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So, You Want to Be a… Plumber

Read on to find out whether this is the job for you

How much money can you make?
What type of training will it take?
What does the job actually entail?
Read on to find out whether this is the job for you


What will I be doing all day?

A plumber is responsible for installing, repairing, and managing water and gas supply systems; heating systems; sanitation systems and associated fixtures.

Responsibilities include diagnosing and fixing problems, interpreting blueprints to install new systems, cutting, assembling, welding, and installing pipes and other fixtures, and ensuring all work adheres to regulatory standards.

Do I have the personality for it?

A good plumber has patience and persistence, an eye for detail, and enjoys hands-on work. He needs to be a good listener and problem-solver, and have high levels of concentration and focus.

What kind of career options do I have?

There are several specialization options within the plumbing field. Some examples:

Commercial plumber — works with industrial equipment in commercial settings like hospitals, schools, or factories

Service and repair plumber — performs maintenance and repair jobs in both residential and commercial environments

Residential plumber — works with the plumbing systems in residential homes

Sanitary plumber — specializes in sanitary systems such as toilet and bathroom pipes

Water supply plumber — works with water supply systems such as kitchen or bathroom tanks

What kind of training do I need?

While there are no formal educational requirements, in order to practice as a licensed plumber, one must complete a certain number of years of apprenticeship (with each state setting its own standards) and pass an exam.

What can I expect to make?

While the national average salary in the US is $56,000, plumbers in the metropolitan area tend to make on average $75,000–$100,000. For someone who owns his own business, the income potential can be much higher.


Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel
Plumbing Technician and Manager, On Tap Plumbing, Beit Shemesh
Certifications: GNVQ plumbing level 2 and CORGI gas certified technician, Willesden Technical College and Tottenham Technical College
Years in Field: 27


My Typical Day at Work

My day starts at 5 a.m. with a chavrusa with one of my colleagues and then learning on my own before starting work at ten.

Even though I have a full-time secretary, I’m still involved in a lot of the prep work for the business on a daily basis. I order materials and make sure that my four technicians and I have what we need for that day’s jobs. I deal with last-minute scheduling changes, including emergency jobs. I do regular tool checks to make sure they’re in good working condition. I speak with customers, work on building new leads, and write price quotes. (This is its own unique area of hishtadlus; a lot of time and thought goes into each quote. Some land you a great job, while others come to nothing.) I also deal with endless paperwork to insurance companies, suppliers, accountants, etc.

The bulk of my clients consists of two groups: regular home residents who need wear-and-tear servicing, or want to have higher-quality drinking water in their home; and local shuls, mosdos, health care clinics, etc., for whom we set up and maintain water filtration systems.

We also work for many property managers, contractors, designers, and architects, including some of the bigger kablanim who are building developments in the newer RBS neighborhoods. This usually involves sophisticated camera work inside the sewer lines and fixing up damage caused by workers during the installation.

When we were first starting out, we advertised quite heavily in local papers, but we don’t anymore. Most of our business is from word of mouth. The only place we still advertise is the local phone book.

How I Chose the Profession

I initially attended a business and finance college back in England, but after a few months, I realized that I couldn’t sit behind a desk all day. My father suggested I learn a trade, and we went through various ideas until we came up with plumbing.

Officially, both in England and in Israel, you don’t need to be licensed to do basic plumbing. Schooling will help you learn the concepts, but nothing beats actual hands-on training. (After two years of full-time plumbing college, I’d learned all about complicated central heating and sewage systems, but practically speaking, I didn’t know how to change a faucet washer or unblock a sewer pipe.) I worked for several years in England before making aliyah in 2006.

How I Chose My Specialty

I structured my company so that each of our technicians has a different field of specialization: general servicing repairs; water filtration; renovation plumbing (bathrooms, etc.); hot water/heating; and sewer and drainage and non-invasive complex sewer repairs (for example, using technology to repair a sewer line underground without having to dig through a floor or break any walls).

Personally, my expertise is sewer and drain work. It’s a pretty crazy line of work to specialize in. I didn’t particularly feel like I chose it, I was pulled into it and got hooked.

What I Love Most about the Field

There’s a lot I love about the field, but here are three specific details:

1) The chesed. While we sometimes just see our work as a job, people are so grateful for the service we provide. They can’t thank us enough for opening up a blockage that is flooding their home, or getting their hot water working again.

In addition, we have the privilege to work with some local chesed institutions, providing plumbing repairs for either minimal or no charge for people who can’t afford it.

2) The friendships with my colleagues. As this is a hands-on field in which we work closely together, working in this field has allowed me to bond with the guys who work with me. We share simchahs together, including Purim. We also regularly go out for lunch and go camping and do other fun activities together. I also have chavrusas with them before and after work, which is pretty geshmak.

3) Seeing the expansion of Beit Shemesh. Our neighborhood has grown and expanded so much over the last 10–15 years. We’ve worked closely with some of the biggest contractors in Israel, and have had the privilege of assisting with the construction of entire new neighborhoods.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

There are a lot of challenges as well. Here are a few:

When attempting to repair old pipes, often parts will break, which ends up costing the customer more money. Of course, they don’t like that; they’ll often say, “Well, it was fine before you touched it.”

Achieving a work-life balance. When you’re self-employed or running a company, there’s a never-ending list of things to do, whether it’s scheduling, billing, ordering stock, or dealing with customer complaints. It’s hard to switch off your brain from work. If you don’t make clear boundaries in this area (such as turning off your phone at certain hours), you can literally have no life.

Working outside in the winter. It’s tough to be up on a roof in the pouring rain and freezing cold, fixing a boiler — but someone has to do it.

Scheduling. When scheduling your day, you may think a certain job will take an hour and it ends up taking three — which means needing to reschedule the next customer. It’s not good for customer service….

I’ll Never Forget When

When the issue of using water filters on Shabbos arose some eight to ten years ago, I had the zechus to go with Rav Mordechai Goldstein, shlita, a prominent posek in RBS, to consult with Rav Nissim Karelitz ztz”l. We went to Bnei Brak with all kinds of filters, cut them open, and explained the technical specs so that he could pasken.

I regularly have rabbis calling me for information regarding a psak; it’s nice to feel I can be of help.

Something I Wish People Knew About Plumbers

The high level of training and skill that goes into being a plumber.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

Technological advancements have made a huge difference in the field. For example, infrared cameras, sewer line cameras, and robotics allow us to see the inside of a sewer system. When I do a sewer inspection with the customer present, he’s always blown away.

In addition, for years we only had the same basic parts and components available to work with, but over the past five years or so, with the development of technology and people thinking out of the box, a lot of new plumbing supplies have come onto the market, giving us a lot more options when it comes to finding solutions to problems.

On the other hand, I’ve seen changes in the last few years in the type of work customers are requesting. Unstable markets, Covid, and the current war have made people more careful with their money, and a lot of the more luxury plumbing jobs (such as installing jacuzzis or high-level water filtration systems) have been put on hold.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Learn from the plumbers who have been there and done it. They can save you a lot of headaches and wasted time.

My teacher in plumbing college always said, “Anyone can change a part — the challenge is figuring out why or how it broke.” Don’t just try to fix a problem, discover how it happened. Otherwise, you’ll get a call back the next day for the same problem.

On the subject of plumbing college, as helpful as it was, if I could do it again, I would skip this step. If you train with the right technician, you can achieve more with him in six months of hands-on work than you would in two years of full-time college.

Become familiar with all the fixtures and fittings available on the market. A supplier might insist that “if we don’t sell it, it doesn’t exist.” Don’t take his word for it. You’d be surprised at what is out there; it can make your job a lot easier.

Accept and respect other plumbers in the field. Yes, there are many plumbers out there, but they are not your competition. All of your parnassah comes from Hashem. There is enough work out there to support all of the plumbers. Personally, my approach is to cultivate great relationships with my fellow plumbers. I often loan out equipment to other plumbers who don’t have the necessary tools for a specific job.

A few years ago, I saw that a new plumber in town was advertising in a local paper. I called him up, introduced myself, and told him that if he was ever stuck after hours and needed any parts, he could call me, as I have a whole storehouse full of parts.

On another occasion, there was a plumber who had been working for us for years who decided to go out on his own. Without hesitation, I gave him a list of suppliers (that had taken me years to build up) and told him that these contacts would give him parts at good prices.

I believe you will never lose out by having this attitude.


West Hempstead, NY
PRESIDENT and OWNER, Alexander the Great Plumbing & Heating
Certifications: Master Plumber in the Town of Hempstead (Long Island, NY) & City of New York, Backflow tester, FDNY F-60 & G-60 (fire watch and torch operator), OSHA 10, 30, DOT Gas Operator Qualification, and others.
Years in Field: 24


My Typical Day at Work

As the owner of my own business, a typical day for me starts bright and early, even before the sun comes up. We start by planning our day’s workload: service calls, commercial projects, and additional customer requests. I determine which technicians would be best suited for each job, or who needs experience doing something different, and create a schedule for the day. After my team goes out, I’m right behind them. I might stop by a site to make sure everything is going smoothly, do some hands-on work myself, or conduct a new job estimate. Every day is different — and that’s what keeps it interesting.

I like to be out in the field as much as I can, but owning a small business comes with a lot of paperwork. Every morning, I go through the prior day’s jobs, send out invoices, create new proposals, and return customer questions. It’s vital to make sure you have a system in place so you don’t lose track of these things. Each township and municipality has different procedural requirements for plumbing tasks. Sometimes permits must be filed, licenses renewed, and utility companies contacted, all while trying to get things done as fast and accurately as possible.

But my biggest responsibility is making sure our jobs are done correctly. Customer satisfaction is what keeps clients coming back, so my priority is making sure everything is done correctly, efficiently, and safely. I’m lucky to live and work in a great community, and many of my customers come from referrals. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get. That is why it’s important to make sure you do a great job — not only will customers call you again, but they’ll recommend you to their family and friends.

How I Chose the Profession

I spent two summers as a teenager working for a contractor. I helped clean up job sites, assisting with whatever was needed, and performed a lot of demolition as well. I spent another summer, when I was 18, with an electrical contractor. While on these jobs, I noticed that the tradesmen always put priority on ensuring the plumbers could get the pipes installed without any issues, and that the plumbers on these sites were always respected (or feared) by the others (somehow, they were always big, burly men). This intrigued me.

After graduating from high school, and spending two and a half years overseas in Israel, I secured a job through a family friend as a plumber’s helper for a company in Brooklyn. I enjoyed the work, and realized that I preferred becoming a master of one trade rather than a jack of all. And I really enjoyed being the one feared by everyone else on the job site.

How I Chose My Specialty

We have several specialties. Several of our employees are qualified to perform work on natural gas piping. We also install and maintain radiant snowmelt systems, which are installed outdoors, such as under driveways and sidewalks, to melt snow and ice. We primarily install these for private homeowners of large homes. Right now, a bulk of our work is residential service work and custom-built homes.

What I Love Most about the Field

I love the gratification of being able to solve someone’s problem and seeing the fruits of your labor when commissioning a new system.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

Training and retaining good employees.

I’ll Never Forget When

I’ve had many interesting experiences working at a wide variety of places throughout my career, from residential homes to apartment buildings, airports, hospitals, nursing homes, commercial warehouses, shuls, restaurants — and the list keeps getting bigger.

One morning, I was driving to a house we were working on, and about two blocks away, I noticed the homeowner walking alone. I slowed down and asked if he needed a ride.

He kindly replied, “Thanks, but a helicopter is waiting for me on the baseball field down the block.”

Of course, I acted as if this was totally normal.

Something I Wish People Knew About Plumbers

It’s a lot more than just fixing toilets.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

The plumbing industry is constantly evolving. One example is the types of materials we use, such as the PEX plastic pipes we use today for water piping rather than the old copper pipes. Boilers used to be huge cast-iron machines; now they are high-efficiency wall-mounted units. In addition, there have been changes in regulations in some municipalities, such as stricter laws and limitations on natural gas piping requirements.

My Advice for People Starting Out

When starting out, make sure you’re working with a company that performs a wide range of plumbing work. Experience is more important than a paycheck.


Brooklyn, NY
OWNER/PRESIDENT, A K and Sons Plumbing Corp
Certifications: Licensed Master Plumber in NYC
Years in Field: 18


My Typical Day at Work

Being the owner of my company comes with a lot of responsibilities, some of which are easier than others. Aside from doing full-time plumbing work myself, I’m also responsible for all the workforce scheduling — dispatching all incoming service calls and arranging which technician goes to which job. Of course, despite all our careful scheduling, when emergencies arise, which is often, all of our jobs need to be rescheduled.

I also ensure that all our plumbers have the supplies they need for each of their daily jobs. I provide price estimates for new jobs, make sure all my vendors get paid on time, and keep tabs on every completed job so that my secretary (my wife) can send out invoices. My wife takes care of all the back-end work; invoicing, paperwork, bills, etc. We make a great team.

Some jobs are easier and some are quite challenging. You need to be a good diagnostician to be a good plumber because most of our work is about resolving problems. For example, a client in a fully attached house had water coming into the basement. After lots of testing and opening walls, we knew there was no water running in the house because the water main wasn’t moving. So, we realized the water must be coming from next door. We got access to the neighbor’s house, checked behind the oven, under the kitchen sinks and behind the wall, and found a broken pipe that was leaking into my client’s house.

My clients are mostly Jewish clientele, and they find me through word of mouth. I worked for my father for many years, and he had a great customer base. A lot of the people continued to use me once I started my own company. Baruch Hashem, being busy is not something I ever have to worry about; the phones are always ringing.

How I Chose the Profession

My dad was already in the field, and I needed a job to get married, so I figured, why not? I eventually started my own business, allowing me to be independent and in control of my career.

How I Chose My Specialty

I became a licensed master plumber in 2022, which, in New York City, is a long and strenuous process with many requirements, including coursework, a written exam, and a physical pipe test. While most plumbers are not licensed, being licensed allows me to do things that regular plumbers cannot, such as obtaining any necessary legal permits for residential or commercial customers; performing certain tests such as backflow testing or gas inspections; or doing larger jobs that only a licensed plumber can do, such as installing water mains and boilers, and removing DOB building violations.

What I Love Most about the Field

The diversity of the jobs we do allows for new challenges and problem-solving opportunities every day. It’s a field that involves a lot of pressure, which I love. When the season is cold, our phones start ringing off the hook with complaints about burst pipes and homes without heat… I love being able to help customers and also thrive on the pressure of getting it all fixed quickly.

Plumbing is a skilled trade with consistent demand and a good potential income. But most of all, it’s a job where it’s easy to see how much you’re helping others. It’s about going to a distraught woman’s house, assuring her that everything will be okay, taking care of the problem, and seeing the relief on her face.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

Customers often want affordable solutions, but cutting corners by using cheap materials will lead to future problems. Plumbers need to find the balance between working within the customer’s budget and not compromising on quality.

The long hours can be challenging as well. Because we deal with emergencies, practically speaking, I’m on call 24/7; if there’s a flood in a house, you need to fix it, even if it takes all night.

Sometimes plumbing systems can be complicated, and it can be challenging to pinpoint the root cause of an issue, especially in older systems. When you start to open up walls, you need to be prepared for anything and be able to quickly adapt to any unforeseen problem.

In addition, plumbers work in small spaces; we often need to get ourselves into uncomfortable positions to get to a pipe.

I’ll Never Forget When

I once got a call about a leak in a basement. When I arrived, I found all the customer’s children playing in the water. When I expressed surprise, she said, “When else will my kids have the opportunity to play in water in the house?”

Something I Wish People Knew about Plumbers
  1. The cost of materials has increased by an insane amount, and customers don’t realize that it takes a toll on plumbing prices. When our prices go up, it’s because our vendors have raised their prices as well.
  2. We can’t be everywhere at once. Every customer wants to feel “special,” and we always try to give 100 percent satisfaction. But we are human, and balancing everyone at once can be very difficult. We will get to everyone, eventually, but emergencies are always pushed to the front of the line.
How I’ve Seen the Field Change over the Years

As I mentioned above, there’s been a significant increase in the cost of materials.

In addition, in recent years, I’ve been seeing more people trying to gain quick entry into the field, not realizing how much training they really need. People are attracted by the idea of being their own boss and setting their own hours, but if they jump into their own business too early, without first getting proper training, they’ll be limited in the type and level of work they can do.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Work for an experienced plumber for at least five to seven years. Don’t think you’re ready to go out on your own just because you’ve learned to change a pipe under a sink. Plumbing can be a good business if you’re good at it; invest the time to become a great plumber with a great reputation. Remember, the best marketing is word of mouth.

It’s also very important to be in good physical shape. You can run into old rusty pipes that need a lot of muscle to open.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1005)

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