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How to Get a Plumbing Apprenticeship
Obtaining an apprenticeship is the most important component of becoming a professional plumber. An apprenticeship involves a combination of classroom learning and on the job experience. You can complete an apprenticeship through a union or with a plumbing company. This guide will tell you how to make it happen.
Part One of Three:
Setting the Foundation Edit
Consider your skills and talents to make sure you have the aptitude for a plumbing career. Most licensed plumbers will look for an apprentice who is: good at math, able to move around on the ground with dexterity, mechanically inclined, and able to solve problems. Interpersonal skills are also desirable, as plumbers are constantly working with different types of people – clients, other tradespeople, suppliers, and so forth.
- An apprenticeship usually takes 4-5 years to complete, so make sure this career path is something you really want.
Take math and science courses in middle school and especially in high school. You don’t need to be a math or science genius to pursue a plumbing career, but you should try to establish a solid foundation in these subject areas. Algebra and geometry are particularly important in terms of mathematics, while physics is the most relevant type of science. 
- You would also benefit from courses in drafting and computers.
- If your high school does not offer drafting, consider taking a community level course in the subject, as this will enhance your desirability as a plumbing apprentice.
Complete your high school education. A high school diploma is a basic requirement to become a plumber’s apprentice. If you did not graduate, complete a General Educational Development (GED) test.
- While the GED is often an acceptable alternative, many employers prefer a high school diploma given the increasingly competitive nature of the field.
Build an appropriate resume. Your resume should include everything relevant to plumbing, including courses in math and science, knowledge of drafting and computers, and any work experience in construction, the trades, and/or customer service. Avoid making things up because your skills will eventually be tested as an apprentice. A plumbing company or union would rather work with an inexperienced apprentice than with an apprentice who lies and cuts corners. 
Obtain a driver’s license (if you don’t already have one). You will need a valid driver’s license for most apprenticeship programs, so maintain a good driving record. Also avoid encounters with the law and substance abuse. You may need to pass a drug test, as well as a criminal background check.
Consider completing coursework in plumbing at a trade school or vocational college before applying for a plumbing apprenticeship. While such coursework is not required, it may give you an advantage over other applicants when applying for an apprenticeship. Bear in mind that all apprenticeships entail some amount of coursework. So by completing classes at a trade school or vocational college, you’ll cut down on the number of classroom hours required later on, and impress potential employers. 
- Another advantage is that many schools and colleges will help match you with a with a plumbing company, labor union, or master plumber offering apprenticeships.
- Make sure that the school you attend is accredited, and offers appropriate classes in drafting, math, plumbing codes, etc.
Part Two of Three:
Obtaining the Apprenticeship Edit
Prepare for the aptitude test. Some plumbing apprentice programs require you to take and pass an aptitude test in order to be considered. Make sure that you study for this test before you take it. The test may include a few different sections, such as general plumbing knowledge, reading comprehension, and math. 
- If possible try to obtain a practice test or a study guide for the aptitude test. Ask your instructor or the apprenticeship provider if one is available to use as a study aid.
Apply for a plumber’s union apprenticeship. This is the most common and potentially easiest method. Many unions provide all of the necessary training and coursework in-house, and they employ administrators who will pair you with a licensed journeyman or master plumber. This means you won’t have to search for an individual plumber willing to take you on as an apprentice. 
- Another benefit of a union apprenticeship is that they offer greater benefits such as sick leave, medical insurance, disability insurance, etc.
Apply to a private plumbing company that is willing to hire an apprentice. This option may require more work. Indeed, while you only need to apply once to a union representing hundreds or thousands of plumbers, you may have to apply to many dozens of small plumbing companies before finding a match. Other drawbacks include the fact many private sector apprenticeships are:
- less structured and formalized
- unable to offer in-house training
- less interested in or capable of teaching new plumbers 
- relatively low paying.
Start preparing for your licensing exam right away. Depending on the rules in your state, you will need to work as an apprentice for two to five years before you are eligible to take the exam.  However, these exams are challenging and it is wise to start studying as soon as you start working as an apprentice.
- The written portion of the exam may include sections that test your knowledge of codes, technical procedures, and the plumbing trade in general. 
- Some exams also have a practical section that requires you to perform some common plumbing tasks, such as cutting pipes or identifying installation problems with water heaters.