PlumberPlumbers install, maintain, and repair many different types of pipe systems. For example, some systems move water to a municipal water treatment plant and then to residential, commercial, or public buildings. Other systems dispose of waste, provide gas to stoves and furnaces, or supply air-conditioning.

Although plumbing, pipelaying and pipefitting sometimes are considered a single trade, workers can specialize in no less than one of three areas. Plumbers install and repair the water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems. Pipelayers lay clay, concrete, plastic, or cast-iron pipe for drains, sewers, water mains, and oil or gas lines. Pipefitters install and repair both high and low pressure pipe systems used in manufacturing, in the generation of electricity, and in heating and cooling buildings.

Plumbing 1Craftsmen in this trade must be able to follow building plans or blueprints and instructions from supervisors, lay out the job, and work efficiently with materials and tools of the trade.

Sometimes, plumbers have to cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. For some systems, they may hang steel supports from the ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. To assemble a system, plumbers use saws, pipe cutters, and pipe bending machines. They connect lengths of pipe with fittings, using methods that depend on the type of pipe used.

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Job Outlook

Employment of plumbers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Construction of buildings and the need for new septic systems should drive demand for these workers. Overall job opportunities are expected to be good as some employers continue to report difficulty finding qualified workers.

Journeyman Plumber Median Wage $41,800+ per year
$20.10 per hour
Wage Survey, NEFBA Apprenticeship Participating Employers (May 2014)
Number of Jobs, 2012 386,900
Job Outlook, 2012-22 21% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 82,300

United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (Jan. 2014)

Meet NEFBA Apprenticeship Plumbing Graduate Eric Touchton.

Eric Touchton graduated from the NEFBA Apprenticeship Program in 1983. Today he is president of Touchton Plumbing and a strong proponent of the program.

Touchton choose the NEFBA Apprenticeship Program because it gave him the opportunity to earn a good salary and go to school evenings.

“Even as a teenager, I knew that was a good deal,” Touchton said. “The salary was a big attraction to me plus being able to get the training I would need.”

Touchton said the program offers many important benefits.

“Schooling was free, except for text books, and when I graduated, I wasn’t burdened with student loan debt,” he said. “The beginning wage was good, and salary increases were built into the program. That was a huge advantage for me, and I believe it is still one of the best things about the program.”

Touchton tells new hires about the program and offers them the option to sign up. When they do, he knows that individual has initiative and is motivated to move up in the company and career.

“More than ever, the NEFBA Apprentice Program is relevant today,” Touchton said. “Plumbers are needed for the construction industry, and to supply the demand for all the construction trades is on the rise. The program not only gives apprentices experience and training but it incorporates many elements not generally covered in on-the-job training, such as new product information, safety and even project management skills.”