How to become a Plumber in the UK - CCCG
Accessibility & Translation

How to become a Plumber in the UK

Discover the steps to become a skilled plumber – from training options to essential skills and start your journey in this dynamic trade.

When your boiler is on the blink or your sink has a blockage that won’t shift, there’s no one more valuable to you than a good plumber. Once the unsung heroes of modern life (and a certain computer game), plumbers are often the most sought-after people in our list of contacts, with the ability to keep homes and businesses running smoothly.

Becoming a plumber in the UK is a rewarding and practical career path, and there are a variety of plumbing courses to help you get there. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to become a plumber, from qualifications to a typical plumber salary.

How to become a Plumber in the UK

Are plumbers in demand in the UK?

According to the UK Trade Skills Index 2023, there is a significant skills gap across the construction sector, and over 70,000 new plumbing recruits are needed by 2032 in order to meet industry needs.

Plumbers are in high demand in all parts of the UK, and many cities are facing a shortage of skilled plumbing professionals. When faced with domestic emergencies, homeowners and residents often struggle to find a qualified tradesperson, making plumbing an even more vital skill in today’s fast-moving world.

What does a plumber do?

There’s more to being a plumber than you might think. Plumbers are responsible for a wide range of important tasks, such as:

  • Assessing potential client work and taking measurements to plan costs and time estimates
  • Installing and repairing systems for water, heating and drainage
  • Cutting, shaping and joining pipes and fittings
  • Servicing gas and oil-fired central heating systems and radiators
  • Responding to emergency call-outs to deal with anything from broken boilers to blocked drains
  • Fitting weather-proof materials to roofs, chimneys and walls
  • Diagnosing and resolving faults

Some of the core skills and attributes needed to work within the plumbing trade are:

  • A good knowledge of building, construction and some maths
  • Manual dexterity and the ability to repair and maintain tools and machines
  • Attention to detail and a sense of initiative
  • The ability to implement and follow safety precautions and regulations
  • The ability to communicate and work well with others
  • Good physical health
  • Good customer service skills

It’s also important that plumbers are able to keep learning on the job and absorb new information about safety regulations and changes to industry codes.

How to become a Plumber in the UK

How much does a plumber earn?

The average plumber’s salary varies depending on geographical area and skill. The average salary for a plumber in the UK is around £34,000 per year. Starter salaries for trainee plumbers are around £21,000 with more experienced professionals commanding a salary of around £40,000. Some self-employed plumbers can earn as much as £60,000.

What qualifications do you need to become a plumber?

In the UK, there isn’t a national licensing system for plumbers. However, employers and commercial clients will often look for plumbers who are members of professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) or  The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). It’s also a legal requirement for anyone carrying out gas work to be on the Gas Safe Register.

You can train to be a plumber by completing vocational courses or through an apprenticeship.

Vocational Courses

To pursue a career as a plumber you’ll need to complete specialist vocational training. A good place to start is a college course such as the plumbing courses offered by Capital City College Group (CCCG). Many of our courses are offered by the Enfield Construction Skills Academy, which aims to help Londoners get jobs in the construction industry.

Introductory courses offer insight into heating systems and water supplies, with valuable input regarding the use of the correct tools and materials as well as important health and safety advice.

The Level 1 diploma leads to City and Guilds qualifications, covering essential practical skills and knowledge needed to start working as a plumber.  Training includes the installation, repair and maintenance of plumbing systems and there is also a focus on drainage, pipework, plumbing science and environmental sustainability measures in domestic dwellings.

Level 2 courses also lead to a City and Guilds qualification and allow you to build on your knowledge of plumbing and domestic heating while gaining more advanced practical skills. Topics covered include safety in plumbing, plumbing principles, hot and cold water, central heating systems, simple electrical systems, sanitation systems and environmental awareness.

Level 3 courses deliver a high level of occupational skills and take you closer towards becoming a competent plumber. Students may cover a range of areas such as working safely and effectively, principles of environmental technology systems, hot/cold water system planning and design and domestic central heating systems planning and design. Colleges often work closely with local employers who contribute to the delivery of training, provide demonstrations and industry talks and provide work placements.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship training gives you the chance to work and receive a salary while you study. They also provide a great blend of practical and theoretical training, with the opportunity to put your skills into practice from day one.

During an apprenticeship, you’ll work around 30 hours per week, with 20% of your hours set aside for study and training. Apprenticeships vary from one provider to another, but CCCG’s Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician – Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship takes two years to complete and is assessed through a combination of coursework and practical assessments. It sets you up for a career in plumbing with the opportunity to acquire the all-important Gas Safe licence and become registered with CIPHE or CIBSE on completing the course.

How to become a Plumber in the UK

How long does it take to become a plumber?

Initial training like CCCG’s free introductory plumbing course can be completed part-time in as little as six to eight weeks. As you progress through each level of training, the time it takes to complete each stage can depend on your work and personal commitments. Full-time courses allow you to qualify more quickly but part-time study means that you can continue to work and earn a salary while you upskill.

Apprenticeships can take two to four years, depending on the type and structure of the course.

Can I be a plumber without an NVQ?

In a word, yes. You can complete an accredited fast-track plumbing course and then find a role as a plumber’s assistant. Fast-track courses usually last between eight and ten weeks and allow you to find a role as a plumber’s assistant, where you’ll be able to learn from an experienced professional and ask them for advice as you progress in your work.

The downside to these short courses is that, while they cover the main components needed to get started, they don’t give you the in-depth training and practical skills that employers may be looking for.

There’s no official plumbing certificate required to call yourself a plumber. However, to become registered with certain organisations and join the Gas Safe Register, you do need to be able to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. The best way to do this is through accredited City and Guild courses or an apprenticeship.

How much does a plumbing course cost?

Many of CCCG’s level 1, 2 and 3 plumbing courses are free to both school leavers and adult learners, depending on their circumstances.

Level 2 City and Guilds courses for experienced plumbers can cost around £1,500. Courses for those with little or no experience are often priced around £3,200 – but again, this all depends on the course provider. If you’re lucky enough to find an apprenticeship, you won’t usually pay to complete your training.

How to become a Plumber in the UK

Career progression

Once qualified, plumbers can work for themselves and be self-employed, or they can work as part of a team within a plumbing services company. There are also opportunities for site-specific plumbing roles which offer permanent employment within a company or organisation e.g. a university or a larger company.

After gaining some experience, there are other careers available such as:

  • Domestic Gas Heating Installer: Someone with plumbing and electrical skills who installs gas heating systems in households
  • Oil-fired Technician: Someone who maintains and repairs oil-fired heating systems
  • Heat Pump Engineer: Someone who installs, services and repairs systems providing low-carbon heating and hot water
  • Master Plumber: An experienced plumber who has passed the journeyman plumbing licensure exams and may specialise in one area of plumbing e.g. general plumbing, pipefitting, steamfitting, pipelaying, sprinkler fitting
  • Building Services Engineer: Someone who uses specialist software to create building plans and design and install controls for heating, ventilation and lighting systems
  • Teaching Trainee Plumbers: In a college or training centre

Next steps

A career in plumbing is about more than fixing leaks and unclogging pipes, it’s about providing essential services that improve people’s lives. It comes with certain perks that make it an attractive career:

  • Job security: Plumbers are always in demand, with the industry facing a skills shortage
  • A good salary: Experienced plumbers can earn a very competitive salary
  • Variety and challenge: Every day brings new challenges and keeps the job interesting
  • Making a difference: You’ll directly impact people’s comfort and well-being, knowing your work makes a real difference

For many of CCCG’s former students, completing the training to become a plumber has helped them realise their dreams and begin a career that brings them a sense of pride.

If being a plumber appeals to you, then why not take a look at the wide variety of construction and plumbing courses that CCCG has on offer?

Share!

Queen's Award for Enterprise