Plumbers will always be in demand. Both businesses and private individuals need plumbers to carry out important work, from emergency repairs to installing new plumbing. By becoming a plumber, you can set yourself up with not just a steady career but also a well-paying job that could eventually take you into owning your own business.

There are various routes that you might take to become a plumber, whether you want to study first or start working right away and learn on the job.

If you want to become a plumber, this guide will give you an idea of how to achieve your ambitions.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Plumber?

You can gain the qualifications and experience that you need to become a plumber, but it’s useful if you have some qualities and skills that help you to be successful.

For example, having good problem-solving skills can help you to be a good plumber. Physical fitness is helpful because it can be a fairly physical job when you can spend a long time standing or fitting into awkward spaces.

Attention to detail, good customer service skills, and patience are all good qualities to have too.

Before you start training to become a plumber, it’s more important to think about what qualities you have, rather than what you know about plumbing.

While it’s helpful if you have basic qualifications, such as GCSEs, and some skills such as numeracy, it’s more important to think about your personality and your interest in plumbing when trying to decide whether becoming a plumber could be right for you.

Plumbing Qualifications

Plumbing Tools

Many people start their career path to becoming a plumber by taking a course at a college or sixth form. This might be a purely educational course but it is often combined with an apprenticeship so that you can work and earn while you’re learning.

Some of the most common qualifications to gain include an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) Level 2 or Level 3. You might start with a diploma or certificate, such as the Plumbing Craft Level 3 Diploma from City and Guilds, which can help you to get started if you’re a complete beginner and give you a taste of what you can learn.

To be approved by various official bodies or even business groups, you will often need to have an NVQ Level 2 in England and Wales and an SVQ Level 3 in Scotland, although there are other acceptable qualifications too.

Make sure that your qualifications come from an accredited provider so that they’re recognised by employers and official bodies.

An NVQ Level 2 includes a work placement and guided learning. To find a place on a course, you’ll need to take a test to show how good you are with numbers and your scientific ability too. NVQ Level 2 courses include diplomas in Plumbing and Heating, and Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems.

To pass the course, you’ll have to complete assessments and exams. You also need to submit a portfolio of work and complete workplace assessments.

An NVQ Level 3 can take three years to complete. It’s a good choice if you already have some skills, knowledge and experience. It gives you several options for specialising, with six different pathways available.

You can choose from:

  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Gas Fired Water and Central Heating Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)

You also need to complete assessments and exams to get the qualification and become a fully qualified plumber.

Plumbing Apprenticeships

It’s extremely common to do an apprenticeship when you’re training to become a plumber. The best way to learn is to get on the job experience, and you can work towards your qualifications at the same time.

If you want to complete a plumbing apprenticeship, it’s a good idea to look online to see what’s available in your area.

Some colleges offer apprenticeships by partnering with local employers to offer you education and work experience. You might want to take a look at your local council’s website, and you can also find apprenticeships on the gov.uk Government website. Job websites are also good places to find available positions and find out how you can apply for them.

Apprenticeships are available at different levels and can go all the way up to a Master’s degree. However, a plumbing apprenticeship is likely to be a lower level, although you might want to look into the degree options that are available.

To become an apprentice, you will usually require a certain number of GCSEs, often including Maths and English and grade D or above. You will work with a qualified plumber who will show you the ropes and either spend some of your days (or half days) at college, or attend college in the evenings.

A lot of people choose to take a Level 1 or 2 college course before completing an apprenticeship, and then might complete a Level 3 course during their apprenticeship.

Plumbing Engineer Degree Courses

Another option that some people consider is getting a degree to become an engineer, and working with the design and management of plumbing and public health.

Some people progress to completing a degree after having trained as a plumber and gaining experience. Above NVQ Level 2 and 3, you can complete an NVQ Level 4 or a bachelor’s degree in engineering, which are equivalent levels of qualification.

Then there’s the possibility of an honours degree/NVQ Level 5 and NVQ Level 6 (or higher level degrees) if you’re considering more senior positions.

If you want to become a plumber, there are a few routes that you might take. Most people begin with a college course or an apprenticeship to get some hands-on experience.