Plumbers (NOC 7251)

Minimum education: Diploma, Certificate or Apprenticeship Training

  • Average salary
    54.1%
  • Occupation size
    86.0%
  • Job stability
    12.0%
  • Demand growth
    86.0%
  • Below Average
  • Excellent

Profile last updated: August 31, 2016

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On this page

01 Overview

Plumbers install, repair and maintain pipes, fixtures and other plumbing equipment used for water distribution and waste water disposal in residential, commercial and industrial building.

People in this occupation:

  • strictly follow the B.C. plumbing code
  • work in maintenance departments of factories, plants and similar establishments
  • may work for plumbing contractors
  • may be self-employed
  • must be able to accurately follow complex codes and rules for installation
  • must be able work without supervision and organize their own work day
  • should be able to bend and crawl into tight spaces

02 Earnings

Provincial median salary

$56,311

Source: Estimated median employment income based on 2015 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

Provincial hourly rate

  • $15.00/hr
    Low
  • $27.00/hr
    Median
  • $36.00/hr
    High

03 Duties

Plumbers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • read blueprints, drawings and specifications to determine layout of plumbing system, water supply network and waste and drainage systems
  • install, repair and maintain domestic, commercial or industrial plumbing fixtures and systems
  • locate and mark positions for pipe connections, passage holes and fixtures in walls and floors
  • cut opening in walls and floors to accommodate pipe and pipe fittings
  • measure, cut, bend and thread pipes using hand and power tools or machines
  • join pipes using couplings, clamps, screws, bolts, cement or soldering, brazing and welding equipment
  • test pipes for leaks using air and water pressure gauges
  • may prepare cost estimates

04 Work environment

Plumbers typically work 40 hours per week. Some plumbers may also work on an on-call basis and respond to plumbing emergencies at all hours. Plumbers who do industrial maintenance at large facilities may do shift work.

The working environment for plumbers can be cramped, dirty and noisy, depending on the job. Plumbers must be physically fit since they are required to carry heavy pipe and stand for much of the day.

Heavy lifting and working in cramped spaces can lead to muscle and joint pain. Continued use of some tools may lead to repetitive stress injuries, such as tendonitis and bursitis.

05 Workforce and employment statistics

Workforce characteristics

7,500 workers are employed
49 % of workers are working mostly full time

Employment by gender

Labour force by age group

Source: 2011 National Household Survey

06 Job requirements

Education, training and qualifications

Completion of secondary school is typically required. Other requirements include:

  • trade certification (Certificate of Qualification, Gas B License and/or Interprovincial Red Seal Endorsement) or apprentice status
  • a combination of work experience and in-school training
  • completion of three six-week periods and one eight-week period, however, part-time and distance education is available through some institutions

Apprenticeships programs:

  • may begin in secondary school, through entry-level training (foundation) programs at colleges and technical institutes or through direct entry to the workplace
  • require workers to find a sponsor employer willing to participate in the program

Plumbers are eligible for Interprovincial Standard Endorsement (Red Seal) qualification through the Industry Training Authority, which allows holders to work in any province or territory. Once plumbers pass the final examination of their accredited training program, they will achieve certification and will automatically receive Red Seal qualification. For more detailed information, contact the provincial regulator. A list of provincial regulators can be found at www.tilma.ca/pdf/BCRegulatoryAuthorities.pdf

Plumbers with 8,430 hours of documented, directly related work experience can challenge the Interprovincial Red Seal examination. For more information, please see the Industry Training Authority website at www.itabc.ca.

For program information on public post-secondary education in B.C., please see the Education Planner website at www.educationplanner.ca.

07 Subject Areas & Training Resources

Education Planner

www.educationplanner.ca

Trades/Apprenticeship Resources

Industry Training Authority

www.itabc.ca

Trades Training BC

www.tradestrainingbc.ca

ACE-IT

www.itabc.ca/youth/programs#ace-it

Discover Skills BC

www.discoverskillsbc.ca

08 Career paths

Most workers begin by working as apprentice plumbers. Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, workers receive their journeymen papers and are then certified plumbers.

Those who have completed their apprenticeships typically start out working for a larger plumbing contractor/company. Experience plumbers may be promoted to a supervisory position.

More experienced plumbers may choose to work as independent contractors and start their own plumbing companies. With additional education some plumbers may become certified plumbing inspectors.

09Employment outlook

N/A - Data not available or not provided due to data quality issues

Provincial Outlook:

Unemployment rate

  • 10.6%
    2015
  • 10.3%
    2020
  • 9.3%
    2025

Job openings

  • 100
    2015
  • 330
    2020
  • 220
    2025

10 Insights from industry

Over the last few years low interest rates and a growing economy have resulted in a rapid increase in construction activity in B.C. Residential construction and renovations in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, southern Vancouver Island and Okanagan regions continue to be a source of plumbing work.

Commercial, institutional and industrial construction will also continue to be an important job supply for plumbers.

Technological improvements and more efficient methods are increasing the productivity of plumbers. Improved output of workers will affect the number of new jobs created. For example, if construction activity increases in the future, there may not be an equal increase in the number of plumbing jobs.

11 In their own words

My Career Path

1.  How did you get started in this job?

I've been a plumber's apprentice for 14 years! Right now I'm just a few months away from receiving my ticket because I realized that though I'd always be able to get work as an apprentice, a ticket will give me more options. I started plumbing because on the island I lived on, nobody else wanted to do it and so I tried my hand at it. It came naturally and I was in demand.

2.  If you knew then what you know now about the job, would you have done anything differently?

I would probably have gotten my ticket sooner and started my own business. I've been lucky to work for people who recognize what I'm doing and give me the freedom to go out and do it. I've also been lucky in that I've not had to deal with the dark side of plumbing, fixing broken sewers. If you can specialize in that, more power to you. You'll never want for work.

3.  What would you say to someone starting out in this career today?

Work with someone who's willing to teach you as you work. You'll sometimes run into people who say, "you do it this way because you do it this way." I suggest you find someone who explains things a bit better.

4.  Where do you see yourself going with this job in the future?

I'm a mobile sort so, strangely enough, when I get my ticket I'll probably stop working as a plumber and do something else! I'll use the skills I've learned, though, and that means having my own business for sure.

5.   What are some of the main forces of change in the industry right now? How will those affect you?

Plumbers do more and more jobs in residential construction. We do a lot of in-floor heating, and those who have the additional certificates do fire safety stuff. One of the main things I do is the installation and maintenance of water supply systems for small subdivisions. That's a lot of pipe and pumps!

A typical workday

8:00 am I have two jobs here today. One is a deluxe residence that I've been working on for three weeks. It has seven bathrooms and in-floor heating, as well as Jacuzzis and pools. This house has miles of piping. If I sold the owner just the pipe alone I'd be a wealthy man.
9:00 am Before that is my first job. Epoxy the third coat on the inside of one of the water storage tanks for the subdivision. Epoxy creates a smooth, impervious lining on the inside of drinking water tanks. It resists algae and is very easy to clean. Epoxy is a precise process and it needs to cure slightly before application.
10:00 am I'm in the tank, wearing my suit and mask, and the site safety guy is keeping a watch over the entrance to the tank. In one series of motions, I apply the epoxy with a roller and leave without marking the surface.
11:30 am Back to the house. Today I'm tying in the piping to a central mixing and flow control box for part of the radiant heating system. It's complicated and will take all afternoon and all day tomorrow.
1:00 pm Some of the pipes can be pressure tested now but I prefer to do that at the end of each stage. I need to set up the electrical hydraulic switches that are linked to the heating controls. I'll get help from the heating guy who sorts out the zones and calibrates everything to ensure a warm air flow.
2:00 pm The heating guy must be tied up somewhere so I try to figure out what I need in order to be able to test my work. It takes me an afternoon of detailed technical reading but by the end of the day I feel as though I'm getting somewhere.
4:00 pm I am quite aware of burnout so I leave when the rest of the crew leaves at 4:00 pm. Must stay in top shape for this demanding profession!

12 Additional resources