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A Plumbing Career: 5 Questions To Consider

Plumbing is unique among the trades — and indeed the job market as a whole. As an “essential service,” critical to the health and safety of local communities, it can withstand the changing tides of economic recessions, global pandemics and unprecedented snow storms that hit central Texas out of nowhere (If you were in the Lone Star State in February 2021, you know what we mean). If you’re interested in this industry and want to learn more about the necessary requirements and different career paths available to plumbers, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 5 questions to consider:

Should I Stay In School?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a high school classroom learning about single-celled organisms or how to measure the speed of light, you might have thought to yourself “when am I ever going to use this knowledge in real life?” And you might have a point! But one thing that can never be overstated is the value of having that certification attached to your name. A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for most jobs in the trades. If you missed your chance to graduate the first time round, you can easily complete your GED on your own time to receive a high school equivalence certificate. Online study resources are readily available to set you up for success. Now, let’s talk about starting your plumbing career.

How Do I Get An Apprenticeship?

The next step is to get your foot in the door by taking advantage of an apprenticeship opportunity. An apprenticeship program will allow you to hone your skills and learn on the job under the direct supervision of a licensed plumber. Before we proceed, note that not every state has the same requirements for becoming an apprentice, licensed plumber etc. Firstly, apply for an apprentice card from your state’s respective plumbing board such as Texas’ TSBPE. Then, simply start looking around! We recommend exploring new construction opportunities, as these apprenticeships serve as an amazing educational platform for newcomers to the trade. Home service companies like Radiant are also constantly on the lookout for Individuals who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and who are eager to learn, so checking out those job boards are worth a try. Be sure to be registered as a Plumbing Apprentice before you start working. Otherwise, any hours accumulated on the job will not count towards the requirements for advancing in the plumbing trade. Once you find an apprenticeship program that’s right for you, stick with it for at least 4,000 hours of experience. 

How Do I Get Licensed?

Once you’ve completed 4,000 + hours of work as an apprentice and you undertake an approved 24-hour training program, you can take the Tradesman Plumber Examination. If you pass, congratulations! You are now a A Tradesman Plumber. You are now officially licensed and you get to do residential work solo. The experience you gained as an apprentice will be put to the test, you will be challenged to solve problems independently and even act as a leader when you become a mentor to apprentices. After at least 4,000 hours of experience as a Tradesman, you’re ready to go to the next level and become a Journeyman plumber. Obtaining this license will also require completing a 48 hour training program unless you hold a license from another state. At this point, you will be able to do commercial work solo. As you can tell, the key to progressing in your career as a plumber is putting in the hours and working hard. It’s definitely a long game that’ll require years of commitment, but the rewards are great.

Plumber working in the field. Radiant Plumbing employs only the most experienced, licensed plumbers. Radiant is Austin's #1 in Plumbing & AC.
Radiant Master Plumber, Preston, in the field in Austin, TX.

Can The Student Become The Master?

And finally, we now get to the upper echelon of professionals in the trade — The Master Plumber. Unlike the other titles listed before, to become a Master Plumber, there’s no hourly minimum requirement. It’s about years in the trade — typically 4 years experience as a Journeyman. As a Master Plumber, you will be able to spearhead large scale projects like plumbing installations, by planning and supervising the operation from start to finish. In addition to your skills and experience, you will also be recognized as having advanced knowledge of plumbing codes, both locally and on a national scale.

Do Different Licenses Correspond To Pay?

Yes and no. For home service companies like Radiant, our ideal candidates for Service Plumbers are usually Tradesman Plumbers. That doesn’t mean we’re not impressed by the particular license an individual holds, but rather that simply being licensed is enough to be considered as a potential service tech on our team. At Radiant, we don’t scale our wages based solely on licenses, so Tradesman Plumbers can make as much commission as Master Plumbers. However, when it comes to construction and commercial plumbing where compensation is usually calculated according to hourly rates, your particular license will have a direct impact on your income. According to Nexstar’s 2018 financial survey, in this scenario, you can expect the income breakdown to look something like this: Apprenticeship ($12-$19/hour), Journeyman ($17-$34/hour), Master ($36-$67/hour). As you can see, regardless of your license, a plumbing career is lucrative if nothing else.

There is a serious shortage of skilled plumbers in the United States. This issue was fully exposed by The Texas Snow Storm of 2021, which saw local plumbing companies struggle to meet the sudden increase in demand. And that comes down to many young people not giving the trades a fair shake. As Radiant founder and CEO Brad Casebier put it “Young people are being told that they’ve got to go to college and plumbing and the trades are like a fall back career.” A plumbing career is great and it offers stability, income mobility and endless room to grow. If you put in the hours and get licensed, the service you can provide is priceless.