A Guide To Plumbing Careers


The salaries of Plumbers are often talked about in the national press. Salaries of 30-70k p.a. are often discussed, along with the lack of plumbers within the UK. The question now is – are we being lied to, or is this the truth? To be fair, this wage level is reasonable for the correctly qualified and experienced Plumber. To be fair, the higher earnings of 70-100k p.a. are generally for those working within the self-employed field.

If you enter the traditional work environment, primarily working for an established employer, then working hours of Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm are standard. From UK companies comes the standard reward such as holiday pay and sickness allowance and a potential wage of between 15k and 30k p.a. Whilst the ability to earn more than through normal means exists, the self-employed plumber usually has to consider working longer hours. This is clear when self employed plumbers have to work evenings and weekends, where their domestic clients are working during the day.

On a personal level remains the issue self-employment, something that does not become everybody. Equally there is a need to manage good ‘business sense’, with items such as advertising & marketing factors as well as correctly assessing your own hourly rate. Likewise self-employed people need to consider the implications of costs relating to materials and transport as well as legal and accountancy fees etc. While these can mount up, (although they should always be a very small proportion of your earnings,) so can the benefits received. And the positives virtually always beat the downsides!

Student Entrants are generally looking for regular employment with a particular employer who can cover most of their working needs and teach them from experience. On the other hand, the Self Employed Entrant needs to increase their list plumbing credentials as soon as possible. Having said that, the majority of self-employed workers do not join the business sector but focus on the ‘domestic’ market. (The majority do at the very least)

In terms of plumbing education, there appears to be some similarity between the certification modules required by each path into the industry. Without a doubt the issue of NVQ’s (SVQ’s in Scotland) raises a constant concern as to the way forward.

Without a doubt, it is the greater dependence on the NVQ element that separates the Student Entrant from the Self Employed Entrant. In trying to meet their client’s needs many Self Employed Entrants will employ a wider range of qualifications. Without a doubt the self employed person needs to quickly gain the core domestic- centred qualifications to satisfy their typical household-based clients. Having covered off the key elements of training within the college, the Student Entrant usually then enters the apprenticeship stage within the workplace – where the NVQ element can be assessed. As it is cheaper form of study overall then the Student Entrant can make financial savings from the beginning. It is often by gaining certifications faster, by being motivated by a more commercial standpoint that the Self Employed Entrant will achieve considerable financial benefits before a Student Entrant.

It is the required financial rewards that drive the urgency of clear careers discussions, whether they are overall study or certification requirements. It is often the issue of 3 years in low-paid apprenticeship work, alongside going back to college that many adults having to look after their family and with say 20kp.a requirements find difficult. Furthermore, many Student Entrants have their studies paid for them whereas the self-employed students fund the variety of course themselves. It is often the course structure and the level of certification that can run into costs of around 3k-10k+.

The study process is often split with Student Entrants studying at recognised further-education colleges whereas the mature Self Employed Entrants going for a wider range of private run technical schools. It is the lead into familiar skill-sets and qualifications that commercially fixed plumbing course companies offer as part of their training paths. One of the main advantages of this method is the opportunity for evening, part-time, and self-study classes – allowing Self Employed Entrants to train whilst continuing with their existing job, thus maintaining their financial situation. From this it makes sense to gather as much detail as you can especially with so many training options available. We’ve provided links and a book mark to this page (CTRL-D) so you can come back whenever you wish and review the adverts and options available to you.

To increase their ‘marketability’ many plumbing students will go on to utilise extra courses. Areas such as Gas, Green Energy and Electrical training can offer additional qualifications to Plumbers. Gas training has always been a route for Plumbers to consider, as this forms part of the common domestic and commercial heating system.

It is with its main subjects, alongside added NVQ’s, that result in Gas Training being viewed as a technical program. It is the ability to add extra skills to the fore, along with the features that on-going training offers that continue to be attractive to those who trained as a plumber. From this stance, the mature student is often more suited to a cross of Plumbing/Gas training. For the Mature Student the emphasis appears to be reducing the NVQ elements and focussing on the core subjects.

It is this distinct training hybrid that appears to suit the self-employed professional. There is a great empathy for earning money whilst learning a wider range of work skill sets. This adds to their overall package rather than having to rely on sub-contraction of key skills to third parties. Having to wait for critical phases to be completed by sub-contractors can not only reduce the earning potential of each job but can also negatively affect a customer’s perception of a job value overall. In order to offer more value to their relative clients Plumbers need to be more skilled in their job role.

In conclusion, the Self Employed Entrant can enjoy a much higher (and more quickly achieved) income than a Student Entrant, but they would have to work at developing a broader range of certifications (and consider the business side of things too.) Note: This information relates to the UK market, policies and industry requirements alone.

Copyright Scott Edwards 2009. Navigate to Plumbing NVQ and Technical Certificates or CLICK HERE.

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