Entering the plumbing trade can be a lucrative and rewarding career choice. The problem is getting started. No one is born with extensive knowledge of pipes, water flow properties, and principles of drainage.
You must take many steps and many different paths to get there, so how do you choose? This article will examine the best plumbing schools near you, how they operate, and why they are a great choice to get you started on your new career path.
Anyone with a high school diploma and a willingness to learn and work hard can become a plumber.
The training can be intensive, and it can last a while, but the rewards and the career are worth it. Training will entail class and book work. You will need to learn theory, physics, pipes, and water, as well as airflow.
You will also get hands-on with plumbing tools, equipment, and products used in plumbing houses, commercial and industrial businesses, and anywhere else water flows or drains.
Steps to Becoming a Skilled Plumber
Becoming a certified, skilled plumber isn't overly difficult, but it does take some planning, time, and effort on your part.
The first thing you need to do is earn your high school diploma or GED. Without this, you won’t be allowed to continue your education. Once you have the diploma, though, the sky is the limit. Next, your path can split.
You have the option (and recommended choice) of attending a plumbing trade school. This school will give you all the knowledge and tools needed to enter the field as a confident and skilled plumber.
The other option is to skip the schooling and head directly into an apprenticeship or internship. However, there is generally a waiting list and other requirements, such as applying and knowing the right people.
If you attend a trade school, many will offer post-graduate programs designed to help you with those applications and get in touch with the right people so you can quickly transition to the apprenticeship.
Finally, you will want to strive for professional certification. Some states require certification, licensing, or even set a requirement for class and hands-on training time.
Once you are certified, you can become a plumber, move up the ladder, or even start your own contracting business.
Plumbing Trade School vs Apprenticeship
The toughest choice is whether or not to attend a trade school or jump straight into an apprenticeship. The key thing to remember is that you can do both.
A trade school has a lot less pressure than an apprenticeship. However, there is a tuition fee that may or may not be covered by grants, student loans, or scholarships. You also get an even split between classroom time and hands-on lab hours.
You also get class time with an apprenticeship, but your lab is generally an actual job site. Some places may have labs to use, but in general, you will work in the field under a master plumber until it is time for you to become a journeyman.
Apprenticeships have specific steps you must take and pass before you can move on or up. With a trade school, you attend, pass, and graduate.
One isn't necessarily better than the other, except to the point that one will work better for you, based on your time commitments, needs, and scheduling.
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Plumbing Trade Schools In-Person Vs Online Training
With the advancements in technologies, you can now take part in classes online. This works well for trade schools as long as you understand that you will need hands-on lab training for certification and completion.
Because you cannot get lab training on the computer, you will need to attend a school at some point. However, hybrid schooling is available in certain areas where you complete the book and classroom portion on the computer and the lab work in person.
The only caveat here is that some regions, states and certification boards still don’t recognize online learning as official. This is rare though and in most cases you will be able to train remotely.
You need to check with your local certification laws (which vary by state, see further below) to determine if an online or hybrid curriculum is accepted.
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Considerations When Searching for a Plumbing School
You need to ensure that the trade school is current with modern plumbing. One of the ways to tell this is to find out what coursework is offered. Most schools will list the classes and their duration online.
If they don't, you can always go to the campus in person and ask for a course outline while you tour the school. Asking current students and staff is a great way to find out how others are receiving the information as well as what is being taught.
Accessibility & Location
The school needs to be local to you and easy to get to. This may mean finding a campus close to your house, so you have less traffic to fight. It may also mean finding a campus closer to work so you can attend the night classes on your way home.
Close proximity, though, doesn’t always make for the best schools. Research the schools in your area. The best school may be the closest, or it may be a few more miles up the road.
Paid Apprenticeship Programs/OJT
Some schools will offer you appointments in apprenticeship programs. Most of these are paid positions and are available for graduates or near graduates, depending on the school and apprenticeship programs.
Other options include internships as well as on-the-job (OTJ) training. This is a more hands-on venture with the end goal being a paid position within the internship company or more certification hours towards the apprenticeship journeyman hours.
Job Placement Assistance after Graduation
Another perk of trade schools is their post-graduation programs. Many schools will provide job placement assistance.
These programs help you prepare for interviews, fill out applications, and even find positions to apply for. Since the programs are free for students, you should take full advantage of them.
Full-Time or Part-Time Student
You also need to consider if you are going to be a full-time student or a part-time student. Part-time classes are generally offered at night or day and night and on certain days of the week.
Full-time classes are usually longer (6 to 8 hours per class), but the course ends sooner. A full-time course may last 4 to 6 months, and a part-time class might take a full year to complete.
Trade schools and some colleges also offer continuing education courses. These are designed for active plumbers looking to maintain certification, learn new skill sets, or keep up with current trends and technologies.
You may even find high school programs designed to get the student’s interest and begin coursework even before the diploma is granted. This can help younger students jump-start a career they are interested in without taking away from their current school requirements.
Accredited Plumbing Schools Near Me
Below, we have listed 8 of the most popular schools in some of the most popular regions. There are thousands of plumbing trade schools across the country, and each state or region will have its own list.
To find out more about a school, we have offered you a link to their website (where there is one) and an address for in-person visits. It is now easier than ever to find the best plumbing trade school near you.
Plumbing Schools By State
Some states have more schools than others. Supply and demand, as well as state and federal regulations, will play a big part in the number and type of schools in your area.
New York City
24-02 Queens Plaza South, Long Island City, NY 11101
Apex Technical School is one of the best schools for getting down to business. From day one, you start with a class and hands-on training that takes you from the very beginning of plumbing and pipefitting through the use of all the tools you will ever need.
The course is a combined total of 900 hours, with 450 hours taking place in the lab. The classroom hours are spent teaching you theory, history, customer service, and general practices and procedures. The lab hours will include one-on-one hands-on training to give you everything you need to succeed as a certified plumber.
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Best Choice For: Complete and thorough plumbing and pipefitting techniques
7 East 12th Street, Suite 921, NY, NY 10003
This course is a 4-part curriculum that focuses on design theory. It is a highly sought after course that fills quickly, so you want to register early. The course is split into four parts to make the most out of the hours.
It is also designed for intermediate and professional plumbers looking to get more knowledge, improve their skills, and learn current model trends.
Learn everything from sprinkler design, high rise structure piping and drainage. The course is accepted by New York State and all hours count towards the New York Professional Engineering (P.E.) license.
Best Choice For: Continuing education and modern technologies
18 Lonergan Rd, Middleton, MA 01949
The Plumbing Academy, Inc. is one of the preeminent leaders of plumbers and pipefitters in Massachusetts. They specialize in online courses that teach you everything you need to know in from a classroom right in the comfort of your own home (or coffee cafe).
The courses are set up to be self-paced, and each one helps you gain the needed knowledge and experience to pass the Massachusetts licensing exams. Once you are licensed, you can continue to take more courses to expand your knowledge base while working in the career you love.
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Best Choice For: Online/at-home training
705 Plantation St, Worcester, MA 01605
The Peterson School is a more practical trade school offering you one of the most varied and robust course catalogs around. You can choose from nearly 2 dozen courses ranging from entry-level to advanced plumbing design.
With each course, you will attend the class and lab hours to gain the completion certification. Most courses offered also count towards an apprenticeship and licensing hours. They also have three campuses to choose from so you can attend the one that is best for you, including Worcester, Westwood, and Woburn.
Best Choice For: Extensive course selection and training options
3815 Otter Street, Bristol, PA 19007
Pennoc Tech has a different approach to their classes. Each one takes place in the lab with the book work and classroom lessons handled while working hands-on. This novel approach cuts down on the time needed to learn and retain the information while giving you the tools to succeed.
There are two Pennco Tech campuses (the other is in New Jersey), but only the Bristol campus offers the Plumbing and Heating course. By the end of the course, you will be ready for an entry-level position in the plumbing field, or you can continue your education through an apprenticeship program.
Best Choice For: Hands-on learning
925 Oak Street, Scranton, PA 18515
Penn Foster Career School offers you a plumbing course designed to get the most out of a program. Not only will you learn basic theory, draining properties, and residential as well as commercial applications, but you get more hands-on experience than almost anywhere else.
This school has the student in mind with many post-grad programs, financial aid and tuition assistance. In many cases, you can start your courses for as little as one dollar.
Best Choice For: Flexible payments, reduced tuition, and tuition assistance
1050 State Hwy 95, Taylor, TX 76574
For continuing education, exam preparation and licensing certification, one of the best people to learn from is a board certified exam instructor. Johnny Kurten is that man. He now teaches plumbers the modern technologies, OSHA standards, and preps you for exams, certification and license requirements.
Each course is set to the required hours by the Texas State Licensing Board, so you are always qualified. You can even contact Mr. Kurten for specialized classes if his current schedule doesn't work for you.
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Best Choice For: Exam prep and license retention courses
1001 Haltom Rd, Fort Worth, TX 76117
If you want to continue your education and need quick classes to help you learn modern technologies, systematic approaches, or even plumbing design, PCE is the school for you.
Well qualified and seasoned instructors teach the courses. Most classes are small (less than 10 students), so you get personalized learning.
The hands-on instruction is detailed and thorough, so you are never left out of the loop. Learn, relearn, or further your education in an environment that is comfortable, laid back, but intricate and detail-oriented.
Best Choice For: Small class size
Plumbing School Programs & Coursework Explained
When attending a plumbing trade school, you may not know what to expect. The course work and curriculum can be confusing, especially if you have no prior plumbing training or experience.
While not all schools are the same, the basic concepts are. Most schools will split into two sections for their courses. The first section is the classwork.
In the classroom, you will learn from books, lectures, and videos. This is where you will learn about plumbing theory and how to set up and design of plumbing systems. You will also learn how to read blueprints and understand physics pertaining to draining water flow and airflow.
The second section is the lab work. In the lab, you are presented with actual working systems that you will work on to get hands-on experience with the pieces and parts required for plumbing and pipefitting work.
You will also learn how to use the tools of the trade, identify and diagnose problems, and fix them under your instructor's supervision. This will include fitting, soldering, brazing, and other plumbing fix techniques.
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Plumbing Specializations & Jobs Covered
Unlike some other trades, plumbing has a wide and varied job market. Specialized plumbers can earn more in salary, but most concepts are the same.
Specialization can mean many things, from system design to medical gas piping. You can also specialize in residential install and repair, commercial and industrial plumbing, or even contractor licensing.
Each region will have various needs for a specialized plumber, and you can move to different areas where your specialty's job market is highest.
Being able to open yourself up for various opportunities doesn't require a lot of extra training as it can with other trades, either.
Once you have the fundamentals and some experience, it is easy to specialize and strike out on a similar but varied career path.
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State By State Plumber Licensing Requirements
Every state (and some regions within each state) will have its own requirements for plumber licensing. You need to be familiar with your state's requirements so you can be sure to meet them.
Some requirements are federally mandated and are applicable in every state, regardless of local laws. However, most of the required standards, testing, licensing, and other factors (apprenticeship requirements, for example) are left to the state to decide.
Most states do require a state license. This certifies that you have completed a specific number of training hours, both hands-on and in the classroom. If you join an apprenticeship, these regulations and hours are strictly enforced to be met by the apprenticeship curriculum.
The most basic license is generally the plumber's license, such as the Service Plumber Certification from ASSE International. Going through an apprenticeship is typically the only way to ever make Master Plumber status, though.
For that, you will need to work under a master plumber while you work your way through the journeyman portion of the apprenticeship. One of the highest positions is regulated, tested and enforced, known as the UPC Master Level Plumber from the National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation.
You can also become certified nationally as a plumbing designer with the American Society of Plumbing Engineers. This is a more specialized career that focuses on next-generation designs and the building of new plumbing systems instead of working on existing ones.
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Common Questions About Plumbing School
How much does plumbing school cost?
The tuition cost for plumbing school will vary based on the type of school, the course, and if it is a diploma, certification, or degree-granting class. On average, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $8,000 for most trade schools. Specialty courses or continuing education courses may cost between $300 and $800 each. For degrees, you will pay the tuition fees for the college or university and their degree program, which ranges from about $18,000 to over $40,000 depending on the degree you go after.
How long does it take to get a degree in plumbing?
If you are after a plumbing degree, you will take as long as needed to complete the entire course work. However, with continuing education or trade school credit carryover, the average time can be cut down. For an associate's degree, for example, the average time is 2 full years or 4 semesters of full-time coursework. This may be reduced to 18 months or less with other school credits.
Do professional plumbers make good money?
According to statistic sites like Career Explorer, the average US income for licensed plumbers is about $50 to $51,000 per year. Entry level may earn as low as $30,000 while master plumbers and those with 5+ years of experience can earn over $80,000 per year.
Does plumbing training involve a lot of math?
Plumbing training will involve some math. How much depends on your specialty. Designers, for example, will need a lot more math and physics than a residential installer. However, every phase of plumbing, even counter help, requires some level of math.
Is it worth going to school for plumbing?
If you want to be a plumber, earn a livable wage, and support yourself or your family, then plumbing school is required. You will be taken seriously, have help finding work, and make sure you are in a position to demand a higher salary while working in a fast-growing and competitive field.
When is online plumbing programs advisable?
Online training for plumbing and pipefitting is advised when there is no other option. Nothing will beat hands-on training, and most apprenticeships will require a specific number of in-person, on the job hours. However, for basic schooling, class, and book work, online options are available.
Which states have the highest salaries for plumbers?
New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington state, and Hawaii top the list for highest paid plumbers. All of these states average over $25 per hour for licensed plumbers.
What's the difference between a plumber and a pipefitter?
The actual difference is in the materials they handle. A plumber works mostly on commercial and residential drain systems that include copper and PVC piping.
Pipefitters work with specialized equipment, high-pressure systems, and hazardous materials. Steel, stainless, glass, and other types of pipes will fall under the pipefitter's repertoire, where a plumber won't have to deal with any of these types of piping or fittings.
Conclusion - Start Your Education Today!
Finding the best plumbing trade school near you can be a challenge. There is a lot to consider and factor in before making a final decision.
This article aimed to give you the tools and information you need to find the best school near you.
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Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.