How to Get into a Plumbers’ Union

by Steve Coffey  // in Plumbing


For many people, plumbing conjures up images of dirty, dangerous work. However, most people don’t know that plumbing can be a lucrative and rewarding career that often comes with the benefit of a union. 

Plumbers who are members of these associations enjoy job security, good wages, and benefits packages that are hard to beat.

What Is a Plumbers’ Union?

A union acts like a referral company that connects contractors with licensed plumbers. Once a plumber is hired, their wages have already been negotiated for them and the contractor agrees to follow the guidelines. 

Plumbers can look into the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), a multi-craft union whose members are skilled in the fabrication, maintenance, and installation of piping systems. The UA is the largest piping union to date in North America. 

How to Get into a Plumbers Union 

To participate in a plumber’s union, you must have at least four years of plumbing experience. However, if you don’t have any experience, you need to take a five-year apprenticeship to gain on-the-job training and classroom education. 

Once you’ve completed the program, you can take the journeyman exam to become a licensed plumber to be eligible to join the union. 

Apply for a plumbers’ union apprenticeship 

Joining an apprenticeship program offered by these unions would be the easiest way to go. Your local joint labor-management committees typically give these apprenticeship roles to qualified individuals. 

The UAP website is rich with information on eligibility requirements and how to proceed with your apprenticeship application. Once you contact the committee, they’ll give you an application packet containing all the information you need to join the union.

Eligibility to join a plumbers’ union apprenticeship

To qualify for a plumbers’ union apprenticeship, you need to be at least 18 years old with a high-school diploma (or equivalent). You’ll also need to submit your transcript of records and driver’s license. 

Some committees might require you to submit an aptitude test, criminal background check, and drug test as a pre-requisite. 

In some instances, college coursework relating to plumbing or pipe fitting may help your case. 

After submitting your application, the committee will review your application and reach out to you for the initial interview schedule. Some unions may require a written examination along with an interview to test your aptitude. 

Once done with the interview, the committee will inform you of their decision about whether you qualify for the union. 

Plumbers’ union apprenticeship interview

Once the schedule for an interview has been set, a panel consisting of journeymen and apprentices will be present to gauge your expertise, skills, and experience in the trade. On certain occasions, company owners and contractors may also join the panel during the interview. 

They would question you about your plans, what you hope to accomplish, and your reasons for joining the union. 

After the interview, the union committee will notify you once they have reached a decision and accepted you as a member of the union. From here, you will sign a contract and pay the applicable membership fees.  

What happens after I am enrolled in the plumber’s apprenticeship?

Once accepted for the union, the committee will contact you for various construction projects. Apprentices will work under the supervision of a journeyman or master plumber.

On-site experience will involve performing plumbing tasks such as installing and fixing pipes, preventing leaks, and unclogging drains. You will also need to attend bi-weekly classes to teach you about plumbing theories and safe practices.  

Most apprenticeship programs last four to five years. After completing the program, you will be qualified to take the journeyman’s exam, after which you will be a fully licensed plumber. 

Why Join a Plumbers’ Union?

What are the benefits of being in a plumbers’ union?

Joining a plumbers’ union comes with numerous benefits, including health and retirement packages. Other benefits include medical benefits and insurance, vacations, and better job security. 

Moreover, being part of a union gives you a voice against workplace malpractices and negotiating for fair wages and working conditions.  


Is it worth being a plumber?

Being a plumber comes with many benefits. Plumbers, steamfitters, and pipe fitters have one of the highest paying trade jobs, with an average income of $54,000 per year. On an hourly rate, this is about $26 per hour. It’s also one of the most in-demand industries to date.

How to become a plumber 

To become a licensed plumber, you need to undergo an apprenticeship lasting four to five years. You can check your state’s local Department of Labor or trade school. You will need to pass the entrance exam and complete all the training hours stipulated in the program. 

What is an apprenticeship in plumbing?

A plumbing apprenticeship is a four or five-year program offered by your local state Department of Labor or trade school. It’s a combination of classroom education and hands-on training on-site to help you become a journeyman plumber.  

Apprenticeships are available via your local state plumber’s union or plumbing company. 

Do you need to have experience to join a plumbers’ union?

Experience gives you a significant advantage over those without. However, unions also have apprenticeship programs to help interested individuals gather knowledge, learn the foundations of plumbing, and still earn a decent wage as they go on their way to becoming licensed plumbers and full-fledged union members. 

How long is the apprenticeship program to join the plumber’s union?

Apprenticeship programs in plumbers’ unions usually last for four to five years.

Is the plumbing apprenticeship paid?

Plumbing apprenticeships come with a set wage along with several benefits.

What is the job outlook for plumbers?

The job outlook shown by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is good. More than 50,000 job openings have been seen over the past ten years, showing an ongoing demand for plumbers.

Bottom Line

A plumbing union provides an opportunity to professional plumbers for more jobs with better wages and working environments. 

When you take an apprenticeship role from a local association, you will be able to receive the education, skills, and expertise needed to help you on your way to becoming a licensed plumber. 

Want to discover how you can enrich your plumbing career? Subscribe to our newsletter and explore our blog for more tips and advice.

About the author Steve Coffey

I am passionate about the building materials industry helping companies all throughout the channel see success and exceed the expectations of their audiences

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