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Unblock your path to becoming a plumber

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If you like working with your hands, enjoy new challenges, and want to be well paid, plumbing could be the job for you. Here we explain how to enter this much-in-demand trade.

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When newly qualified, you can expect to earn up to £20,000 a year, while more experienced plumbers rake in around £40,000 on average. This level of income compares well with the overall average UK salary of £35,000.

Is plumbing a good profession to enter?

There may be over 80,000 plumbers in the UK, but there is plenty of room for more. A recent study found almost 12,000 vacancies for plumbers on job websites, and the shortfall is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.

Knowing you’ll always be in demand is a big plus, but there’s more to plumbing than that. Here are some of the main pros and cons of being a plumber:


  • Wide range of employment opportunities – a plumber can work for a company or themselves, or as a side hustle – providing you have the skills

  • Opportunity to specialise in different fields

  • Variety of work at different locations for different clients

  • Plenty of social interaction with clients, other tradesmen and suppliers

  • Freedom to work the hours you want, as plumbing jobs crop up around the clock, seven days a week. (Plumbers tend to work around 40 hours a week, on average)


  • Problematic customers – who may delay payment

  • Working in cold, wet and dirty environments

  • Unforeseen problems could take longer and cost more than you quoted

What does a plumber do?

Plumbers work on systems or equipment that convey water into, around or from buildings. This can involve:

  • Fitting, repairing or replacing water pipes or drains

  • Rerouting water pipes, perhaps following an extension

  • Diagnosing problems

  • Clearing blocked drains

  • Fixing leaking pipes 

  • Fitting waterproof material to roofs, walls and chimneys

How do you become a plumber?

Although some people start as a plumber’s mate, most enter the trade in two ways:

1. Vocational courses

  • You’ll need at least a City & Guilds Level 2 certificate (equivalent to NVQ Level 2) to be considered by many employers as a qualified plumber

  • You must hold a Level 3 diploma to join the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE) as an associate

  • Many employers will only work with plumbers who are members of bodies such as the CIPHE

  • You can continue to work through the C&G qualifications right up to Level 8, gaining greater expertise as you progress


C&G Level 1, 2, and 3 courses are free for school leavers (Level 3 is equivalent to an A Level). Adults seeking to enter the profession can expect to pay up to £3,200 for a full-time, seven-week or part-time 18-week C&G Level 2 course. 

2. Apprenticeship

  • Apply to a college or training centre and be assigned to work with a plumber as an apprentice, while gaining the necessary qualifications

  • Typically spend around 80% of your working week on the job, and 20% attending training courses and studying

  • Apprenticeships usually last up to four years. Apprentices earn at least the national minimum wage


With many apprenticeships, all course and training costs are covered by the firm you work with. You’ll just have to cover any transport, equipment and childcare costs.

How much does a plumber earn?

When newly qualified, you can expect to earn up to £20,000 a year, while more experienced plumbers rake in around £40,000 on average. This level of income compares well with the overall average UK salary of £35,000. 

Of course, these figures are just an average and don’t take into account what you could earn if you put in the hours. In this trade, salaries topping £60,000 to £100,000 are not unheard of. 

How much should you charge as a plumber?

How much you charge will depend on several factors, including:

  • Where you’re located 

  • Where the job is

  • Your experience

  • The job’s complexity

  • How long it will take 

  • What the competition charges

  • Whether it’s an emergency call-out

Plumbers typically charge £15 to £20 an hour or £90 to £120 a day, with more for emergency callouts. You can also quote for specific jobs. For example, replacing kitchen mixer taps, with isolation valves, is an hour's job, costing £80 labour, plus parts. If you plan to add VAT you must tell the customer up-front. 

What career path can a plumber follow?

You may choose to stick with the same line of work throughout your career, just adding additional skills as the job demands. Or, you could specialise in particular areas that interest you, such as becoming a:

  • Heating engineer – works with gas appliances, including boilers. Must be on the Gas Safe Register

  • Heat pump engineer – installs and services zero-carbon central heating and hot water systems

  • Trainer – teaches and assesses trainee plumbers at further education colleges or training centres

  • Oil-fired technician – maintains and repairs oil-fired heating systems

  • Master plumber – specialises in one area of plumbing, such as pipefitting or sprinkler installations

Do I need business insurance?

If you end up working for yourself, the chances are you’ll need some form of business insurance. Here are the main policies you should consider:

Public liability insurance – protects you against compensation claims and legal fees if a client or a member of the public sues your business for injury or damage to their property.

Professional indemnity insurance – covers you if the advice you give a customer causes them to suffer financial loss.

Van insurance – like other third-party, third-party, fire and theft or comprehensive motor insurance, but for commercial vehicles. 

Employer’s liability insurance – a legal requirement if you employ anyone other than direct family, even on a part-time basis.

You can buy these policies individually, but if you need more than one, it may be cheaper to opt for packages of cover. Options include tradesman insurance – including specific policies for plumbers – and self-employed insurance.


Is it expensive to start as a plumber?

It can be if you’re starting from scratch. You’ll probably need equipment and a van to get started. If you don’t have savings, a business loan, van finance or a business credit card could help.

What equipment does a plumber need?

All plumbers have a wide range of tools, from hacksaws and wrenches to tube cutters and pipe benders, as well as overalls and knee pads. Training courses and apprenticeships will provide a list of what you need.

Can you become a plumber later in life?

Yes, by signing up for a fast-track plumbing course. These can take from one week to complete for the most basic, to four to 16 months for more comprehensive courses. Alternatively, you could start as a plumber’s mate.

These unsecured and secured loans could help you grow your business, cover running costs or even fund a new company.

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