Apprentice plumbers assist in the assembly, installation and repair of plumbing, water flow and drainage systems in accordance with city, state and federal plumbing codes. This may include everything from digging trenches for new pipeline to installing new hardware for faucets, showers and toilets in residential homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities. Additionally, apprentice plumbers may be required to assist journeyman plumbers in basic electrical wiring duties.
Training and Advancement
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most plumbers enter the field through a combination of union and privately administered apprenticeships and coursework at community, technical and vocational colleges. Most plumbing apprenticeships can last anywhere from four to five years and may include up to 144 hours of related college coursework. As a plumber apprentice becomes more experienced, and earns his journeyman plumber's license, he may be eligible for supervisory positions in the field.
Apprentice plumbers must have excellent math skills, manual dexterity and the ability to use the tools of the plumbing trade. This may include everything from plumbing snakes, augers, drills, saws and general carpentry hand tools such as hammers, measuring tape, levels and screwdrivers. Plumbing apprentices must be able to take and follow precise orders from their supervisors. This requires the ability to listen very carefully and communicate effectively if there are any issues caused by an apprentice's lack of experience.
Plumbers work in residential, commercial, industrial and public settings. Basically, they work wherever water and/or sewer systems need to be installed, maintained or repaired. Plumbers work in wet, muddy and odorous conditions. Plumbing apprentices are often responsible for digging ditches for new pipelines. Additionally, removing and installing plumbing systems requires the repetitive heavy lifting of pipe and miscellaneous plumbing hardware.
According to PayScale.com, the average plumbing apprentice makes anywhere between $12 and $17 per hour based on their qualifications, skill level and experience, as of June 2010. This translates to roughly $25,000 to just over $38,000 per year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the plumbing industry accounted for just under 500,000 jobs nationwide. The handbook stated that the plumbing industry is expected to grow by about 16-percent through the year 2018. This is a faster growth rate than the majority of occupations and careers surveyed by the BLS. This growth rate translates to nearly 76,000 more plumbing jobs by 2018.
2016 Salary Information for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earned a median annual salary of $51,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earned a 25th percentile salary of $38,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $68,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 480,600 people were employed in the U.S. as plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.