How to become a plumber

April 8, 2019

Are you interested in becoming a plumber? While a rewarding career, it is important to understand that plumbing calls for a dedication to lifelong learning. Here we address the different routes that you can take to becoming a professional plumber and how you can continue to develop your skills in the long term.

To become a plumber, you need to acquire the adequate practical skills, as well as the theoretical knowledge in order to carry out the job. There is no easy way through, and it is no secret that it can take years of training to become qualified. This takes time and effort but once you have the certificates, they will help you on your way to a successful career in the trade.

What’s your focus?

As a plumber, you may want to provide an array of traditional services or even choose to specialise in a particular area. Will you focus on the residential or commercial sector only, or will you expand your services to both? Plumbing can be a rewarding career with lots of different areas to focus on such as draining, piped water systems for bathrooms and radiators, or even branching out to gas fitting and dealing with boiler repairs and installing central heating systems. More and more plumbers and heating installers are getting involved in renewable heating and energy sources too. Your day to day duties as a plumber will depend on your qualification level and capabilities which can always be fine-tuned and built upon as your experience develops.


Apprenticeships are a popular career path for school leavers aged 16 or over that are looking for on-the-job training, the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification, all the while also earning a wage. As an apprentice, you will work with an experienced plumber on site to develop your practical experience, and this is supported by attending college one day a week to study in a classroom environment.

Perhaps the most common beginner apprenticeship course is the Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating where apprentices will learn about the installation and maintenance of plumbing systems and components, including domestic hot water, cold water, sanitation, drainage, rainwater systems and central heating systems.
This route is now commonly taken by young aspiring plumbers and usually takes two to three years to complete. To get an apprenticeship, you will need to source an employer and this can be done through a training provider, such as JTL Training or Building Engineering Services Training.

Industry Accredited Qualifications

Trade associations work closely with education providers and employers to help aspiring learners of all ages by developing courses that provide the appropriate skills to achieve different levels of industry qualification. If you are looking to begin a career in plumbing, begin by exploring the National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) that are available, developed by trusted awarding bodies:

City and Guilds

City and Guilds is a global leader in learning development and apprenticeship schemes. Its courses are widely recognised across the trade and its Level 2 NVQ qualifications are designed for anyone who wants to become a plumber or domestic heating engineer. It provides all the basic training and requirements to start work in the industry.

Level 2 NVQ Plumbing and Heating

Search here for a centre near you.


BPEC is dedicated to providing education and lifelong learning to all who work in the Building Services Engineering (BSE) sector. Its Level 2 NVQ Plumbing courses are regulated by Ofqual or UKAS and the courses are specifically designed for new entrants into the industry.

Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Plumbing and Heating

With over 200 centres around the UK, search here for a centre near you.

Taster Sessions

If you would like to start a career in plumbing but have any concerns about the hands-on aspect, there are taster sessions available in colleges and training centres around the UK which will allow you to identify if plumbing is going to be the right fit for you. Once you have experienced a taster day, you can then get a better idea if you would like to pursue the trade as a full-time job. Here are some of the tester courses available in the UK:

YTA Training and Assessment 1 Day Taster Course
Plumbing Taster at the Grimsby Institute
DIY and Plumbing Skills Course at the South West Construction Academy

Growing your career

Once you have qualified as a plumber, the next step is to continue your learning. With new and exciting technologies constantly emerging, it is important that a plumber continues to develop their skills and stays abreast of best practice. While not compulsory, being a multi-skilled installer holding additional certifications can provide you with a competitive edge in the job market.

There are courses available through the trading associations that focus on different specialist areas such as solar thermal systems, water recycling systems or even learning to install boilers after the completion of advanced training, leading to Gas Safe Registration. First, it is important to understand which area you wish to pursue before carrying out the research and enrolling onto an advanced course.

There is no doubt that training to become a professional plumber takes commitment and it is all about getting on the right path. Once qualified, join to establish yourself as part of the most trusted network of tradespeople in the country.

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