Plumbing is considered a “skilled trade.” To become a skilled trades worker, you must complete a training program that combines classroom learning with on-the-job learning. Plumbers are licensed by the state. Each state manages its own licensing program, but the licensing requirements in all states are similar.
Initially, a plumber in training is known as an apprentice. An apprentice works closely with more experienced plumbers to gain on-the-job experience. Apprentices also receive classroom-based instruction. Currently, Massachusetts state law requires 110 hours of classroom instruction combined with 1,700 hours of on-the-job training per year for five years. Between school and work, that’s about 35 hours per week. Apprenticeships are paid positions, so you get paid while you’re working/learning the ropes. You can be hired as an apprentice without being enrolled in classes, but you’ll need to start your classroom studies within 9 months of hiring.
You can work as a licensed apprentice for 10 years, but if you want to remain in the plumbing trade, you’ll need to earn a journeyman license. To do that, you take a test, after having completed all of the apprenticeship classroom and work requirements.
Journeyman plumbers and master plumbers
Following the completion of the apprentice requirements, a plumber can be licensed as a journeyman. This is a different level of licensure that recognizes your work experience and classroom training. A journeyman plumber will still work closely with a master plumber on more complex plumbing jobs. With a journeyman license, plumbers can gain the additional work and classroom experience required to become a master plumber. You can work as a journeyman plumber indefinitely, as long as you maintain your journeyman license.
You must be licensed as a journeyman plumber for at least one year before you move on to the next step – a Master Plumber’s license. Master plumbers have completed all of the training and education requirements of the job and work without supervision. As a master plumber, you can work for yourself or you can continue to work for someone else. Additionally, master plumbers can supervise and train apprentice and journeyman plumbers. You can also specialize in any number of plumbing-related trades including commercial, industrial and medical plumbing, gas-fitting or steam-fitting.
Periodically, you’ll need to renew your Master Plumber’s license. Most states, including Massachusetts, have continuing education requirements for journeyman and master plumbers. You’ll need to complete these continuing education requirements to maintain your license.
If you’re considering a career in plumbing or HVAC, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your career options and let you know how you can get started in the trade.
Photo Credit: Daniel Oins, via Flickr.com