With so many options and different career choices to consider, I can confidently say that the plumbing trade might be one of the careers most overlooked by young students.
While some individuals may still look down on the trades, assuming these are careers are for less academically inclined individuals and/or only for those who like to work with their hands, I can assure you that this is not the case. The trades (particularly the plumbing trade) offer incredible opportunities for students to build a solid career that is challenging, rewarding, recession-proof and that can pay VERY well if taken seriously.
So, let me share with you 6 powerful reasons why I believe the plumbing trade might be the perfect career, and how to get started on the journey to becoming a master plumber!
1. You Get Paid to Learn
One of the best perks of getting into the plumbing trade is that instead of paying an institution to teach you something, you will be getting paid to learn on the job. Think of it like this; instead of going to school and not making money, you will have the opportunity to learn on the job and get paid for it. Yes, that’s right, which ever path you take (there are two paths open to you – as you will soon read) at some point you will be paid to grow and learn as you develop your skills in the plumbing industry. Who doesn’t want to get paid to learn?
2. Lots of Variety
Another great benefit of getting into the plumbing trade is the variety. Plumbers face countless challenges every day and no two days are the same, as each day brings different problems that need to be solved. From troubleshooting hot water tanks or fixing sump pumps to repairing burst water mains in a commercial building, you never know what you’re going to be dealing with. If you like variety and solving new problems every day, plumbing might be the right career for you.
3. Job Security
The last two years have been difficult for many people. Businesses have failed, people were laid off, and careers lost due to COVID-19. However, I can tell you that through it all, plumbers stayed working. Plumbing is an essential trade that’s rarely affected during hard times. If you want a recession-proof career, plumbing is one of the best choices. People will always need water and they most definitely will always need “a place to go”.
4. You Get to Be the Hero of The Day
Many times, you will be helping homeowners in extremely uncomfortable situations. They might not be able to use their water, they might be out of hot water, or they might be dealing with a flooding basement. In these situations, plumbers are the last line of defense, coming to their rescue and helping get their house back in order. The amount of gratitude and appreciation I have received from helping people who are in desperate situations has been second to none. If you enjoy helping people and want a career that really matters, plumbing is a great choice.
5. Plumbers Make Good Money
While you might not make the salary you want during your apprenticeship years as you have to work your way up the ladder, just like any other career, plumbing is one of the most highly paid trades (alongside electricians) once you become Red Seal certified. With the right work ethic, you can support yourself and your family and be able to accrue savings for your retirement years.
6. Become Your Own Boss
If you are ambitious and want to venture off on your own, you will have the opportunity to do that once you complete your Red Seal exam and become a licensed plumber. While this path is not easy, it provides another opportunity for entrepreneurial individuals who want to one day become their own boss and grow their own company.
3 Realities You Must Accept Working in The Plumbing Industry
Now that we have reviewed the many benefits of a career in the plumbing industry, I want to quickly discuss some of the less attractive realities of this career, so you can make a fully informed decision if this is the right career path for you.
1. You Are Going to Get Dirty
I’ll be honest, plumbing isn’t the most glamorous work. You will be dealing with sewer systems, dirty drains, working in crawl spaces and attics. While you won’t be doing this dirty work every single day, it’s a part of the industry that you have to get used to. If you don’t like getting dirty, then the plumbing trade might not be right for you.
2. There is Going to Be Physical Activity
Plumbing is also physically demanding in some cases. There will be times when you have to carry heavy drain cleaning equipment, dig a trench to repair an underground drain or lift a heavy piece of cast iron pipe to set in place. While this is not the norm of every day, you need to understand that this is a part of the trade and the ability to do this is expected in order to do the job.
3. It is Not a Typical 9-5 Job
If you choose to become a service plumber, one thing you will soon realize is that plumbers don’t work a typical 9-5 job. Plumbers deal with emergencies and emergencies often can’t wait. Depending on your employer, you can expect to be on an “on-call” schedule where you will be responsible for taking all the emergency calls for that specific week. If this is the case, don’t be surprised when you get called out in the middle of the night to help someone with an emergency.
New Construction Plumbing vs Service Plumbing
Now, let’s quickly touch on the different sectors of work within the plumbing trade.
There are two distinct sectors of work in the plumbing industry: service plumbing and new construction plumbing. Most likely, if you choose to get into this industry, you will have to decide which sector you want to get started in, as most companies either do one or the other.
In the new construction field, all you will be doing is installing plumbing systems in new buildings that are being constructed. You will normally be working on the same project for weeks at a time, if not months, and will typically work with a group of other plumbers who will be helping you learn and perform the tasks that need to get done.
The great thing about new construction is that the work is a little bit cleaner than service plumbing because you don’t have to deal with old plumbing systems. You also won’t have to deal with customers as you will be working on a construction site all day.
Service plumbing is very different. In this sector, you will normally have your own truck and get to drive to new locations every single day to repair plumbing systems. Unlike new construction, you are working with old plumbing systems that often have reached their end of life and need to be repaired. This requires a little more skill in the sense of problem-solving and troubleshooting to figure out what has gone wrong.
If you enjoy driving around the city and solving new problems and don’t mind dealing with customers, then service plumbing is probably the right choice for you. If you enjoy working with a crew and don’t want to deal with customers or old gross plumbing systems, then new construction might fit the bill.
Either way, you will always have the opportunity during your apprenticeship to try different sectors of the industry to see what you like most, so don’t get too hung up on where you want to start.
Now that we have covered the pros and cons of this industry and briefly touched on the different types of work that is involved, let’s quickly go over what you can expect to make in this career.
How Much Do Plumbers Make?
Plumbers can make great money. While wages are going to fluctuate across Canada and vary depending on the market, most Journeyman plumbers who are well experienced can expect a wage between $35-$50 an hour. If you choose to take your career seriously and decide to get into a more managerial position, then you can expect to make more than that. I have seen service managers and plumbers making upwards of 100-150K per year. While this is not the norm, it is very doable if you work your way up the ladder. This requires time, knowledge, and dedication to the craft, but can be well worth it.
How to Get Started in The Plumbing Industry
There is no better time than right now to get started in the plumbing industry. With so many baby boomers retiring and a severe lack of younger students jumping into the trades, there is plenty of opportunity for anyone who wants to join this industry.
You can get started in this industry in one of two ways.
1. Enroll in a Plumbing Foundation program at a Post-Secondary Institution
If you are completely ‘green’ and have no real experience with tools, construction, or any handyman work, then your best bet is to start with a plumbing foundation program. Many of our PSBC Member institutions offer this program, which typically is 6 months long. In this program, you will learn all the basics of the plumbing and piping trades. These programs are respected by employers and give you a HUGE leg up when searching for a job. They also give you hours towards your apprenticeship, so it’s a win-win situation. SEARCH PSBC FOR PROGRAMS
2. Get Sponsored
The second option is to get a sponsorship from a local plumbing company. While not every company is willing to hire a new apprentice, many companies are open to training eager students who want to get started in the plumbing trade. If you find a company willing to sponsor you, you will then register your apprenticeship with them at the Industry Training Authority in BC. Once sponsored, you will begin to collect hours towards your plumbing apprenticeship. You will normally have to work for 4 years before gaining enough experience to become a Red Seal certified plumber.
While the plumbing trade is not for everyone, it provides a great opportunity for those who are willing to put in the work. I hope this article has helped shine some light on an industry that doesn’t seem to get a tone of respect when compared to most other “regular” jobs. If you are interested in becoming a plumber, feel free to reach out to our team at Your Guy Plumbing & Drainage. Just send us an email or give us a call and we will see if this is the right career for you.
By Preston Pilgrim – Owner, Your Guy Plumbing (Submitted for the benefit of students, parents & Counsellors)