Plumbing is a smart trade for anyone to enter, as demand for plumbing services never slows down, regardless of the economy. At a time when learning a skilled trade is again becoming an attractive alternative to a college degree, with journeyman plumbers earning $30 to $40 an hour plus benefits, many find themselves curious about what it takes to get into the business.
A high school diploma or GED is required to apply for an apprenticeship in the state of Kansas. There is a substantial amount of mathematical and applied science knowledge involved in plumbing, and those who are familiar with drafting and blueprints will have a leg up, too. With the increased competition to break into this line of work in the present day, you may find that your grades and aptitude test scores make a difference in your ability to get on board.
There is no college degree requirement to become a plumbing professional. But to be licensed in Kansas you are required to complete 280 hours of classroom instruction each year for the five years of your apprenticeship — in addition to the on-the-job training you will receive as you work on real-world plumbing systems.
To land yourself one of the coveted apprenticeships, you must be willing and able to make the five-year commitment to the program. In Kansas the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union runs the show, and applications are only accepted once a year, for a period of roughly two weeks. This typically takes place in March; specific dates for each year are published on the ppatks.org website.
Aspiring applicants are encouraged to visit their local Workforce Center during the application period to fill out the official packet. Other requirements necessary to apply:
- Bring a valid Class C driver’s license.
- Bring a copy of your high school diploma or GED with a certified sealed (unopened) copy of your transcripts.
- Bring a copy of your birth certificate or proof of citizenship or legal work status.
- Complete a Work Keys test, for which you must make an appointment ahead of time. This test is given at Workforce Centers and may take two to four hours to complete. This should be done ahead of time so your scores are available to include with your application packet.
- Be able to pass a drug screen.
Once you have successfuly completed this process, you will be sent a certified letter specifying the date and time of your interview. When all interviews have been completed, you will receive a second letter, this one providing your rank among your pool of interviewees. The lower your number, the better your chances.
If you are called up for service, you will be given a job, and may be expected to start as early as June 1, though the assignment window typically lasts through the end of August. Depending on the number of open apprenticeships, you may or may not get called up at all.
Going to Work
Now you’re officially a plumber’s apprentice! The union has found you a job with an established company or master plumber and you are learning the trade in real time, while also attending school. In the state of Kansas that means you will be on a rotating schedule for the next five years — you may find yourself attending school for one week, then working at your plumbing job the next five, then back to school for another week, etc. As a bonus, while you are in the apprenticeship program, you can draw unemployment during each of the weeks you are attending school, in order to make up for the loss of income associated with being off work all week.
Becoming a Journeyman Plumber
Once you have satisfied the requirements of apprenticeship, you are considered a professional plumber. The state of Kansas does not have an official license for plumbers, though individual counties and municipalities within its borders do, so you will be expected to meet whatever equivalency certification is required for your area. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials provides exams for both Journeyman and Master Plumber certification, which can be taken in Wichita and other Kansas cities and applied to meet these local licensing needs.
Becoming a Master Plumber
If you find you really love your work and wish to continue your education in order to be able to take on more complicated — and potentially lucrative — plumbing jobs, you can eventually become a Master Plumber. As stated above, Kansas does not have a statewide licensing structure for this, but your city or county very well may.
The process laid out here is specific to Kansas, and other states may have widely-varying licensing and certification requirements, so it may serve you well to take the aforementioned IAPMO equivalency tests, should you find yourself faced with the prospect of moving to and/or working in a different state.