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Journeyman plumbers perform basic plumbing installations or repairs, such as replacing faucets or installing water lines. They are entry-level workers who have recently completed an apprenticeship program and have obtained licensure but are not certified as master plumbers, under whom they typically work until they have achieved this designation. Journeyman plumbers display strong eye-hand coordination; the physical ability to crawl, crouch, and kneel for long periods of time; and effective customer service skills. They work on both residential and commercial plumbing systems. This is usually a full-time position and, depending on the employer, can offer health benefits, vacation time, and retirement plans. Journeyman plumbers might sometimes work evenings and weekends based on workload and emergency situations.

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Journeyman Plumber Duties and Responsibilities

While a journeyman plumber’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Install Water Lines

Journeyman plumbers run copper, steel, and plastic PVC water pipes for sewer lines, drainage systems, HVAC systems, and other plumbing systems. They cut and thread lines, use compounds to seal connections, connect valves, and solder pipes as needed. When necessary, journeyman plumbers must bend pipes to fit specific angles using a pipe-bending machine.

Replace and Repair Plumbing Fixtures and Appliances

From kitchen and bathroom sink faucets to showerheads, journeyman plumbers are responsible for repairing and replacing plumbing fixtures. They replace washers and rubber gaskets in faucets and showerheads or replace entire fixtures. Journeyman plumbers also install and repair garbage disposals, water softeners, water heaters, and dishwashers.

Troubleshoot Plumbing Problems

Journeyman plumbers use various methods to detect leaks, determine problems with disposals or dishwashers, and read pressure gauges to measure accurate water pressure. They determine which parts need to be replaced, write up estimates, and discuss repairs and costs with home and business owners.

Perform Maintenance on Plumbing Systems

Journeyman plumbers regularly check systems to ensure proper operations. They inspect toilets, sinks, dishwaters, and other appliances for leaks, replace worn gaskets and O-rings, unclog drains, monitor systems for pressure loss, and adjust water pressure as needed.

Journeyman Plumber Skills and Qualifications

Analytical thinkers who love to work with their hands and pay close attention to details make great journeyman plumbers. Once they have completed an apprenticeship and obtained necessary licensure, aspiring journeyman plumbers will appeal to employers if they possess the following skills and abilities:

  • Building code knowledge - strong familiarity with building codes and current laws and regulations affecting plumbers is crucial for those seeking to excel in this field
  • Coordination - journeyman plumbers must have the dexterity and eye-hand coordination to handle and install small washers, nuts, O-rings, and gaskets
  • Blueprint reading - when involved in new home or building installations, journeyman plumbers must be able to read drawings, schematics, and blueprints to ensure proper installation of new lines and pipes
  • Troubleshooting - understanding how to check for leaks and determine what needs to be repaired or replaced to keep plumbing systems operational is a must for journeyman plumbers
  • Organizational skills - keeping tools and work areas clean and orderly and maintaining a proper supply of plumbing parts is a desirable quality many employers seek in journeyman plumbers
  • Communication skills - from verbally communicating with customers, vendors, and master plumbers to writing up estimates and work orders, communication is of the utmost importance for journeyman plumbers
  • Customer service - speaking with customers about pricing and repair details and making proper repairs and replacements to keep customers satisfied is a major part of being a journeyman plumber

Tools of the Trade

Journeyman plumbers are familiar with:

Testing tools (pressure gauges, water sensors, leak detectors)

Pipe tools (threaders, pipe benders)

Cutting tools (tube cutters, hacksaws)

Installation tools (pipe wrenches, joint compound, fitting brushes)

Journeyman Plumber Education and Training

No formal education beyond a high school diploma is typically required for aspiring journeyman plumbers; they are only required to complete a four- to five-year apprenticeship program under the tutelage of a master plumber in order to obtain journeyman plumber licensure. It could be helpful to take plumbing courses at a vocational or community college. Many of these programs award a diploma or certificate that can be completed in one year or less. Hands-on training is accomplished through labs and internships through these programs.

Journeyman Plumber Salary and Outlook

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), journeyman plumbers realize an annual median salary of about $52,500. Those in the 10th percentile make just over $31,000, while those in the top percentile earn just over $91,000.

Journeyman plumbers working for nonresidential building construction companies tend to make the highest annual mean wages at about $61,000, followed by building equipment contractors at $57,000. Journeyman plumbers residing in Hawaii are paid the highest annual mean wage in the country (over $79,000), followed by those working in New York (nearly $78,000) and Illinois ($77,500).

A 16 percent job growth rate is expected for all plumbers through 2026, the BLS states. Needs in the areas of new construction and the maintenance of older plumbing systems in commercial buildings and private residences are major reasons for this projected employment growth, though normal ups and downs in construction can have a negative impact on this projection.

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Helpful Resources

If working as a journeyman plumber sounds like a fitting occupation for you, you might wish to further explore details about relevant duties, professional development, and more. You can do so by examining the resources provided below:

Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association

online training programs, apprentice training opportunities, conferences, and trade shows are just a few of the professional development and networking benefits journeyman plumbers can enjoy when they become members of PHCC

Journeyman Plumber's Exam Secrets Study Guide: Plumber's Test Review for the Journeyman Plumber's Exam

make sure you're wellprepared for the plumbing licensure exam by reviewing the information contained in this book. Learn about professional regulations and laws as well as best practices for pipe fitting, plumbing installations, systems testing, and more

"How to Start & Grow Your Plumbing Business"

why become a plumber? What should a plumbing business plan look like? Which tools can help you build a successful plumbing business? This article answers these questions and more

Plumbing Podcast

hosted by the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, this podcast provides interviews with plumbing professionals including owners and manufacturers, reviews of new plumbing technologies, plumbing building codes, and much more

Drainbuster Plumbing Blog

though geared towards homeowners, this blog features articles that could be of interest to journeyman plumbers, such as those who focus on water conditioning technologies, troubleshooting practices, and leak detection methods

Plumber Magazine

from choosing the right tools for the job to best plumbing business practices, this online magazine helps journeyman plumbers review effective methods and provides reviews of new tools for both residential and commercial plumbing

The Plumber's Troubleshooting Guide

backed by photographs, drawings, and charts, this text reviews best troubleshooting practices for faucets, toilets, bathtubs, valves, showers, and other plumbing systems

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