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It is hard to imagine a world without plumbing. Plumbing is everywhere, even beyond the bathroom. Plumbing is used for softening water, park fountains, and for garden hoses. And plumbers do not only install water pipes-they also install pipe systems that transport waste, gases, or hot liquids.

Plumbers work everywhere, planning, installing, servicing, and repairing plumbing fixtures, piping equipment, and controls. Generally plumbers work with water pipes, and help out with construction crews, as well as look after repairs for years after the system's initial installation.

After the frame of a new building is in place, plumbers can get to work, measuring and laying down pipes. They have to be careful to keep everything waterproof and safe - the last thing they want is a leak within the walls of a new office building. They also have to do work that complies with codes and by-laws. They return to the construction site after the plasterers or drywallers, tilesetters and floor covering installers have completed their work, and complete the finishing work, such as installing sinks, tubs and toilets.

Some plumbers specialize in the types of work they do. And there are a lot of roles for plumbers, who may focus on installing water conditioners, installing plumbing in houses under construction, installing plumbing in commercial, institutional, industrial or public buildings, or renovating, maintaining and repairing existing plumbing. Those plumbers who live in smaller communities focus on a wider variety of plumbing, and may even get into plumbing related jobs, like installing private sewage disposal systems.

Plumbing jobs, be they big or small, are important to our way of life in North America. Without talented, dedicated plumbers, rainwater and outhouses would still be the norm. Every time you wash your hands in hot, running water, thank a plumber.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
To be successful at their jobs, plumbers should be strong, with enough stamina to lift heavy pieces, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time. They should have good manual dexterity as well. They should be able to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately, as well as be able to get along well with others on a work team. Plumbers need to have some mechanical ability, enjoy working with their hands, and should feel comfortable working alone as well as with others.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Meet with client to discuss needs
  • Study the building plans
  • Determine the layout for the plumbing and other materials
  • Locate and mark the positions for plumbing fixtures
  • Cut holes through walls and floors to accommodate pipes
  • Select the type and size of pipe required
  • Measure, cut, thread, bend, clamp, solvent cement or solder pipe
  • Assemble and install valves and fittings
  • Join pipe sections and secure them in position
  • Test for leaks
  • Install underground storm piping systems
  • Plumbers spend each day hard at work in cramped spaces, open fields, and anywhere a plumbing system might be in need of installation or repair. They work with heavy, sometimes dangerous equipment, in a variety of settings. They do everything from measure spaces and piping to unclogging hair balls from drains. They travel around their communities, but do not spend much time outdoors, unless necessary to complete a job.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Plumbers are sometimes self-employed, but many work with a plumbing agency, or are employed by construction contractors, plumbing repair shops and large organizations. Some have permanent positions with a factory or company.
  • Plumbers can work outdoors as well as indoors. When outdoors, they are exposed to all kinds of weather, whereas indoors, they manage to work in relatively comfortable surroundings. They may work long, odd hours, especially if they are running their own business.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Plumbers can find a permanent position with a factory as the plumber on the maintenance staff, or they can open up their own business. Some choose to advance to supervisory positions, while others transfer their skills to other pipe trades or become safety codes officers.

  Educational Paths  
Plumbers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a plumber, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the plumber a certificate of completion.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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