How to Become a Plumber in Ohio
A career in plumbing is essential to the maintenance and upkeep of public health and safety, a vital role in every community.
Offering a steady demand for skilled professionals as well as job security and stability, plumbing is a great way to earn a competitive salary while working flexible hours.
With the need for more workers in the industry only growing due to new construction, plumbing offers a lucrative and desirable career with many opportunities for career advancement.
Education and Training
The prerequisite education and training you need before earning a Plumber’s License in Ohio may vary depending on your experience. The most common pathway involves both an educational and apprenticeship-based component, with some students completing all requirements at a trade school and others pursuing apprenticeships for novice plumbers.
How Long Does It Take?
With an expected completion time of 12 months, a foundational plumbing course provides students ample time (the remaining 4 years of required experience) for hands-on experience for a well-rounded background.
As far as next steps, to become a licensed plumber in Ohio, you must pass a Commercial Contractors Plumbing License Exam provided by the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB). To be eligible to take this exam, you will need at least 3 years of plumbing experience if you are already a licensed Ohio engineer in construction and at least 5 years of plumbing education and work experience if you have yet to gain prior training.
You also need to be at least 18 years old, with a GED or equivalent.
Prerequisite training for the Commercial Contractors Plumbing License Exam can include apprenticeships, trade school programs, a degree in plumbing at a college or university, or a combination of multiple. Many cities in Ohio have local jurisdictions and licensing requirements, such as a Journeyman Plumber’s license.
These can be acquired after earning a Commercial Contractors’ Plumbing License from the state.
How Much Does It Cost?
Expect to pay around $2200 for a foundational online plumbing program. Students also have the opportunity to pursue their education remotely in a more flexible format, completing online coursework at a local affiliated university and gaining apprenticeship experience after some training, optimizing their required training time and learning both in the classroom and on the job
However, the cost of education for becoming a plumber varies greatly depending on the program pathway you choose, given that no specific course must be taken to be eligible for the Commercial Contractors Plumbing License Exam. Associate’s degrees in plumbing can range from $3,000 to $23,000, depending on the institution. These programs may last multiple years.
Union plumber apprenticeships offer prospective plumbers the ability to gain experience while earning union wages at no cost, though these positions typically require prior experience and knowledge.
What Do You Study?
Any educational certificate or degree in plumbing will address the following:
- Instructions on safety practices and preventive measures for handling hazardous materials and plumbing equipment.
- An exploration of the mechanics and components of piping and water supply systems, including how to construct them.
- Training in construction diagram literacy and relevant symbols for blueprints and sketches.
- Guidance on recognizing and utilizing different materials in piping, as well as types of plumbing fixtures and their specific installation requirements.
- An overview of essential mathematical abilities and geometric concepts key to the job.
- An understanding of specific plumbing codes and laws applicable to different services.
- Fostering practical communication skills for providing quality customer service.
Benefits of Taking the Course
A one-year foundational plumbing course offers a comprehensive summary of essential material, condensing information necessary for the Plumbing License Exam, and providing students with the required prerequisite knowledge before beginning an apprenticeship.
Taking an educational course and gaining internship experience enables students to address crucial details that may not be covered solely through practical job experience, and gain hands-on skills they may not acquire in a college program.
An online course additionally grants students greater flexibility than full-length college or trade school programs, enabling them to learn at their own pace and earn a salary much earlier than most.
How Much Can You Make?
The average salary for a licensed plumber is $53,000 per year, excluding overtime, with an average hourly wage of $25.25. This is lower than the national average of $59,880 annually, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average salaries for Ohio’s major cities include:
- $27/hr, $55,600/year
- $26.5/hr, $55,200/year
- $26/hr, $54,400/year
- $26/hr, $53,600/year
- $24.5/hr, $51,308/year
Ohio requires all plumbers to possess a Commercial Contractors Plumbing License. Individual cities have additional certification requirements as well. Ohio also has reciprocal agreements in plumbing with South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia, allowing contractors in these states to obtain licenses in other states while waiving the state trade exam.
State License or Certification
The only statewide licensing requirement for plumbers in Ohio is a Commercial Contractors Plumbing License, earned through 3 to 5 years of relevant training and an exam of the same title. Specific cities in Ohio require plumbers to register for city-specific certifications.
Namely, Columbus and Cincinnati require contractors to register for commercial city licenses. Dayton requires plumbers to have a city-issued Journeyman Plumber’s License, and Toledo also requires a locally-issued contracting license.
Beyond mandatory licensing, plumbers in Ohio can gain additional certifications, such as licensing to own and operate their own contracting business or licensing to work in more niche and technically demanding fields such as irrigation contracting. Additional certification may enable plumbers to work in higher-demand specialties, increasing their earning potential.
Ohio requires inexperienced plumbers to have at least 5 years of experience before acquiring a Plumbing License, and aspiring applicants may complete this requirement in various ways. While some opt to complete Associate’s degrees at local colleges or diplomas in trade schools and then later supplement their education with apprenticeships, others may opt to jump straight into a paid apprenticeship or take a shorter introductory course prior.
While both trajectories may adequately prepare you for the Commercial Contractors Plumbing License exam, other students may choose to optimize both their educational experience and earning potential by taking a 1-year course, then working as an apprentice for 4 years, earning a salary and gaining work experience far earlier than other students.
Entry-Level Job Description
Your role as an entry-level plumber will involve, first and foremost, appropriate communication with commercial and residential clients and any relevant record-keeping and documentation of your work. Before gaining adequate experience to work independently, you will assist senior plumbers with various jobs.
These may include installing and repairing pipes, valves, fittings, and drainage systems based on various building plans and blueprints you should be able to read. Beyond installation, your jobs may entail the maintenance and upkeep of pre-existing plumbing systems and inspecting work installed and operated on by another tradesperson.
Skillsets or Requirements
As a plumber, you will be expected to have diverse problem-solving skills that generally apply to all aspects of the job. The demand for technical skills begins even before arrival at the work site, as you will need the ability to drive company vehicles and the time-management skills to work punctually.
Beyond a comprehensive understanding of the structure and functioning of plumbing systems, which is foundational knowledge, you must stay updated on field regulations, building codes, safety protocols, and other inspection criteria vital for ensuring proper maintenance and installation of plumbing systems. Generally applicable technical knowledge is also necessary, such as being updated on relevant terminology and being able to read and interpret construction diagrams.
A grasp of basic metric conversions and geometry is also essential for accurate measurements to install and maintain systems appropriately. Being a good plumber also means being an excellent communicator to fellow tradespeople, senior plumbers, and clients.
You must be personable, capable of working with others, and capable of communicating details about jobs to clients comprehensively, even if they have limited plumbing knowledge.
Pros & Cons of the Job
Working in plumbing offers many benefits, both in providing an exciting and stimulating career and providing job security and a desirable income. Plumbing systems require constant maintenance, which is not a luxury service so much as a necessity for public health maintenance, meaning a career in plumbing is always in demand.
The existential need for plumbers’ technical skills and training ensures an exceptionally high level of job security, and the unpredictable nature of plumbing emergencies offers flexible hours.
Plumbing careers offer many benefits, but they are not without their risks. A career in plumbing will be physically intensive. Though that may appeal to a younger demographic of tradespeople, the risk of injury may be a liability for some, especially when nearing retirement age.
Plumbers will also have to manage and work in the presence of hazardous materials, which is simply the nature of a career in plumbing when working with sewage systems. As in any service-based job, as a plumber, you may be liable for any mistakes, and plumbing insurance is often mandatory–and costly–for plumbers and plumbing businesses.
Is it a good career?
A plumbing career predominately entails physical labor, intensive problem-solving, and variety. No two jobs may be the same, and you may have to diagnose problems on-site without prior information. Being a plumber allows you to meet and interact with new people daily; it can be an enriching experience.
As a plumber, you are afforded a variety of pathways to establish your career. You may work for a contracting company, receiving employee benefits and seniority.
You can also increase your earning potential when working for another employer by gaining additional certifications in high-demand, technically advanced fields. You can also start your own business, pursuing a more entrepreneurial path, and contracting other plumbers while you adopt a more managerial role.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that the demand for plumbers is expected to increase only by 2% between 2021 and 2031. Though this growth rate is considered sub-average, demand for plumbers will only continue due to the retiring workforce and new construction, with 50,000 positions for plumbers and adjacent tradespeople projected to open annually.