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Career Advice

How to become a plumber

plumberThere are few jobs which are as familiar to us as that of a plumber. Chances are that most of us will come into contact with a plumber at least once (and probably much more) over the course of our lifetimes. Surprisingly the role of ‘plumber’ is one of the oldest professions still widely practiced, dating back to the ancient Romans who employed lead workers to create and maintain their toilets and bath houses. Today it is one of society’s staple careers, so indispensable within the modern world that they are and will always be in high demand – a great career choice for those who are both good with their hands and don’t mind getting a little bit wet from time to time.

What is a plumber?

Ok, so we all have a fair idea what a plumber is and what one does, right?  But to clarify here is the more specific and traditional definition. A plumber is a tradesperson who is involved in the installation and maintenance of systems used to transport drinking water, sewage, and drainage water. Aside from these areas though, a plumber must also be willing and able to handle the transportation of liquids within other circumstances, such as the installation of home heating systems and consumer appliances (washing machines, dishwashers etc).

Although the type of work that you will be involved in is largely dependent upon your level of experience and area of specialisation, there are a few general tasks in which most plumbers will find themselves regularly engaged;

  • Installing and maintaining water supply and drainage systems in a wide range of environments including domestic residences, civic buildings, commercial premises and industrial environments.
  • Installing consumer appliances such as home heating boilers, washing machines, certain types of refrigerators and dishwashers.  Some plumbers may also be involved in the installation of industrial equipment used in manufacturing and other activities
  • The installation of rainwater drainage systems on a wide range of buildings
  • Performing maintenance on boilers and central heating systems

Needless to say with such a wide range of possible duties, the day to day specifics of the role are rather difficult to pin down. Essentially a plumber must be someone who is highly adaptive and ready to take on the enormous range of challenges which could come their way at any time.

Skills and attributes

This is obviously a very hands-on role and is well suited to someone who wishes to have a career that allows them to be quite active and work in a wide range of different environments.  Clearly there is no recipe for the perfect plumber, but there are certain skills and attributes, which could be very beneficial in such a role. These include;

  • A logical and methodical approach to work – someone who is able and willing to follow intricate instructions
  • An understanding of the need to adhere to stringent health and safety practices – particularly in circumstances where electricity is involved.
  • Strong abilities for reading diagrams, technical drawings and blueprints and the skills to carry out the actions which they describe
  • The skills and ability to work in a role that requires a high degree of accuracy
  • The ability to work quickly and accurately, ensuring that no mistakes are made, often when working to tight deadlines.
  • A willingness to work in a range of environments including outdoors and in a range of weather conditions
  • As a plumber you will often be required to work in very tight and confined spaces, so you must be someone who is comfortable with these working conditions.
  • Excellent communication skills – both written and verbal
  • A good team player – especially if you intend to work on large projects within a team of plumbers
  • An understanding that in order to be a plumber you must have a flexible approach to your work as the role may at times require evening and weekend work.

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Income and Hours of work

As we always say at this point, it is impossible to accurately predict how much someone is likely to make and how many hours they will have to work within a particular field. This is especially the case when it comes to plumbers, since there is such a wide range of working environments and employment situations. In fact, many plumbers are also self employed.

However as a general rule, as you gain skills and experience you can expect your salary to rise. Those who have just qualified and are beginning their career can expect a salary of somewhere in the region of £16,000 – £20,000 and with increased experience and professional expertise this can rise to anywhere from £21,000 – £35,000+ depending on the number of hours worked and the level of skill which is attained.

The hours of work is similarly open to variation and is dependent upon a number of factors.  Generally speaking though, plumbers will work a fairly standard week- around 40 hours spread evenly from Monday to Friday. The nature of the role, however means that plumbers are often required to work overtime including evenings and weekends. Many plumbers now also offer a 24 hour call out service to deal with plumbing emergencies which could see you called out at any time of the day or night, so this is something that you should consider when deciding whether it is the correct role for you.

Qualifications and training

The route to becoming a fully qualified plumber will normally follow a course of on-the-job training combined with the completion of recognised industry qualifications.  The qualification which you need to complete is dependent on the level of experience that you hold.  Generally speaking you will need to complete a Level 3 diploma in either ‘Plumbing and Heating’ or ‘Installing and maintaining domestic heating systems’ although for those with a greater level of professional experience, the requirement is sometimes lowered to a Level 2 in either of these courses.

For those just beginning their career the most common way of becoming a plumber is through a structured apprenticeship, which will see you split your time between the workplace and the classroom, giving you the the hands-on experience and technical knowledge you will need.  These apprenticeships normally last for 2 – 3 years and will include gaining your Level 3 diploma in order to become a fully qualified plumber.

Qualifications for plumbers are accredited and overseen by EAL  , City & Guilds  and BPEC so be sure to check out their websites for all the latest information.

If you still fancy becoming a plumber then good luck! We hope you have found this quick guide useful, and don’t forget there’s plenty of other water-tight job guides in our rather fab career directory!


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