Duties and responsibilities
A plumbing and heating mechanic is a type of plumber who is responsible for looking after the plumbing, heating and gas systems of either commercial and/or residential buildings. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Carrying out installation and maintenance work to heating installations of all types in domestic and/or commercial building
- Carrying out installation and maintenance work to plumbing, drainage and sanitation installations
- Diagnosing issues with and repairing heating systems (and maybe plumbing and drainage systems)
- Carrying out periodic inspection and testing of gas and oil-fired installations and appliances
- To complete other forms and paperwork as appropriate
- Carrying out installation and maintenance work to fuel tanks, pipelines, valves, pumps, control gear, meters and associated equipment
To become a plumbing and heating mechanic, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. You will then need to complete an apprenticeship program, during which you will learn all the skills you need from experienced plumbers and through instruction. Plumbers need to pass exams in order to be qualified to practice.
Skills and relevant work experience
In order to have the best possible employment opportunities, plumbing and heating mechanics should aim to get as much experience in the construction industry. Plumbing and heating mechanics also need skills such as:
- Physical fitness and stamina, plumbing and heating mechanics will have to carry heavy materials and they will also have to kneel down and stand up for long periods of time
- Communication skills are key as plumbing and heating mechanics need to be able to communicate with clients and other construction workers
- Detail orientation, as plumbing and heating mechanics need to ensure that they pipes and fixtures in accordance to blueprints and instructions
- Dexterity, as plumbing and heating must be able to place pipes down with precision
- Critical thinking, as plumbing and heating mechanics must be able to problem-solve when issues arise in a project. Such issues may include a project running on for longer than expected or the materials ordered being the wrong size
Plumbing and heating mechanics tend to work full time. However, they may routinely work long hours when projects are nearing completion or during economic boom times when the demand for new construction intensifies. Evening, holiday and weekend hours are often necessary, as plumbing and heating mechanics are routinely on-call for emergency repairs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was $55,160 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,690, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,170. Specifically, plumbing, heating and air-conditioning contractors earned a median salary of $54,760.
Apprentices tend to earn less than qualified plumbers and plumbers may experience more unemployment during economic downturns.
The employment growth of plumbers is expected to increase over the coming years, offering many exciting employment opportunities. After completing an apprenticeship program and passing the required exams, plumbers become ‘journey-level workers’, which means they are qualified to perform tasks independently. After several years of plumbing experience, plumbers can sit another exam to earn ‘master’ status. Plumbers may also advance to become supervisor, project manager or they may choose to start their own business as an independent contractor.