A trainee plumber can work either alone or in an assistant role to a supervising journeyman plumber, and performs tasks to both install and maintain equipment for buildings of all sorts, ranging from residential to industrial. Some trainee plumbers may find themselves in the employ of cities with the specific purpose of maintaining civic waterworks. Plumbers also fall under the broader category of pipefitters in some cases, since many of the skills overlap.
What Working as a Trainee Plumber Entails
A trainee plumber might find himself in a position installing new pipes in a variety of settings, including for use in a sewage or drinking water application. In some cases, fitting steam machinery for piping may also be considered a possible task for the trainee plumber under the supervision of a journeyman; however, steam fitting is sometimes considered a separate craft entirely. Plumbers may also install automatic fittings for use in industrial applications or to control systems such as lawn sprinklers and other automatic devices controlling liquids.
Educational Background Required to be a Trainee Plumber
In order to enter the workforce as a trainee or apprentice (which is the industry colloquialism for the lowest rung of the profession), an apprentice must either complete a vocational school training program or opt for an on-the-job training apprenticeship through a ticketed journeyman. Generally, the training for plumbers and pipefitters is administered by local technical schools or through local trade union organizations. An apprenticeship, either union or nonunion, consists of at least 144 hours of classroom instruction annually as well as four to five years of paid on-the-job training, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Entry-level and Best in Field Earnings as a Plumber
Based on the 2010-2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report on plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters, apprentice plumbers can expect to earn between $10.74 hourly, which represents the lowest 10 percent of wages for the plumbing profession, to an average hourly rate of $16.63 an hour, which represents the lower half of the middle 50 percent of earners in the profession. Apprentice plumbers who finish their apprenticeship and obtain their journeyman certificate eventually can go on to obtain earnings at the highest 10 percent, recorded at $37.93 hourly.
Average Salaries for Plumbers
The average hourly earnings for plumbers in the middle half of the reporting segment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2008 report, was between $16.63 and $29.66. Plumbers and pipefitters willing to relocate to remote settings for work involving petrochemical piping may command significantly higher hourly earnings due to the travel and higher rate of on-the-job dangers.
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.
- pipe fitter image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com