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What Is a Master Plumber?

A master plumber is a licensed plumbing professional who has passed a state's rigorous testing and certification process for plumbers. To earn this designation, a plumber has to not only pass the tests but accumulate years of practical experience in the plumbing and pipefitting field.

What is a master plumber?

A master plumber certification can take years to achieve.

A master plumber possesses a variety of skills needed to install and maintain interior and exterior water service. These skills include advanced maintenance and repair of both indoor and outdoor plumbing systems, and knowledge of sanitary and storm sewer service. Master plumbers possess extensive knowledge of federal and state plumbing codes.

Master plumbers can hold specialties such as steamfitting (installing pipes for transporting high-pressure gases). Master plumbers also supervise plumbing work on construction sites. Their experience and knowledge enable them to draw up more complex plans for multi-level buildings and sanitary systems.

Education

A first step toward becoming a master plumber is to earn an associates degree or complete a vocational program at a technical school. Classes include industrial math, chemistry and mechanical drawing courses in addition to plumbing basics. Skills include identifying pipes and reading blueprints. With that knowledge, you can serve an apprenticeship, assisting experienced plumbers and learning from experience. While an advanced degree is preferred, only a high school diploma or GED is required to apply for formal apprenticeships through organizations such as the Plumbing Industry Council.

Apprenticeship and Journeyman Level

Apprenticeship programs last four to five years and are typically run by local unions or their affiliated companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2008-09. Plumbing apprentices receive paid on-the-job training as well as classroom instruction.

Following this apprenticeship, a plumber can apply for a tradesman's license or choose to work more years under direct supervision and obtain a journeyman's license. Before a plumber can take the master plumber exam, most states require four to five years of experience at the journeyman level. This amount varies by state. Once the journeyman's license is obtained, one more year of direct supervision under a master plumber is often required to refine the skills required by master plumbers. The plumber must be licensed as well.

Master Plumber Certification

Master plumber certification varies by state. Tests generally assess a plumber's ability to install, repair and maintain plumbing systems as well as manage major plumbing work. The certification process also tests a plumber's knowledge of state and federal plumbing codes.

Career Options

Because of their advanced skills and supervisory roles, master plumbers generally earn more than journeyman plumbers. According to Salary.com, the salary range for a master plumber tops out at $65,300. The upper range for a journeyman plumber will be around $50,000.

Job prospects for plumbers will remain strong as the need for new construction and renovations grows, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand for highly trained and skilled master plumbers will likely outpace the supply of workers in this field, the bureau predicts. Even when building activity declines, the need for maintenance, replacement and new installations will keep demand high for master plumbers, especially on a contract basis.

About the Author

Randy Craig has been an education and parenting writer and editor for more than seven years. He served as editorial manager for National PTA's "Our Children" magazine and helped lead PTA's Men Organized to Raise Engagement Committee. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University and authored the book "Reclaiming Your Readers: Proven Methods for Reader-focused Writing."