Plumbers are essential to the installation and maintenance of water systems in various settings, from municipal water supply plants to sewers to commercial and residential facilities. Plumbers frequently specialize in one or more areas of the trade, such as laying water and sewer lines, fitting pipes and valves for pressurized water systems, and performing maintenance on existing fixtures. There are many different types of plumbing jobs available in each specialization.
Many plumbing jobs are held by pipelayers and pipefitters, who work at construction companies and city government organizations that build new homes and buildings. Pipelayers are professional plumbers who install pipes at municipal facilities, industries, and residential buildings. They are required to follow strict plumbing codes as well as specific blueprints to ensure that new pipes, water mains, and sewer lines are installed properly. Pipefitters generally perform installation and service work on pressurized water, gas and steam systems, such as those found at industrial manufacturing plants. They connect pipes, hoses, and valves and perform routine preventative maintenance on entire systems.
General plumbers are often self-employed workers who maintain commercial and residential pipes, fixtures, and appliances. Plumbers commonly run pipes and install new fixtures according to regional codes. When a residential or commercial system stops working properly, a general plumber will come out to diagnose and fix problems. General plumbers are usually very detail-oriented and skilled at quick repairs.
To obtain plumbing jobs in any specialization, people must usually receive training at community colleges or vocational schools, complete formal apprenticeships, or both. Training consists of classroom studies and practical instruction on the installation, maintenance, and repair of various water systems. Students learn about the different tools, techniques, and regulations related to the plumbing industry. Apprenticeships typically last four to five years, during which time new plumbers work as assistants to established professionals.
Most states and countries require licensure to hold plumbing jobs. A person who has completed all education and training measures can take a written exam to obtain a plumber's license. The material covered by an exam differs between localities and a plumber's area of specialization, though most exams test a person's knowledge of techniques, procedures, safety, and plumbing codes. A new plumber can begin working independently after successfully completing the licensing test.
With enough training and experience, a person may become eligible for designation as a master plumber. Master plumbers have demonstrated their abilities and expert knowledge of the trade through several years of experience. Some localities offer master plumber certification to document a person's expertise and qualify him or her to perform more complex plumbing jobs.