the state you live in. Once you have met the minimum requirements for your state, you will need to pass the Journeyman Plumbing Examination administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Then, you will need to apply for licensure in your state. Since requirements vary based on the state, you should contact your state’s plumbing board to get specific details on how to become licensed.

Plumber Skills

Plumbers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Plumbers use technical skills to read and understand blueprints, diagrams and schematics. They use these skills to determine the best way to complete a job and to identify any potential issues that may arise during the job. Technical skills also include math skills, as many plumbing calculations involve basic math.

Communication skills: Plumbers must be able to communicate with their clients, other tradespeople and their supervisors. They must be able to explain the plumbing process to their clients and explain any issues that arise during the job. They must also be able to communicate with other tradespeople to ensure that the plumbing job is done correctly.

Problem-solving skills: Plumbers use their problem-solving skills to identify and repair issues with plumbing systems. They use their knowledge of plumbing systems to identify the source of the problem and determine the best solution. This may involve repairing or replacing parts of a system or finding a new solution to a problem.

Physical stamina: Plumbers often work in cramped spaces and on their knees for extended periods of time. Physical stamina is important for plumbers to be able to work for long periods of time without getting tired.

Attention to detail: Plumbers need to be detail-oriented to ensure they install pipes and fixtures correctly. They also need to be precise when reading blueprints and measuring materials. This skill helps them to complete projects on time and within budget.

Plumber Work Environment

Plumbers work in a variety of settings, including residential, commercial, and industrial sites. They may be exposed to a variety of hazardous materials, such as lead, asbestos, and chemicals. Plumbers also work in confined spaces, such as crawl spaces and attics, and may be required to work in awkward positions. Plumbers typically work a 40-hour week, but they may have to work overtime to meet deadlines or to respond to emergencies.

Plumber Trends

Here are three trends influencing how plumbers work. Plumbers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Plumbing Industry

The plumbing industry is facing a major diversity problem. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 2% of plumbers are African American, and less than 1% are Hispanic. This lack of diversity can have serious consequences for the industry as a whole, as it means that many customers are not being served by professionals who understand their needs.

To address this issue, plumbing companies need to make a greater effort to recruit and retain workers from underrepresented communities. They can do this by offering better pay and benefits, as well as providing training and support for employees who want to advance their careers.

More Focus on Green Technology

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, the demand for green technology will continue to grow. This means that plumbers will need to focus on installing and maintaining eco-friendly systems.

In order to stay competitive, plumbers will need to be familiar with the latest technologies that help reduce energy consumption. They will also need to be able to troubleshoot any problems that may occur with these systems.

A Greater Emphasis on Customer Service

Plumbers are increasingly focusing on customer service as a way to set themselves apart from the competition. By providing excellent customer service, plumbers can build lasting relationships with their clients and earn their trust.

This trend is especially important in the current economy, where customers are looking for value and quality work. By providing great customer service, plumbers can ensure that they are meeting the needs of their customers and staying ahead of the competition.

How to Become a Plumber

A plumber career can be a great choice for people who want to work in the construction industry. It’s important to have a strong foundation in plumbing before you start your career, so make sure you complete an apprenticeship program and take continuing education courses.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques used in the plumbing industry. This will help you keep pace with changes in the field and ensure that you provide high-quality service to your customers.

Related: How to Write a Plumber Resume

Advancement Prospects

After completing an apprenticeship or a formal training program, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are considered to be journey workers. They can perform most of the tasks required in the occupation and are often able to find employment without much difficulty. Many journey workers choose to become independent contractors, working on a variety of projects for different customers. Some eventually open their own businesses.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters who have several years of experience may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. With additional training, they may become plumbing or piping inspectors. Some may become estimators, purchasing agents, or project managers for plumbing, heating, and piping contractors. Some may become instructors or trainers in apprenticeship programs.

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