Contrary to common assumption, plumbing is a very upwardly mobile profession with great prospects and advancement opportunity. As a plumber, you have the chance to carve your own career path and drive the momentum of your own career trajectory. Especially once you obtain your plumbing license, your career growth and earning potential are limited only by your own ambition.
There are two primary career paths you can take as a plumber. The first starts by attending trade school, usually for a couple of years although it depends on the program, after which you take your licensing exam to become a first level journeyman plumber. Trade schools are often affiliated with unions and tend to funnel students toward jobs in the commercial field.
The other route is to secure an apprenticeship. As a plumbing apprentice, you’ll shadow a master plumber for the 3 or 4 years it takes you to gain the 6,000 hours of supervised experience required to apply for your first level plumber license. At this point, you’re qualified to work unsupervised in residential and commercial structures up to 3 stories tall.
Once you have your license, states require plumbers to gain an additional 2,000 hours (or one year, on average) before you can apply to take the journeyman exam and become a full-fledged journeyman plumber, which permits you to work unsupervised in any building in the state.
In Minnesota, you’re only required to obtain one year of additional experience after being licensed as a journeyman before you’re allowed to sit the master plumber exam. That means that with diligent work ethic and commitment, you could become a licensed master plumber in as little as 5 years. However, it can take up to 10 years to gain the skills and experience necessary to be a master of the trade.
Your options for job mobility aren’t depleted after you achieve the master plumber designation, however. There’s opportunity for plumbers to move from service technicians to take on management roles as field managers, operation managers, or distribution managers. As a plumber, your path is really up to you.