A career in the plumbing and heating industry

A job with a future

Just ask yourself one question – how would we thrive without plumbers looking after the health and safety of the nation? We depend on fresh drinking water for our survival and good sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

These days plumbers tackle a huge range of jobs. Technologies have been developed that harness energy from the sun, sea, ground and air. A domestic plumber could be installing a solar thermal water heating system one day and repairing a boiler the next day. Of course, they still carry out the day-to-day work such as installing bathroom suites or repairing burst pipes, but the opportunities for diversifying have never been better. That’s why a career in the plumbing and heating industry can be exciting and challenging.


If you are still at senior school, it is an ideal time to consider applying for an apprenticeship in the plumbing and heating industry. You have to be at least 16 to apply.

There are a number of key skills needed to become a plumber. Maths and science play their part, but you need to enjoy solving puzzles and get satisfaction from working with your hands. You will usually need four GCSEs at C grade or above.

To become fully qualified can take up to four years. The first part of the apprenticeship will cover NVQ Level 2 Diploma (Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland), and then you will progress on to the Advanced Apprenticeship in order to gain the NVQ Level 3 Diploma. In September 2017 it will probably be a qualification relating to the Trailblazer Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician Apprenticeship.

Career progression

If you thought opportunities for progression in the plumbing and heating industry were limited, you couldn’t be more wrong! With hard work and determination there are many avenues open to you, however, you may need to gain extra qualifications for certain roles.

You could begin your journey by qualifying as a domestic/commercial/industrial plumber and ultimately gain a degree and become a consultant or public health engineer. Alternatively, you could take the entrepreneurial path, once you have enough experience, and start up your own plumbing business. There are lots of other options that could lead to interesting employment in the industry such as: Technical Representative, Water Regulations Inspector, Expert Witness, Trainer or Plumbing Lecturer.

If you work for a construction company, you could go on to become an estimator, buyer, charge-hand or project engineer. There are advantages in working for a big company, because in time it may be possible for you to rise in the ranks and eventually become a manager or director – who knows, one day you could be the CEO!

Find out more

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has information on careers on its website – http://www.ciphe.org.uk/professional-members/careers/ – including a downloadable fact sheet for parents

About the author

Carol Cannavan has worked as a journalist and editor in the plumbing and heating industry for over 18 years. She was the communications manager for the CIPHE and has written a book called A Career in Plumbing, which is available on Amazon here: http://ow.ly/Ukok3099ew2