Plumbers plan, install and service plumbing systems, fixtures, piping equipment and controls. These piping systems may be used to transport water, waste, gases or hot liquids.
On a typical construction job, plumbers do the roughing in after the frame and roof of a new building are in place. In other words, they:
- study the building plans and specifications to determine the layout for the plumbing and other materials
- locate and mark the positions for connections and fixtures
- cut holes through walls and floors to accommodate pipes
- select the type and size of pipe required and measure, cut, thread, bend, clamp, solvent cement or solder pipe
- assemble and install valves and fittings
- join pipe sections and secure them in position
- test pipe systems for leaks
- install underground storm sanitary and water piping system
Plumbers return to the construction site after the plasterers or drywallers, tilesetters and floor covering installers have completed their work to do the finishing work such as installing sinks, tubs and toilets.
Plumbers may specialize in the types of work they do:
- installing water conditioners
- installing plumbing in houses under construction
- installing plumbing in commercial, institutional, industrial or public buildings
- renovating, maintaining and repairing existing plumbing
- installing hydronic heating & chilled water systems
For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.
The working conditions for plumbers vary from one job to another. There is little protection from the weather when a plumber is roughing-in, more protection for finishing, and often comfortable conditions for maintenance and repair work. In smaller communities, plumbers generally do a wider variety of plumbing and plumbing-related jobs such as installing private sewage disposal systems and potable water distribution systems.
There may be some risk of injury involved in working with rough metals, power tools and pipe-joining equipment.
The work is most rewarding to people who enjoy using their specialized skills in a variety of working conditions and working with little supervision.
To be successful in the trade, plumbers must have:
- physical stamina required to:
- use proper lifting techniques for heavy pipes weighing in excess of 25 kilograms
- be on your feet for long periods
- sometimes work in cramped positions
- mechanical ability
- the ability to work alone or with others.
Plumbers are employed by construction contractors, plumbing repair shops and large organizations. Some are self-employed. Their employment prospects vary considerably with seasonal and economic climates.
Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $28 to $37 an hour plus benefits.
Experienced plumbers may advance to supervisory positions such as foreman or estimator, or start their own contracting businesses.
To work as a plumber in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.
Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.
The term of apprenticeship for a plumber is 4 years (four 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and 8 weeks of technical training each year.
An applicant who is not already certified in Alberta as a gasfitter (A) or (B) will complete an apprenticeship program that includes both the plumber and gasfitter (B) trades.
- An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the plumber trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
- A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application. For more information, see the online Prior Learning Assessment Guide.
- A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).
To learn the skills required of a plumber in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:
- satisfy the entrance requirements or pass the entrance exam (see Entrance Level Competencies, Exam Counselling Sheet, Entrance Exam Study Guide, and Entrance Exam Support Materials List)
- find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.
For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.
- complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract.
An applicant who is certified in Alberta as a gasfitter (A) or (B) will apply to apprentice in the plumber trade.
An applicant who is not certified as a gasfitter will apply to apprentice as a plumber and gasfitter (B).
- pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process
- complete the required on-the-job training
- during on-the-job training, apprentice plumbers earn at least 50 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 70 percent in the third, and 80 percent in the fourth year.
- complete all of the program requirements as identified in the course outline
- enroll in technical training
- select an educational institution that offers the training, and a time to attend training:
- determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrolment form to the selected institution (see Enrolment Instructions)
- review books and materials required for training
- successfully complete all required exams
Apprentices involved in the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) stream in high school may be eligible for credit towards their apprenticeship first period training.
An apprentice who successfully completes a program as a plumber and gasfitter 2nd class will be issued two Alberta Journeyman Certificates – one as a Plumber and one as a gasfitter (B).
Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.
When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.
Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.
A plumber who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.
For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience, in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.
Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.
A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.
However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.
More information regarding the Equivalency Program can be found here.