Plumbing has become one of the most popular skilled trades in Canada, and with good reason: the days are always different, there’s plenty of work available, and the pay is generally great. It isn’t easy to become a plumber—a lot of time and effort is put in while learning the trade—but once you master it, you’re set to have an excellent career. Here’s what you need to do to get there.
Get your high school diploma
To have the best job and apprenticeship prospects, finish high school. If possible, take as many math courses as you can before you graduate. Math skills are some of the most important in plumbing, as you’ll use them to calculate measurements and figure out specifications for pipe systems.
Complete a plumbing apprenticeship
There’s only one way to learn how to be a plumber: doing hands-on work and shadowing professional plumbers. Finding an apprenticeship is like a regular job search, except your employer must be willing to hire a new apprentice, provide training, and pay the standard rates. Once you’ve done this, register as an apprentice with your provincial/territorial apprenticeship authority.
About 80% of your time as an apprentice will be spent working under a certified plumber, but you’ll also have to take a few courses. Requirements vary across Canada, so check with your local apprenticeship authority to find out how many hours and which classes you need to complete. (Careers in Construction has a handy search tool for these organizations.) Generally, plumbing apprentices have to complete at least 6,000 hours of work—many must complete 9,000—which takes between 4 and 5 years. Once you pass your final exam, congrats, you’re a plumber.
For more information on apprenticeships, visit the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum.
Certification is mandatory in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, P.E.I, Saskatchewan and Québec. To be eligible for more and better jobs, get certified even if you’re working in a non-mandatory province/territory.
If you’ll be moving around, take the Red Seal exam. Passing it allows you to work anywhere in Canada without having to take any additional tests or courses.
Another useful certification for plumbers is gas fitting. Gas and water systems are often combined, so this certification qualifies you for more jobs.