Career Education Resources
Wondering about a career in the plumbing-heating-cooling industry? Check out the information below for answers to questions you may have about this exciting and rewarding career choice.
The PHCC-National Association also offers informative resources aimed at high school and post-secondary students, alerting them to the rewarding opportunities in the p-h-c industry.
- PHCC Apprentice Videos
- Constructing Your Future Career Guidebook - PDF format, 771KB. For more information about PDF format, please click here.
Your Future in the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Industry
The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association would like to help you in planning your career. You are probably at a point in your life where career planning is a major consideration. In making a decision about your life's work, you should seek the advice of your parents, your high school guidance counselor, and acquaintances who are established in industries, trades, or professions. The following information is provided to answer basic questions relative to employment opportunities in a skilled trade, specifically, plumbing, heating and air conditioning.
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Should I learn a skilled trade?
The answer is "yes" if you have the natural ability of working with your hands as well as your mind. In terms of pay, steady work, and being happy at a job, the worker with a skill has the advantage over the one without a skill. Knowing a skilled trade, whether or not you stick to it throughout life, often means the difference between confidence and uncertainty, self-reliance and dependency. The unskilled person is easily replaced. His lower earnings and lesser satisfaction from his job reflect his unskilled status.
What skill should it be?
The plumbing-heating-cooling industry is a very large industry employing more than 1,500,000 persons in the United States. Plumbing, heating, and cooling make it possible for people of the world to live in any climate and within highly confined areas without danger to health and comfort. An ample supply of pure water is necessary for any community. Proper installation of systems to handle the water supply and protect it from contamination is the responsibility of the plumbing industry. The heating and cooling industries are equally important because proper environmental control must be maintained to insure public health.
Will I find the work interesting?
Plumbing-heating-cooling work requires a combination of mechanical aptitude and the ability to solve engineering problems by careful thought and creativeness. There is enough variety in industry jobs to satisfy the interest of almost anyone. If you have good intelligence and a desire to build things, you are almost sure to find the plumbing-heating-cooling industry as source of satisfaction and success.
Are there good job opportunities for me?
If you are ambitious and apply yourself, you will be welcomed into the industry. Once properly trained and highly skilled, you will be in demand.
For a considerable number of years, plumbing and related pipe work has been increasing in importance in many types of building construction. This trend is most certain to continue. Future advancement is encouraged by active development of new products and techniques initiated by joint efforts of the industry.
How long will it take me to reach a position of good income and what are my chances of advancement?
It will take approximately four years for a person to attain a journeyman's position, that is, a position which enables one to take the full responsibility of a skilled craftsman. Your chances for advancement in the industry are determined, of course, by the growth of the industry, the contractor you are working for, and your individual intelligence, skill, and ambition.
All foremen and most superintendents in the industry have come up through the ranks, and you have a good opportunity if you apply yourself to move into one of these supervisory or executive spots at some time in your career. Or, and this is characteristic of the industry, you can move into an estimating, sales, design, or management job in the office. You may perhaps go into business for yourself.
Finally, remember that education pays off. An August 2012 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that contractors who participate in a registered apprentice program typically earn almost a quarter-million dollars more than nonparticipants over the course of their careers. Read a summary of these findings or read the report.
Are the working conditions safe?
Since the conception of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, prevention of accident has taken top priority in general construction. Naturally, the plumbing-heating-cooling industry has expended a vast amount of time, money and effort in order to train employees in the proper safety and health techniques. The plumbing-heating-cooling industry is concerned about worker safety and productivity. Logically, an employee whose health and safety is assured on the job is certain to be more productive.
Can I become an employer myself?
The plumbing-heating-cooling industry is composed of many small shops as well as larger ones owned and operated by men and women who came up from the ranks through apprenticeship. In many states and municipalities, it is necessary for a journeyman plumber to pass a master plumber examination before entering the business as a contractor. After you have worked as a journeyman and applied yourself in learning a craft, you will have a solid background for the master's examination.
What if I change my mind?
Almost everyone who enters the plumbing-heating-cooling industry stays with it. Those who leave go into maintenance or other phases of the construction industry or into the manufacturing side of the trade. There is always considerable demand by manufacturers and wholesale distributors for employees with a good technical background.
What special abilities should I have?
Plumbing-heating-cooling is somewhat of a custom industry. No two jobs are exactly alike and employees must have good judgement. Good judgement means both intelligence and the ability to adapt oneself to new conditions or unusual situations as they occur. The industry needs workers who have an interest and the ability to master physical science, and who are skillful at using their hands.
Plumbing and pipefitting is creative work. When you have become a skilled craftsman and are handed a set of architectural drawings, you must be able to lay out the job and determine that it will perform the best service and at the same time conform to state and municipal ordinances.
Physical requirements for the work include average strength and coordination, and general good health. If is work that keeps you outside a large part of the time and occasionally it is necessary to work under awkward and uncomfortable conditions.
Is it a progressive industry?
In an industry which pays high wages and whose existence in modern society is necessary to the maintenance of public health, it is necessary to continually develop new ideas and methods. Plumbing-heating-cooling may not appear at first glance to have the romance and glamour of other industries, but no industry is more conscious of the need for improvement and expansion of its service. Consider the tremendous advances during the past 25 years in the design of plumbing fixtures; consider the fact that plumbing - and thus good sanitation - is now taken as a matter of course whereas not long in our past plumbing was considered a luxury. Also consider exceptional advances in automatic heating, air-conditioning, automatic temperature controls, and development of new lighter materials for simplistic installation. This is ample proof of a progressive industry.
How do I get started?
If you are presently enrolled in high school, it is recommended that you complete your high school education. This educational experience will help you become a well-rounded individual and you will find dealing with people somewhat easier. You may find it helpful, though, to emphasize certain courses of study in your junior and senior years. These courses are algebra, plane geometry, chemistry, and of course English and speech.
We would suggest that you contact local contractors for more detailed information about the trade in your specific geographic location. Talk with as many people in the contracting trade as possible. The more information you obtain, the better equipped you will be to form realistic plans for your career. Plumbing-heating-cooling contractors are listed in the Yellow Pages. You may also find more information from your local Board of Education or your State Department of Labor.
What will I learn in apprenticeship school?
During your apprenticeship period, in addition to on-the-job training, you will spend part of your time in the classroom. All classroom work deals with subjects needed to learn the trade. Included are: mathematics applicable to pipe work; physics with emphasis on liquids and gases; elements of hydraulics and heat; mechanical drawing; and plumbing theory. Theory instruction includes materials, sanitation, elements of bacteriology, and piping systems. These classroom courses, in conjunction with supervised on-the-job instruction, help to insure the highest possible calibre mechanics for the plumbing-heating-cooling industry.
How important is the plumbing-heating-cooling industry to my community?
In today's society, plumbing-heating-cooling has taken on a new dimension. The industry has become part of every home, place of business, factory and school. There are constant demands not only for new systems but for maintenance of older systems.
The future is bright for the PHC industry because the need for proper water and waste facilities and environmental systems grows daily. These facilities and systems must be maintained to insure public health and to maintain high standards of living.
Examine the plumbing-heating-cooling business. Converse with local contractors. Do it for the good of your future. Do it for the good of your community. Do it for the good of America.
Plumbing is In-Demand Occupation: Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters are on the list of the top 50 in-demand jobs in America. The list was created by the U.S. Department of Labor which ranked all occupations by multiplying the projected need for employees in an occupation by the median hourly wage. To view the full report, please search the DOL web site for the current version of the report.
October 22, 2008, Plumbing the Potential An article from the Washington Post in regards to "Joe the Plumber" and the industry.