plumbing apprentice

A Day in the Life of a Plumbing Apprentice

Economic uncertainty and the cost of a conventional college education have a lot of people, from all walks of life, taking a closer look at the trades as a career. Going for a plumbing license makes a lot of sense on paper, as it’s an essential skill that doesn’t require the same level of risk as other trades. In addition, you can find work at a variety of plumbing businesses, large or small.

However, when you embark on that path, the first step is getting work as a plumbing apprentice. Most laymen have an understanding that plumbing apprentice programs help you get ready for the rigors and tests of the job, but how exactly you get that knowledge isn’t clear. In addition, it’s important to figure out things like a plumbing apprentice’s salary and any classroom instruction you may need. Here are all the facts on being a plumbing apprentice, from your end goals to your day-to-day work.

How Do You Become A Plumbing Apprentice?

The first step to becoming a plumbing apprentice is going to be getting your high-school diploma. Note that while you’re not going to have the same control over your education as a college track, you should try to focus on doing well/pursuing a further interest in math courses, as these are going to have the most impact on your daily work as a plumbing apprentice and hopefully, as a future plumber. Depending on how competitive the market is in your area, your ACT score may also be taken into account.

While you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, many prospects for plumbing apprenticeships pursue some vocational courses or technical school certificates to help them stand apart from the pack. This isn’t a bad idea in general, as these courses allow you to go into your apprenticeship with a little more information, and some may even help you network with companies or unions that can get you that apprenticeship.

Most apprenticeships will last from 2-5 years, based on the qualifications/experience you already have as well as the state rules. For most apprentices, the money you make will steadily increase as you progress through your apprenticeship.

plumbing apprentice
Photo By Andrey_Popov

Daily Tasks For A Plumbing Apprentice

Now that we’ve established how to get into plumbing apprentice jobs, we can cover what happens on a day-to-day basis. While this will vary based on how far into your program you are, a lot of the apprenticeship is going to be spent split between your on-the-job training and classroom work. This generally manifests as a full work week as well as a set amount of class hours each week. Every apprenticeship is different, so make sure you figure out what the time commitment is so you can plan accordingly.

First and foremost, it’s a general rule that the apprentice plumber needs to have their own set of equipment before they report to work. Don’t worry about any super-specialized tools yet, just the fundamentals that will let you do any basic tasks that the plumber you’re working under will want. These include:

  • -Pipe cutters
  • -Pliers
  • -Tape measure
  • -All-purpose wrench
  • -Level
  • -Screwdriver
  • -Hammer
  • -Utility knife
  • -PPE

If you find yourself borrowing tools from the master plumber a lot, you may want to take a note of that so you can buy your own later on.

The journeyman or master plumber that the apprentice works with will ultimately determine how much of the work the apprentice actually does. Early on, you may spend the bulk of the time just watching them do their job, and taking care of basic errands like shopping for certain gear or helping to load and unload the truck. As you progress through the program and learn key skills, you may be able to do certain parts of a job with careful supervision. This can include identifying leaks, replacing parts, or finding the best equipment for a certain job.

In addition, this marks an excellent opportunity for you to learn the “soft skills” that will help make you an effective plumber. This includes learning how to interact with customers and explain the nature of certain issues or procedures to them. Another important task is learning how to calculate estimates and write orders. Having the proper paperwork put together is key for any successful plumbing job. As a side note, you want to be a natural student during your apprenticeship. This means that no question is a dumb question. Be ready to ask about anything that catches your interest or concern, as it may make for a great teaching opportunity about the job. 

This covers your day-to-day experience, but what about your classroom time? This will generally be spent teaching you about certain concepts of plumbing, as well as industry rules and codes that you’ll need to follow while out on the job. This can also include essential skills like reading blueprints. 

At the conclusion of your apprenticeship, the next step you need to take to get your plumbing license varies. In some cases, the last step of the program is passing a licensing exam. In others, you need to take another apprenticeship year to become a master plumber. In either event, you will then qualify for a full salary which varies by state.

plumbing apprentice
Photo By kurhan

While you’re thinking, “what do plumbers do?” you should also be thinking about what plumbers use. Things like basic plumbing tools are going to be a part of your training, but you want to make sure you are being taught about other technology that plays a key role in their work, including project management software like eSUB. If you plan on working for a company in the future, this will help make the onboarding process a lot easier. If you want to break out on your own, this is even more important to establish effective and efficient business practices.