Deciding to become a plumber is a big step and a step that will provide you job security and a great income. If you didn’t already know plumbers are desperately needed here in the UK and all over the world. We are desperate for the skills and expertise that plumbers have to carry out a job successfully and safely.
So here I will go into detail about the qualifications that you’ll need to become a plumber and I’ll also explain how to improve your portfolio if you already are a plumber.
The basic qualifications needed to become a plumber
To become what’s known as a “fully qualified” plumber you’ll be required to have an industry recognised qualification at NVQ level 2 or 3. The level you can start at will be determined by whether you have any previous experience in the plumbing industry, but the qualifications basically required are:
- Level 2/3 Diploma Plumbing and Heating
- Level 2/3 Diploma Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems
For those who are new to the plumbing world level 2 would suit them better as it has been specially designed for complete novices. This level will provide you with all the basic skills and knowledge that are needed when entering into the plumbing industry. The mandatory units in level 2 are:
- Install domestic heating systems and their maintenance
- Install and understand above ground drainage systems and the maintenance techniques
- Understand and carry out safe working practice in building services engineering
- Understand and install hot water systems and their maintenance in the home
For those who already have previous experience in the plumbing industry and who can work with the least amount of supervision or those who have already completed level 2, level 3 would be recommended.
There are a range of options in the Level 3 Diploma including, hot and cold water systems, oil and gas fired appliances, drainage, solar heating as well as recycling and water systems.
Level 3 Diploma also covers the ACS safety assessment requirements if you’re going for the gas plumbing option. You’ll need to cover the ACS safety assessment so that you can register with the Gas Safe Register, if you didn’t know it was formally known as CORGI. By registering with the Gas Safe Register you will really boost your portfolio and you are much more likely to get customers coming to you for work as they’ll know that you are a plumber who is fully competent and carrying out a wide range of tasks. They are far more likely to go for you over a plumber who isn’t Gas Safe Registered.
Work placements will help with your Diploma
It is fully recommended by industry recognised organisations that you enter into a work placement as soon as you can after you begin your plumbing training. By doing so you’ll have the advantage of completing your theory lessons at your local college or training centre and also then be able to put all that learning into practice at your work placement. You will have a greater chance at doing well in your Diploma if you have a place of work while you’re training.
Understanding what an NVQ is
When we mention becoming a “fully qualified” plumber what we mean is someone who has earned their NVQ. In order to become a fully qualified plumber you must have your NVQ. You can gain your NVQ as soon as you begin your job as a plumber it doesn’t matter if you’re working for yourself or for a company. All that happens is an NVQ assessor will come and visit you on a particular day at your place of work and will assess you as you complete different tasks and then once their satisfied with what they see and they are happy with your work they will award you with your NVQ. Don’t worry of you don’t succeed on the first attempt as there will be many more opportunities to gain your NVQ.
There were new building regulations made on January 1st 2005 and Part P was one of them. The regulation states that a plumber must notify the local authority when they carry out any electrical work. If, however, you have registered under the Part P scheme you don’t have to notify them. You will be able to carry out electrical work without having the worry of notifying the local council. Working under the Part P scheme will greatly boost your portfolio as customers are far more likely to offer you the work than a plumber who isn’t Part P registered.
How do you register for Part P?
In order to work under the Part P scheme you must be fully competent and should be able to complete work safely and efficiently on all electrical equipment located around the home.
A governing body assessor will assess you as you carry out different tasks, you must prove to them that you have good knowledge on electrical installation and also the qualifications that show this. If they are happy with your work you’ll gain your Part P and will be registered. The governing bodies under the Part P scheme include:
- British Standards
What are the benefits of registering with Part P?
Part P will really boost your portfolio and will gain you extra customers too. You can prove to them that you have all the skills and knowledge that’s required to carry out an electrical job around the home successfully. Once you are registered under Part P you can carry out a wide range of tasks including:
- Installing electrical showers
- Installing extractor fans
- Work with central heating controls
- Install or replace immersion controls and heaters
- Work with extension ring mains
- Bond earth for bathrooms, kitchens and shower rooms
- Replace and install macerator units
WRAS – Water Regulations Certificate, BPEC/WRAS Level 1
If you are an “approved contractor” then you are far more likely to get work from say local authorities, building contractors and housing associations. There are many reasons why this is the case but the main one is that being an “approved contractor” shouts out to them that you are reliable, fully competent and are experienced at your trade.
BPEC has created a learning package that enables plumbers to gain “approved contractor” status which will enable them to get the same chances of work as others. The learning package is also directed towards students with a limited knowledge on hot water and cold water systems. The package is also good for those who design and install water systems in a wide range of buildings.
What will the course gain me?
- You will gain knowledge on all the content that are within the Water fittings/ supply regulations that all started in 1999.
- You will be able to put all that you learn into practice
- You’ll gain understanding of the laws and regulations as well as the underpinning.
- You’ll have a better understanding of the documents which are there to explain and also enhance each law, including the Water regulations guide and the regulations specification.
After completion of the water regulation course you can then self certify your own work and of course you’ll be able to do work for organizations and plumbing companies. You will be an “approved contractor”, which means work will come to you far more quickly than previously.
Also once you complete the course you’ll be approved by the Water Advisory Scheme and those who pass this course are known as being of the best standards regarding the work that they carry out.
Am I suited to the course?
If you want to earn more money and want to join a competent person scheme then yes this course is ideal for you. You’ll be picking up lucrative work from housing associations, local authorities and social housing groups. Once you have gained your certificate you won’t have to contact the local authority when you complete work. The water companies will have a list of all the approved contractors for the public to see and you will be one of those on that list.
Will I gain standards?
Yes you will, you’ll receive a certificate of competency once you pass your course. The certificate will be issued jointly by the Water regulations Advisory Service (WRAS) and BPEC.
What’s included in the course?
Once you begin your course you’ll be provided with an introductory booklet and your training package. You’ll also receive your 12 manuals or sometimes known as study units to complete. There will also be a support document for you to read as a reference. The 12 study units include:
- Legislation, introduction and background
- The water regulations
- Materials and substances in contact with water
- Requirements for water fittings
- Water system design
- Installation commissioning
- Cross connection
- Back flow prevention
- Hot water services
- WCs and urinals
- Cold water systems
- Sanitary appliances and water that’s intended for outdoor use
The assessment will be two multi choice question papers. The first question paper is all based on the training package and will include your manuals that you have been working on throughout your course. The second paper is a practical test. You’ll watch a video and you’ll have to pick out and identify the contradictions of the laws. Then once successfully completed you’ll gain a BPEC/Water Regulations Advisory certificate.
Courses via your local college or training centre
Full time and part time courses are available at local colleges and training centres. Here you’ll learn all the basic plumbing requirements to get you started to enter into the plumbing industry, these will include, plumbing industry health and safety. All the practical skills you’ll need are also included in the course.
Level 1 Certificate – Introduction to plumbing
Level 2 – Diploma in Access to Building Services Engineering
Level 2 – Diploma in plumbing studies
Think of these courses as your door into the plumbing industry, a gateway if you like, once you have these qualifications you will greatly improve your chances of getting further up into the plumbing industry including getting on a plumbing apprenticeship scheme or maybe working as a trainee plumber.
What happens once you qualify as a plumber?
As soon as you qualify as a plumber you’ll be able to work in many areas within this exciting industry including:
- Air conditioning
- Gas servicing
- Bathroom fitting
- Kitchen fitting
- Install and maintain energy technologies including, solar water heating pumps and ground source heating pumps.
- Installing and designing low carbon systems, including harvesting rainwater
If you’re already qualified here’s how you can improve on your current qualifications.
- For those plumbers who are working with oil fired heating systems or appliances you would benefit greatly by registering with the Oil Firing Technical Association competent person scheme.
- To help with further development in the plumbing industry The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) have lots of good membership options.
- For training packages which will include ACS assessment preparation and also useful business guides take a look at The British Plumbers Council (BPEC)
How much could I earn as a plumber?
Plumbers earn a good wage indeed and of course if you go self employed then you have the added benefit of setting your own rates. The closer you are to London and the South East will see your wages soar. Those living in the Home Counties are usually the highest paid apart from London of course. So if you’re living close to London and the surrounding areas, good for you, you’ll reap the rewards!
So back to the question of how much they earn, well, the salary of a beginner who has just qualified would be between £16,500 and £21,000 a year and the more experienced plumbers can look forward to getting between £21,000 and £35,000 a year.
So the more experience you have the more money you’ll be earning, and don’t forget these are just averages it doesn’t take into account where you are working, like I said, if you’re living and working in London then Wow you have hit the jackpot!
Well that’s it from me I hope you’ve learned more about plumbing qualifications and the best ones that will suit your requirements. Plumbing is a great career choice with fantastic opportunities, so good luck with it all and hopefully one day you’ll be a fully qualified plumber. Bye for now!