There are a few possible routes to becoming a plumber that interested parties may take. You can take a job with a company that will give you on-the-job training, or you can attend a trade school, but perhaps the most coveted yet difficult path is the union apprenticeship program. If you are pretty sure that a career in plumbing is right for you, but you aren’t familiar with the field, you may not understand exactly what a union apprenticeship program entails, and what it will provide you with upon completion.
Some might say that the first step to gaining acceptance to an apprenticeship program is applying, but if you want a real chance of being accepted, the first step would be to receive a high school diploma. On top of that, you must take one or more aptitude tests to see how you compare to other applicants. These apprentice program positions are very coveted, and while there are many applicants, a very small portion of them are accepted. The aptitude test may be a nightmare for those who have always struggled with testing situations.
If you are fortunate enough to gain acceptance to the program, you will receive around 500 hours of classroom learning. In the classroom you will learn skills like drafting and blueprint reading. You will also learn some math, physics, and chemistry and how you can use this knowledge in your plumbing work. Perhaps most importantly, you will learn the plumbing code and regulations in your state and general safety training. The goal of this classroom training is to teach a wide variety of skills so apprentices will be ready for any type of plumbing job that may be available to them.
A classroom can never truly simulate how a real job would go, so apprenticeship programs include job-site training. Apprentices get practice under real plumbers on real jobs, where the demands and pressures are identical to what they will face when they finish their apprenticeships (minus the supervision). Apprentices are paid for their work on job sites, which means they are actually making money while receiving their training (rather than incurring large amounts of debt like many college students).
Upon completion of the program, a former apprentice will pass the state licensing or certification exam, have hundreds of hours of experience, and will have the skills and knowledge to start their career as a journeyman plumber. This route isn’t for everyone, and most applicants are denied, so keep an open mind about other routes to becoming a plumber. Some companies will provide on-the-job training and benefits, or you may choose to attend a trade school. Each route is a little different, but they all lead to a career in plumbing.