If you are thinking about becoming a tradesman, or more aptly – a tradesperson, you should give some serious consideration to a career in plumbing. Most of us know what a plumber does – installing and repairing piping systems, septic systems, plus all kinds of fixtures and appliances. However, few are aware of the advantages that come with this career.
First and foremost, the salary. While it is true that a beginner only makes around 15 thousand pounds a year, the average salary of an experienced plumber goes as high as 40 thousand pounds a year. Second, the working schedule is usually a lot more flexible than with a regular job, allowing you to work at your own pace and be the master of your own time. On the downside, this may at times translate into working on weekends or during holidays. And last, but not least, the sheer amount of plumbing jobs available, with over 200 thousand vacancies on Jooble alone, will ensure that you will never find yourself lacking a job or a part-time gig. Plus, this is a type of career that allows you to start a company of your own at some point in the future, when you feel ready for it. Many plumbing businesses are founded by experienced plumbers-turned-managers.
Let us take a look at the paths to become a plumber and the ways to develop your plumbing career:
- You will need some General Certificates of Secondary Education to start any plumbing job, at the very least English and Mathematics, but preferably Science as well, especially Chemistry and Physics. Needless to say, you need to have good practical skills and to know your way around your basic tools.
- The most basic, entry-level plumbing job is a plumber’s assistant or “mate”. Although the salary will be nothing to write home about, it is the easiest and fastest way to get into the trade and start getting experience while training on the job.
- Alternatively, you can start a plumbing apprenticeship, which usually takes up to four years. An apprentice is actually considered a full-time employee, earning a salary and holiday pay, while working alongside experienced staff and learning from them. For an intermediate apprenticeship, the requirements are pretty much the same as for becoming a plumber’s assistant. However, if you want to apply for an advanced apprenticeship, you need five General Certificates of Secondary Education at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C). On the other hand, with an advanced apprenticeship under your belt, you are sure to land very rewarding jobs and contracts.
- For serious career planning and development, consider doing some college courses to earn levels. These include a Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating, or a T Level for Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technicians. There are numerous colleges currently offering Plumbing and Gas courses, including Leicester, London Southeast, Oldham, Boston, Wigan & Leigh, Bristol and many more. Most of these courses have a duration between one and two years, but they offer the opportunity to study part-time, thus allowing you to work. While a college education entails a financial investment on your part, it is certainly the best way to enable your career development in the long term. You will have the chance to become a plumbing engineer who works on big projects and receives considerable earnings.
Here are a few more tips and considerations with regards to your plumbing career:
- Whichever path you choose, be consistent about it. Mastering a trade, especially a technical one, takes patience and time. You can only become an expert by facing different challenges on a daily basis and by accumulating experience. There is no “quick and painless” way to do it.
- Create a career strategy for yourself and plan it for at least a decade. When considering a certain job or course, think about the impact it will have on your career five or ten years from now. It is always smart to prioritize long-term investments over quick earnings and momentary gains.
- Plumbers need portfolios too! Much like a designer or an artist, you need to be able to show your previous work to new employers. Make sure you ask for verifiable references from all of your courses and jobs. These can make all the difference when negotiating for a new project or a new employment opportunity. It never hurts to brag about previous accomplishments.
- Somewhere down the road, consider taking the career leap from plumber to heating engineer. In order to do so, you will need an ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) training and assessment, a CCN1 (Domestic Gas Safety) certification and a basic portfolio of gas work. You can then register with the Gas Safe Register. While this might seem like a lot of work, it will certainly be worth your while – on average, a heating engineer earns 20% more than a regular plumber, for the same amount of working hours. Moreover, getting registered will practically double your employment opportunities.