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The demand for plumbers in Georgia continues to grow while the number of people entering this skilled workforce has shrunk. The Peach State needs new people excited about this career and has everything you need to make diving in possible and profitable!
Ten states in the United States collectively account for 61% of the entire U.S. construction market according to Research and Markets, and Georgia is one of them. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, CareerOneStop, projects the growth rate in Georgia for Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters and their Helpers to be 12% from 2020 to 2030 as compared to 5% nationwide.
There’s definitely evidence to support this on job boards. There are hundreds of plumber jobs in Georgia posted on Indeed.comeed.com and thousands on Zip Recruiter. So how can you get started in this essential profession? Read on to find out.
Table of Contents
Accredited Georgia Plumbing Training Programs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), “Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn on the job through an apprenticeship. Some attend a vocational-technical school before receiving on-the-job training. Most states require plumbers to be licensed.” All of that is true in Georgia.
It does seem that most people entering the plumbing industry in Georgia learn on the job. Formal education is not required by law in Georgia to begin learning to perform plumbing work or even to become licensed, but it can help you land a job.
If you choose to start with plumbing education, there are a lot of training programs in Georgia, but not many that are accredited by a national organization. The National Center for Construction Education & Research has approved a few plumbing programs offered through Georgia’s Technical College System. Much more often, however, you’ll see NCCER accreditation on Construction Management and Welding and Joining Technology offerings throughout the state’s technical colleges. In fact, only a few of Georgia’s Technical Colleges are currently offering plumbing curriculum at all, but the demand is there, so at least one more program is being added in the coming school year at West Georgia Technical College’s Carroll campus.
The two technical schools that do offer NCCER plumbing programs are:
A plumbing company in Georgia also offers an NCCER-accredited apprenticeship program described in the apprentice section below.
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Plumbing Degrees & Certificates
As you weigh the benefits of formal training at a technical or community college, you may want to speak with people in the field in your state. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, and some insist on a minimum amount of education. Other states have no educational requirements to get started, as in Georgia. If the return on investment is not there in your state, it may make more sense to simply get an entry-level position and get on-the-job training rather than attending one of the plumber schools.
In terms of college education for plumbers, typically you’ll have a range of degree and certificate programs from which to choose. The time it takes to complete them and the cost of each are the most significant differences. The most common plumbing programs are:
Certificate Program – three to six months
Diploma Program – one to two years
Obviously, the longer the program, the more it costs. Many plumbing professionals have some post-secondary training. However, very few choose to get a four-year bachelor’s degree unless they’re seeking some kind of related engineering or building construction degree. If this is a path that interests you, you may want to explore the Building Construction Bachelor of Science degree at Georgia Tech or the Bachelor of Science in Construction degree at Georgia Southern University.
In many cases, formal education pays off in the form of higher wages, but if your interest lies in being a plumber or having your own plumbing business, a four-year degree is not necessary. In Georgia, there is no requirement for formal education to become a licensed plumber. Rather, you need at least three years of qualifying experience and to pass the licensing exam to become a journeyman plumber. The only required education for plumbers in Georgia is Continuing Education to stay up to date on plumbing code and plumbing technology to renew your Georgia plumbing license every two years.
Typical Courses in Technical College Programs
Plumbing programs at technical colleges are all intended to prepare students for careers in plumbing, pipefitting, and related fields. All combine theory and the practical skills needed to do the job. Most develop academic, technical, and professional knowledge and skills required for job acquisition, retention, and advancement.
Among the classes for a Residential/ Commercial Plumbing Technician Technical Certificate of Credit are:
Introduction to Plumbing
Pipes, Valves, and Fittings
Water Supply Systems
Plumbing Fixtures and Appliances
Gas Piping, Venting, and Appliances
More intensive diploma programs would add intermediate and advanced plumbing concepts, plumbing codes, pipe fabrication, and welding technology fundamentals among other courses. Many include Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification too.
Program graduates have the qualification of an apprentice plumber or pipefitter and are prepared to enter the workforce and continue learning under the direction of a licensed plumber.
Even after becoming a licensed plumber, you‘ll need additional education. Georgia licensed plumbers must complete at least 4 hours per year of instruction related to their profession to renew their licenses. Continuing education courses must be conducted by an approved college, vocational-technical school, or trade association.
School Selection Criteria
There are a lot of things to consider when picking the school and program that are right for you.
Cost is, of course, at the top of the list. Tuition at each of the schools listed above is pretty uniform — $100 per credit hour for in-state students and $200 for out-of-state students. There will be some variations in fees at each school, so be sure to review all of the costs involved. There are also always costs for books and tools, but those tools are yours to keep as you enter your chosen occupational field. All students who are interested in receiving federal (Pell Grant) and state (Hope Funding) apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form online at fafsa.ed.gov.
As noted above, you can choose from a technical certificate or a broader diploma program. The certificates are 12 to 21 credit hours and will take one to two semesters to complete. There are a couple offered that are 30 to 40 credits and will take an additional semester. The diploma programs typically take four semesters or about two years.
There are many benefits to formal education if you want to join the plumbing profession. Although in Georgia there is no educational requirement to get started in the field, many employers will choose an applicant with a certificate or degree over one without credentials. Having some basic knowledge helps you to hit the ground running and secure your place in a shop full of professionals. Technical training is also usually rewarded with higher starting pay and lifelong earnings.
Online vs in-person
People living in more rural areas of Georgia or who have commitments that make it difficult to travel to a school campus may choose to get plumbing training through an online certificate program. Only you know if this type of independent curriculum will work for you. Online programs are ideal for people looking for entry-level jobs or for entry-level workers who are looking to increase their salary. Penn Foster and Ashworth College are two of the most recognizable online plumbing programs. Bob Vila’s website and the CPA Accounting Institute for Success each list them at the top of their posts about the Best Online Courses for Plumbing.
If you know your learning style relies on personal instruction, more traditional in-person classes are pretty accessible throughout the state.
Level of difficulty
Plumbing programs are designed to prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the plumbing industry in commercial, industrial, or residential sectors. Curriculum includes an understanding of mathematics and physics. Plumbers have to learn to do a lot of different things to be successful, including how to follow blueprints or other design specifications to install or repair plumbing systems, troubleshoot issues at residences or commercial properties, new installations involving running all water, gas and sewage lines, how and when to use different material pipes and how to fit them together properly, plumbing code and record keeping of work performed. And, of course, especially in residential work, customer service is key.
School Comparison: At a Glance
Each of the training schools listed below are part of the Georgia Technical College System. They all offer students financial aid in the form of grants and loans and have a 100% acceptance rate. Tuition is $100 per credit hour for in-state students and $200 for out-of-state students.
NCCER Plumbing | Diploma | 42 credits
NCCER Plumbing Technician | Certificate | 34 credits
NCCER Advanced Plumbing Technician | Certificate | 14 credits
NCCER Intermediate Plumbing Technician | Certificate | 12 credits
NCCER Plumbers Assistant | Certificate | 12 credits
Residential/Commercial Plumbing Technician | Certificate | 26 credits | Cost: $3,200
Plumbing Service and Systems Specialist | Certificate | 9 credits | Cost: $1,942
Plumbing/Pipefitting Technology | Diploma | 50 credits | Cost: $6,768
Central Georgia Technical College in Macon and Warner Robins offers plumbing curriculum for a plumbing technical certificate of credit as well as for registered apprenticeships.
Residential Plumbing Technician | Certificate | 21 credits
(Not listed under programs of study but is on page 111 of the course catalog link above.)
Southern Crescent Technical College (Griffin and Flint River campuses)
NCCER Plumbing and Pipefitting Technology | Diploma | 42 credits
West Georgia Technical College (Carroll Campus)
Plumbing and Pipefitting Technology | Diploma | Coming Spring 2023
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Steps for Enrollment in Georgia
Every technical college has its own way of doing things, but in general the process begins with visiting the school’s website and applying for admission online. You also have the option of visiting the school’s admission office or mailing a paper application there. All require that you pay a $25 application fee and provide several documents. In general the application process has the following steps:
1. Complete your application.
2. Pay the application fee.
3. Provide proof of residency to qualify for in-state tuition.
4. Have sealed official high school transcript or GED scores sent.
5. Submit placement test scores.
6. If applicable, apply for on-campus housing.
Plumbing Career Requirements in Georgia
As mentioned earlier, Georgia does not have an educational requirement to legally perform plumbing work, but it does require plumbers to be licensed or work for someone who is.
The process of becoming a plumber begins with either an apprenticeship or trade school. There is no license or registration necessary to be an apprentice plumber. As an apprentice or in a trade school you can begin accruing the required three years of work experience to apply for your journeyman plumber license under the supervision of a licensed master plumber and, after an additional two years, you can apply to be a master plumber yourself.
An easy way to understand the practical difference between the two license levels in Georgia is to think of a journeyman as an employee and a master as an employer. A journeyman can provide plumbing services, but must work for a master plumber. Only a master plumber can bid on plumbing jobs because they have the license to contract out services as a plumber. So, if you want to own your own company, you must earn your master plumbers license.
There are three types of licensure in Georgia:
Journeyman License: Applicants must document at least 3 years of experience in Primary or Secondary experience.
Primary Experience is experience that would be gained through installation of plumbing systems under supervision.
Secondary Experience would be gained while engaged in work or training related to the installation like formal education programs. Completing a diploma program of a technical school in engineering technology may be credited for up to two years of secondary experience. Completing a certificate program at a vocational-technical school may be credited for up to one year of secondary experience.
Master License Class 1 Restricted: Applicants must document at least five years of qualifying experience with at least two of those years as a licensed journeyman plumber, plumbing contractor, plumbing foreman, plumbing superintendent, or military plumber. Class I master plumber licenses are restricted to single-family buildings or buildings designed for no more than two families, or commercial structures not exceeding 10,000 square feet.
Master License Class 2 Unrestricted: Non-restricted applicants must document at least five years of qualifying experience with at least two of those years as a licensed journeyman plumber, plumbing contractor, plumbing foreman, plumbing superintendent, or military plumber, but must also describe experience with commercial or industrial plumbing.
For a detailed explanation of Georgia’s plumber licensing requirements and how to fulfill them, check out our essential guide to getting your Georgia Plumbing License.
Salaries for Plumbers in Georgia
Before paying for technical education and getting started in the plumbing field you’ll want some idea of what you can expect in terms of the return on your investment of time, effort, energy, and money. In other words, what can you expect to make as a plumbing professional in Georgia? Payfactors.com data provides an answer based on your experience. The average plumber salary in Georgia for 2022 is:
Entry level, <2 years : $45,200
Intermediate, 2-4 years: $52,500
Senior, 4-6 years: $59,100
Another way to get the training you need to become a plumber is through a formal apprenticeship. Most apprenticeships are three to five years long and require you to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or a GED, and a valid driver’s license. The Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association of Georgia (PHCC) has a four-year apprentice program approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. Union plumbing apprenticeships are also offered in Georgia through the United Association local chapters in Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah. They are five years long. Each year includes 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 246 hours of classroom courses, including basics such as mathematics, science, drafting, welding and other pipe trade related courses. Apprentices work for member contractors with an opportunity for increased wages each year until reaching journeyman status.
Some plumbing companies will hire applicants who have had no previous training and provide the training themselves — creating an in-house apprenticeship. A pretty typical model of that is pairing a new employee with an experienced plumber for the hands-on part of training and then requiring new hires to attend classes at night at a local community college or sometimes taught through the company itself.
An example of this is FitzGerald Plumbing College, an NCCER-accredited apprenticeship program founded in 2014 by FitzGerald & Sons Plumbing Co., based in Peachtree City, Ga. The website explains that students receive both classroom and hands-on instruction in a state-of-the-art training facility.
Other School Options
Though accreditation can give you confidence in your technical college, accredited programs aren’t your only option, and as noted above there are very few in the state of Georgia for plumbing. In addition to the other technical school options listed above, you can explore online programs. There’s also the Mechanical Trades Institute, which is a Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust with its main campus in Atlanta and a second campus in Rome, Ga. The plumber training program is five years and has start times in February and August. As an apprentice in this program you will be working for a Local 72 Union Contractor.
Or you can find a job with a licensed plumber and learn from him or her. As that plumber’s helper/apprentice, you’ll learn on the job and probably eventually want to become licensed yourself. The Georgia Plumbing Institute offers classes to help applicants prepare for the journeyman and master plumbing license examinations. So, even if you’ve never taken formal plumbing classroom instruction, you may decide to do so to prepare for the state licensing test.
The bottom line is that you can find the training you need to excel in a career in plumbing in Georgia. The opportunities are all around you!
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