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Do You Have to Be Good at Math to Become a Plumber?

Plumber in uniform fixing kitchen sink.

You don’t have to be good at math to become a plumber, but you will need some math in your education to become one. It is not just a myth that trades workers can do well, even if they don’t excel in some school matters such as math. Whether or not you need math will depend entirely on the program you enroll in to become a plumber, but you will likely need at least a little.

Learn more about how to become a plumber without worrying about the math requirements.

You’ll Want a High School Diploma

Plumber with plumbing tools on the kitchen.

Today’s technology has advanced such that plumbers have more tools available to help them with the math they need on the job. It’s worth it, with salaries starting at $56,330 annually and a recognized shortage in the job market. You can get that with just a high school diploma, or even a GED equivalent.

But you won’t need a high school diploma to start the apprenticeship path to become a plumber. For this diploma, you will need some math to graduate. Plumbers need some science knowledge and some math for blueprint reading and many other minute calculations performed on the job.

In any field, the more education that you have will help. Because you don’t always need a high school diploma, you can become a plumber without a lot of math. Having a little behind you, however, won’t hurt, and a high school diploma will help.

A high school diploma will help you to get into the apprenticeship programs that you are considering. In plumbing you need to make measurements, calculate pipes and their requirements, and also know the basic layouts of plumbing systems. You may not need the math to get the job, but it will help.

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Having a high school diploma or GED is a good starting point. Some of the math you may already have without having a GED.

Math That Plumbers Need

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The kind of math that plumbers need includes basic addition and subtraction to start. You’ll need them for taking measurements and also creating invoices, bills, and purchase orders for parts and equipment. Some of that work can be managed by employers and other departments, but many plumbers like to go it on their own and do very well at it.

If you do want to work for yourself, a little math is necessary, or an assistant may be helpful if your business can afford it. An accountant once or twice a month could also help you in areas where you will need math if you don’t have that skill. Plumbers also need multiplication skills and some division skills on the actual job, for pipes, fittings, and looking at water pressure.

Learning how to calculate square roots is important, but that doesn’t require advanced education. A little bit of geometry and algebra is important as well, for blueprint reading, building codes and plans, and creating diagrams for clients and customers. The kind of math that you will need here also all depends on how far you want to go in the field.

You can go from apprenticeship to journeyman, to master plumber, or stay in the middle and make a good living either way. For master plumber positions, you’ll need a solid grasp of some math, but it isn’t going to be the mainstay of your field.  You can take a few courses before you get to this level of the job and still do just fine.

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The Stages of the Plumber Career

Plumber and customer shaking hands in kitchen.

The first step in a plumbing career is pre-apprenticeship training. You will want some experience before you go onto your full apprenticeship program. Many trades schools and colleges offer a pre-apprenticeship program where you can get the initial skills or just hands-on experience learning about the industry and the job itself.

You can also get this experience yourself by working for plumbers and getting some informal pre-apprenticeship work under your belt. You may not be good at math and maybe worried about math. If that is the case, a trades school or college may be intimidating to you.

However, there will be many in the school experiencing the same feelings.

If you can’t afford a pre-apprenticeship program, applying to local plumbers to get that experience will help you tremendously. Either informal or formal training will help you with plumbing code theory, blueprints, and the basic math you will need in addition to the on-the-job basics. Even working for someone on a volunteer basis will help prepare you for the most important step in your training, the apprenticeship.

The plumbing apprenticeship is critical because it is what you need to get your plumbing license. Most states today require a plumbing license in order to get a job and work on plumbing in people’s homes and businesses. Most apprenticeships are paid programs.

This is a job you will get to learn the trade and get paid to do it. During your career, you will go back to school for blocks of training, either with or through your employer or on your own to maintain your license. Once you complete your apprenticeship, you will have to apply for your license.

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Most states require a certain number of hours of apprenticeship work. It can be as high as 9,000 hours. After this, you can apply for your license.

A license typically requires an exam. The next stages of the plumber’s journey are journeyman and master plumbers. These are always optional choices but will mean more money for you down the road.

You’ll need a  license to become a journeyman, and a specific certification to become a master plumber. The master plumber role will likely arrive in your career within two to 10 years of you starting the career, depending on your motivation. Again, an exam and specialized license will be required, but the salaries will be worth it.

Job Prospects for Plumbers

Job prospects for plumbers are good in the United States, as there appears to be a 55 percent shortage of plumbers today. Some job postings for plumbers are sitting on the job boards for as long as 29 days or longer. There are approximately 480 thousand jobs in the United States for plumbers today.

How much you make will depend on how much training you have, and where you live. In the United States, the largest concentration of plumbers can be found in New York, California, and Texas with starting salaries of $25 per hour. Within 10 years, you can expect to make up to $30 per hour for plumbing using just your initial plumbing license alone.

During that time, you can brush up on your math skills if you feel that you need them to advance in your career. To start, however, a solid math foundation is not a requirement.

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