These are guidelines for plumbing careers in the UK
Hours 40 per week
Starting salary£18,000 + per year
Plumbers fit, service and repair hot and cold water systems, and heating systems in homes and businesses. They also work with gas fires and cookers.
If you want a varied job that makes good use of your practical skills and takes you out and about, this could be perfect for you.
You will need to be good at solving problems, have the ability to follow technical plans, and understand the importance of health and safety. You’ll also need good customer care skills.
To become a qualified plumber you will need to complete industry-recognised training and qualifications. A common way in is through an Apprenticeship.
Depending on whether you work in homes, industrial or commercial locations, you’re likely to:
install water supplies, heating systems and drainage
find faults in systems or equipment and repair them
service gas and oil-fired central heating systems, boilers and radiators
install and fix domestic appliances like showers, cooker, gas fires and washing machines
service air-conditioning and ventilation units
attend emergency call-outs to fix leaks, for example during cold weather
fit weather-proof materials, joints and flashings to roofs, chimneys and walls.
On all jobs you would use hand and power tools, which may include welding equipment.
As an experienced plumber, you might specialise in sheet metal work for industrial, commercial or historical buildings.
Working hours and conditions
You would work around 40 hours a week, with the possibility of overtime. Some employers offer a 24-hour call-out service, which would involve working unsocial hours (like evenings, weekends and public holidays). As a self-employed plumber you would set your own hours.
You could work indoors, sometimes in cramped spaces, and outdoors in all weather conditions. Some work may be at heights, for example on scaffolding to repair guttering or leadwork on roofs.
You would travel locally between jobs, and some contracts may involve overnight stays away from home. A driving licence may be needed.
Starting salaries for newly qualified plumbers can be between £18,000 and £22,000 a year. Experienced plumbers can earn between £22,000 and £35,000 a year.
Rates vary in different regions. The highest average salaries are in London and the south east.
Self-employed plumbers set their own rates.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a qualified plumber you will need an industry-recognised qualification at level 2 or 3. The level required will depend on the amount of experience you have. For example, if you’ve worked in the industry for several years, a level 2 qualification may be enough, although you would be encouraged to complete training at level 3.
The main awards needed to become a qualified plumber are:
Level 2 (NVQ) Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems.
Level 2/3 (NVQ) Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating
These qualifications are completed when working and are accredited by the awarding bodies EAL, City & Guilds and BPEC. Check with them for more details about qualifications.
EAL (Opens new window)
City & Guilds (Opens new window)
BPEC (Opens new window)
A common route into this work is through a Plumbing and Heating Apprenticeship, This would combine learning on the job with study at a college or training centre. It normally takes two to three years to become fully qualified this way.
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. To find out more, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Apprenticeships (Opens new window)
You could prepare for working in this industry by taking a part-time or full-time college training course. Courses will cover basic plumbing knowledge, industry health and safety and give you some of the practical skills needed for the job. Courses include:
Level 1 Certificate Introduction to Plumbing
Level 1/2 Diploma in Plumbing Foundation
Level 2 Diploma in Access to Building Services Engineering
Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing Studies.
These courses may improve your chances of finding a trainee position with a company, and be used as a springboard on to an Apprenticeship or other work-based training scheme. It is important to note, that they do not qualify you as a plumber. For this, you will need to be employed and take further work-based assessments.
Industry organisations strongly recommend that you get a work placement or employment with a plumbing firm soon after starting your training. This will allow you to complete the work-based practical units of the plumbing qualifications. Your college may be able to help you find a placement and you can also contact plumbing firms directly about opportunities.
There is an emphasis when we are at school to go on to further education either at full time college or university. Often the careers officers overlook the value of plumbing careers in today’s world as a real alternative.
Plumbing careers are sometimes overlooked as a second rate occupation. The truth is though that plumber’s can receive an income of over one hundred thousand pounds (£100,000) in some instances, although not the norm entirely realistic for some operators.
The huge demand for for people wishing to work within the plumbing trade has meant that some people wanting plumbing careers are not able to find training unless they pay out huge sums.
Some successful people will go on to work within the industry and earn a considerable income.
The owner of Pimlico plumbers in London is a very wealthy man and this does provide evidence that high earnings are at least possible. Currently earning hundreds of thousands per year this CEO has clearly shown the real possibilities and emphasis that plumbing careers and worthwhile.
Plumbing careers offer the benefits of being one of those professions that cannot be diminished by high technology internet operators undercutting and making the engineer obsolete.
The truth is clear; plumbers are hands on people that are in constant need and they can demand a high price which is mostly determined by the time, place and availability.
Generally, school leavers look to further education in one or more of the academic roles, excluding the trades such as plumbing as a last resort.
It is little known but in the real world plumbing careers are of a strict discipline and constant changing of rules. All plumbers are bound to provide the public with essential health and safety requirements.
A qualified plumbing operative will be a highly educated and an adept engineer. They will have an obligation to provide safe and secure water and sanitation throughout their careers.
There are no short cuts with this particular trade. Plumbing careers are achieved only by people with the determination to succeed at their particular course or training facility. There are no short cuts.
We should highlight that any short term or fast track plumbing courses are a new phenomenon, and they do not generally provide the evidence and proof required to convince employers to employ the operative that has secured any training in this way.
Plumbing careers are mostly earned through strict disciplines, and those key skills can be utilised in a practical manner for many years to come.