If you are wondering how to become a plumber, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning plumbing careers in this area of the building and construction industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    As a plumber your work would play an essential role in people’s lives. You might be responsible for making sure a public building gets clean drinking water, or it might be your job to fix a central heating system in a family home.

    The bulk of your work would be to install, service and repair hot and cold water supplies, heating systems and drainage networks.

    Typical responsibilities:

    fit and repair hot and cold water tanks, pipework, taps and valves
    fit and service gas- and oil-fired central heating systems, boilers and radiators
    install and repair domestic appliances like showers and washing machines
    install and service air-conditioning and ventilation units
    fit weather-proof sheeting, joints and flashings on roofs, chimneys and walls
    fix and clear drainage and guttering.
    You would work on plumbing systems in domestic, industrial or commercial premises. You may be able to specialise in sheet metal work on industrial, commercial and historical buildings. This type of job involves cutting, shaping and fitting sheeting materials made from aluminium, copper, lead and zinc.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good plumbers include:

    the ability to follow technical drawings and plans
    good practical skills for working with tools
    good problem-solving skills
    a careful and methodical approach to work
    normal colour vision (for some work)
    a reasonable level of fitness
    an awareness of safety issues and legal regulations
    the ability to work as part of a team and alone
    good customer care skills.

    How to become a plumber
    To be considered a qualified plumber you will need the full NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering Services: Plumbing (Domestic). If you already work in plumbing but do not have the NVQ, please refer straight to the Training section below.

    If you are not working in plumbing, you will need to gain:

    the City & Guilds (6129) Technical Certificates Level 2 Basic Plumbing Studies and Level 3 Plumbing Studies
    the City & Guilds (6089) NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering Services: Plumbing (Domestic)
    The technical certificates do not prove that you are a qualified plumber, only the full NVQ qualification can do this. However, they do cover the theory and some of the practical skills you will need before you can move on to the NVQ. The technical certificates are are available to all age groups but competition for places is strong.

    The certificates cover areas such as:

    hot and cold water systems
    sanitation systems
    central heating pipework
    health and safety.
    Colleges set their own course entry requirements, which often includes an aptitude test. Due to health and safety regulations, you may not be able to take this training course if you are colour-blind. Check with your chosen college about restrictions and whether they can offer you a colour vision assessment test.

    Industry bodies strongly recommend that you gain a work placement or employment with a plumbing firm as soon as possible after starting the technical certificates. This would allow you to complete the NVQ. Your training provider may help with placements but you can also contact plumbing firms directly. Be prepared to send employers an up-to-date CV if requested.

    A number of organisations offer short intensive training courses, some with home-study options. To make sure that these are industry-recognised and accredited, you should contact your regional City & Guilds office with details of the course and training provider. Check with the course provider what happens if you fall behind or drop out of an intensive course. You might be able to carry on with training at a later date.SummitSkills can give more information on entry routes into plumbing, training providers and qualifications.

    You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

    Entry into plumbing in Northern Ireland follows a similar pattern to training in England and Wales. For more details contact ConstructionSkills (NI) and SNIPEF.

    The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (IPHE) has useful information for anyone looking to train as a plumber, and its Women in Plumbing Group also actively encourages women to consider plumbing as a career.

    Training and Development
    If you are already employed in the industry, you can work towards:

    NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing (6089) at Level 2 and
    NVQ Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing (6089) at Level 3.
    As well as assessing your practical skills, both NVQ levels include the technical certificate (6129). The NVQ is normally available on a part-time or day-release basis through colleges and training centres.

    The Level 3 NVQ contains three extra assessments for:
    Water Regulations
    Unvented Hot Water Systems
    ACS gas safety (required for CORGI registration).
    The ACS assessments for domestic and commercial gas plumbing are different, so if you want to move from one sector to the other, you would have to take the matching assessment. For more details about ACS and CORGI assessments, see the job profile for Gas Service Technician or visit Energy & Utility Skills.

    If you install, service and repair oil-fired appliances and heating systems, you can register with the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) and take their training and accreditation scheme.

    The Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (IPHE) has a range of membership options if you are training or working in the industry. The British Plumbing Employers’ Council (BPEC) Services offers a variety of training packs, including ACS assessment preparation and practical business guides.

    If your work involves fitting new boilers, you are required by Part L of the Building Regulations to hold the City & Guilds Certificate in Energy Efficiency for Domestic Heating (6084). Contact the Energy Efficiency helpline or visit the Skills4business website for more details.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries for newly qualified plumbers are between £16,500 and £21,000.
    Experienced plumbers can earn between £21,000 and £30,000 a year.
    Plumbers with supervisory duties can earn up to £35,000.

    Job Prospects
    You could work for a plumbing or mechanical engineering services company, a building contractor or a public sector body. You can work in a number of areas, including heating and ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning, gas fitting, and kitchen and bathroom fitting.

    If you are a qualified plumber you will find work opportunities throughout the country. Your promotion options would depend on the size of your company, but could include moves into estimating, Computer Aided Design and contract management. With the right skills and experience, you could opt for self-employment.

    Useful building and construction resources:
    British Plumbing Employers Council Services Ltd (BPEC Services Ltd)
    2 Walker Street
    EH3 7LB

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