An apprenticeship is the most common pathway to becoming a plumber. Many unions and businesses mandate that an apprentice receive a minimum of 246 hours of technical education, which could include instruction in math, applied physics and chemistry, and up to 2,000 hours of paid, practical training working with an experienced plumber. Safety training is also an important component of the process, since injuries are common in this line of work. "We have many hours worth of [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] training before we go on to a job site," says Patrick Kellett, the administrative assistant to the general president for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia. "We're very conscious of the dangers that come with working in construction."
Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn their trade through a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship. Apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training, as well as some classroom instruction, each year. In the classroom, apprentices learn safety, local plumbing codes and regulations, and blueprint reading. They also study mathematics, applied physics, and chemistry. Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some start out as helpers. The Home Builders Institute offers a pre-apprenticeship training program in plumbing and other trades.