Most of the time when we think of a plumber, the image comes up of a man underneath the kitchen sink, head first, rear end sticking out, trying to fix a leaky pipe or a clogged sink.
But plumbers do so much more than that. In fact, anything in your house that requires a pipe to bring in water or gas to your house (and certain things out of your house) requires a plumber.
The hose that allows water to run into the icemaker in your refrigerator … the pipes that run in and out of your washing machine … the gas line that powers the oven … Odds are good that a plumber has installed all of these fixtures and pipes, and when any of them don’t work, a call to a plumber is usually the first step.
Plumbing jobs take several different forms:
- Plumbers in the construction industry install pipes and fixtures to new homes, buildings or factories. This includes installing pipes to run water, gas and create drainage systems. Plumbers also have to make sure plumbing in new buildings is properly placed according to the plans, is up to code and within budget.
- Residential plumbers install and maintain pipes and fixtures people’s homes, apartments and condominiums. This could be anything from fixing leaky pipes to installing a new toilet or a garbage disposal. They also rescue a homeowner when something isn’t working.
- Commercial plumbers usually work on larger systems in buildings and factories — installing, maintaining and repairing plumbing systems. They also install sinks, faucets and toilets.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PLUMBER IN GEORGIA
If you want to take a crack at one of those plumbing jobs, then you can expect to…
- Read blueprints and building plans
- Assemble, install or repair pipes (like those that carry water, gas or drainage)
- Install or repair plumbing fixtures (like sinks, toilets, faucets and bathtubs)
- Install water heaters, dishwashers and garbage disposals (and repair them, too!)
- Analyze, diagnose and resolve problems
- Cut or drill holes into floors, walls and ceilings to install pipes
- Take apart, remove and ultimately replace damaged or worn pipes and fixtures
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A PLUMBER
This is what the pros say you’ll need to have:
- Good people skills. Whether you’re working with a team on a commercial site or dealing with residential customers, you must communicate effectively and handle customers’ concerns and questions in a friendly way.
- Mechanical ability. Plumbers rely on a lot of different tools to do their job. They must know what tools are right for the job and (of course) how to use them.
- Physical strength. Those pipes can be heavy. Same with the bathtubs (especially those old cast-iron tubs!). So you need to be able to lift and move equipment easily.
- Problem solving skills. People call plumbers when things don’t work. You’ll have to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.
- Sometimes a simple solution to a problem is more involved than it looks. It’s not hard to replace a faucet, but if everything is rusted all around it, it becomes a more complicated process.
- Business know-how. One out of every 10 plumbers owns his or her own business. If that’s the path you want to take, you’ll need to be organized enough to plan your work, and have the math skills to bid on projects and keep track of billing.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you explore a career in plumbing.
- Job variety. Every day is different. You do different jobs and solve what are sometimes unique problems. You meet all kinds of people.
- Job security. People will always need a plumber. If you are skilled at your job, you will always have work.
- Mobility. You can start as an apprentice — and only go up from there. You can become a master plumber, and eventually move up to management. As you gain more skill, more opportunities and the potential to earn more money will follow.
- Plumbers often have to work in tiny crawl spaces and other tight or cramped quarters, or be on a ladder for long periods of time. The job can take you outside on days both hot and cold. (But then, you’re inside a lot, too.)
- You never know when a pipe will burst or a water heater will go out. Thus, plumbers often have to be on call to work nights and/or weekends.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
How much do plumbers make?
In Georgia, plumbers can earn an average salary of $44,310 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become a plumber?
In most cases, plumbers learn by on-the-job training in a plumbing apprenticeship program. In Georgia, a typical plumbing apprenticeship spans four to five years and requires 144 hours of classroom training. The good news is you get paid while you learn!
Here are the requirements to become an apprentice:
- Must be 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma (and show a transcript of classes and grades)
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Take and pass a drug test
All plumbers in Georgia must be licensed. After the apprenticeship is complete, you can apply for a Journeyman’s license, which requires a minimum of three years experience, a passing score on the Journeyman Plumber’s Test and three references from licensed plumbers.
The next step is a Master Plumber, which requires another two to three years of experience, passing the Master Plumber Test and three references.
Several technical colleges in Georgia also offer plumbing certifications, which in most cases are the equivalent of a plumbing apprenticeship:
During the technical training (aka plumbing school), you’ll learn things like…
- How to read (and understand) blueprints and other drawings
- Math and physics as they apply to plumbing
- How pipes, valves and fittings work
- How to install fixtures and appliances
- The basics of drainage systems (and that includes sewage systems)
- Gas pipe venting
- Safety skills
FIND A PLUMBER SCHOOL OR APPRENTICESHIP
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to go to plumbing school at one Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? OK! Bring on the application >
OUTLOOK FOR PLUMBER
Nationally, the demand for plumbers is projected to increase by about 12% by 2024, adding 49,100 jobs.
A REAL PLUMBER REALLY SAID THIS
“Being a plumber can be a tough job, but it’s also a very rewarding job. I enjoy working with my hands, and it gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see the results of my hard work. And seeing the look on customers’ faces when you’ve fixed their problems is really nice! They are so appreciative.”
Stephanie Franklin, 525 Plumbing, Decatur, GA
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