Plumbers in the UK carry out a range of repairs and installations---from fitting bathroom pipes to maintaining garden water pumps. Plumbers may be self-employed or work as part of a company. Becoming a plumber in the UK means passing several tests before official accreditation is awarded. Plumbers should be logical, have an understanding of basic mechanics, and be physically able. According to the UK government careers website, an experienced UK plumber can expect to earn from £21,000 to £35,000 per year.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- UK work permit
- City and Guilds National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering Service qualification
- City and Guilds Technical Certificate Level 2 Basic Plumbing Skills and Level 3 Plumbing Studies
Apply to work in the UK. If you're already eligible to work in the UK, you can skip to the next step. However, if you're a US citizen or a citizen of a non-EU country, you'll need to complete a work permit or visa application. You can find out more information from the HM Revenue and Customs link below.
Locate a local college that offers plumbing training. According to the UK government careers advice website, to become a UK plumber you need to complete City and Guilds National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2 and 3 in Mechanical Engineering Services---Plumbing (Domestic). You may be required to take a test to gain entry to a college course. As competition for places is fierce, you may prefer to find a private company that offers intensive training. Private intensive training may cost up to £7000 in total.
Train as an apprentice. The UK Government offers apprenticeship schemes for people up to the age of 24. There are also some opportunities for people over the age of 24 to retrain as an apprentice. Try and secure an apprenticeship soon after you begin your college training. You can then learn on the job as well as in the classroom. According to the UK government Connexions Direct website, first-year plumbing apprentices typically earn around £10,000 per year. Check for available apprenticeships in your area at apprenticeships.org.uk
Pass your Plumbing NVQ 2 and 3. Once you have successfully passed the basic mechanical engineering tests, you need to take the City and Guilds Technical Certificate. In particular, you need Level 2 Basic Plumbing Skills, followed by Level 3 Plumbing Studies. Again, these can be completed at local training colleges or through private tuition companies. If you're experienced as a plumber or engineer, you may be able to go directly to studying these and skip the basic mechanical qualifications.
Seek employment from an agency or plumbing company. Alternatively, if you want to find your own clients, register as self-employed and offer your plumbing services direct. Be aware that you usually need a lot of experience and some client contacts before becoming a self-employed plumber.
Tips and warnings
- It's useful to have a full UK driving license because the job can involve lots of travel to and from client sites.
- If you want to work on gas appliances you'll need to register with the Gas Safe Register.
- If you're colour blind you may be denied entry to some UK plumber courses. This is due to health and safety laws.
- Plumbing can be physically demanding work. Make sure you're as fit as possible.
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