Plumbing professionals are needed to diagnose and repair problems with water pipes, fixtures, and appliances. The work can be dangerous, especially if there is a leak or clog.

Plumbers can advance to supervisory roles or move into other specialisations within the construction industry. They also can teach and instruct apprentices to take up the trade.

Job Duties

Work as part of a plumbing team to install, repair and maintain pipes and fixtures. Perform plumbing duties such as reading blueprints, building specifications, interpreting mechanical drawings and sketches, determining layout for pipe systems, and providing recommendations and related pricing to customers.

Plumbers are also responsible for repairing drain lines and sanitation systems like toilets, showers and sinks. They may need to open clogged drains with tools such as electric snakes or high-velocity water jets and test equipment and systems for leaks. Plumbers also deal with human waste, which can cause infections such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.

Other responsibilities include picking materials and supplies, cleaning shop / worksites, delivering parts, assisting with installation of kitchen appliances, preparing rough sketches of minor plumbing installations and estimating material and labor costs for small jobs. Plumbers also need to be able to climb ladders and scaffolding and work in confined spaces. They need to communicate with supervisors and other tradespeople and follow written and oral instructions.

Education and Training Requirements

Whether you’re looking for a full college degree program or just some on-the-job training, there are plenty of options. Some vocational schools offer specific plumbing programs while community colleges have a range of trade courses that can help. Alternatively, you can enter the industry via a union or other trade organization apprenticeship.

For example, the UA Local 81 in Ithaca offers five-year plumbing, pipefitting and welding apprenticeships. This option is often considered “the other four-year college degree” and will give you the hands-on experience you need to work in the field. After completing your apprenticeship, you’ll need to take and pass your state’s licensing exam. Once you’ve done so, you can become a journey plumber and begin working independently on jobs. In addition, you’ll need to keep up with ongoing training and earn additional certifications in specialties like green plumbing design. This will improve your career outlook and boost your earning potential. Moreover, you’ll need excellent customer service skills and be comfortable interacting with people.

Working Conditions

Plumbers work both indoors and outdoors, alone or alongside other construction tradespeople. They can be exposed to extreme temperatures, dust, dirt, grease and hazardous fumes. As a result, they need good vision, flexibility and physical strength.

Plumbers also need to be able to solve problems within certain time frames to ensure that projects are completed on schedule. As a result, stress is not uncommon for this job.

Some plumbers learn the trade informally, by working as helpers for experienced journeymen. Others participate in formal apprenticeship programs, which last five years and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Local plumbing contractors and union offices are sources of information about available apprenticeship programs. Plumbers may choose to join trade unions, which negotiate wages and benefits for their members. They may also choose to become self-employed and contract their services directly to customers. This option allows them more control over their work environment and hours. However, it can be more difficult to find steady employment.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters is expected to be very good over the next decade. Demand for their services is projected to increase as new homes and businesses are built, existing homes and businesses undergo renovations, and people comply with stricter water efficiency standards for showerheads and toilets. Installation of sprinkler systems in commercial and residential structures will also create jobs for these professionals.

Plumbing professionals may find employment with general construction firms, plumbing supply companies, specialty contracting firms and private businesses. They also have the option of establishing their own independent service businesses.

Some plumbers choose to join professional organizations. These groups offer educational and career resources, fellowship opportunities and a chance to network with other members of the trade. They also may benefit from special certifications and industry knowledge that they would not otherwise gain on their own. People who work in this field often report a high level of job satisfaction.

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