December 2008

A Q&A session with Marc Lilly, a 44 year-old Master Plumber, who works for his company, Marc Lilly LLC. Marc has been working in the plumbing industry for 25 years and has been a licensed plumber for 13 years. He is also a member of his state’s Plumber Trade Association.

Q: What type of education and training did you need for this job?

A: The law requires that you have to be in the business 7 years before you can apply for Masters Plumber license unrestricted. With a Masters Plumbing license, you can do work on all plumbing systems including hospitals, high rises, office buildings, residential, commercial, and industrial. I did not go to school, but learned on the job. I took some preparatory classes to prepare to write my licensing exams. Classes are available at technical schools around the country. Interested students should ensure that the program is approved by the Department of Labor.

Presently, I have an apprentice working with me. I am teaching him the basics of what he needs to know in the field. You cannot learn all you need to know in school, it is a hand on learning job. Tagalongs are not allowed in this field due to the dangers associated with the work. [Note: tagalongs are co-op high school students]

A Journeyman can work on residential systems and do service, an apprentice can work in the capacity of a helper.

Most plumbers start off as apprentices and graduate to Journeyman. An apprentice that is unlicensed and untrained can expect to earn $10-$15/hour and Journeyman that is licensed but with some restrictions can expect to make $35/hour.

Q: What do you like the most about your job?

A: I love interaction with people and love the challenge of solving problems. I love the fact that I work for myself and the money is good.

Q: What do you dislike most about your job?

A: I don’t like being dirty all the time and the hours can be tough 24/7. It is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

Q: What happens on a typical day at work?

A: I am up at 6 am and start answering phones at 7 am. I am at my first customer’s house by 8:00 am. I do about 5-6 service calls per day and I am home by 6:00 or 7:00 pm to receive calls again for work the next day. Emergency calls are done as they come in. The other day I had emergency call – a two-inch water main burst at an assisted living home. Clogged toilets are not an emergency.

Q: What do you think your next career step will be?

A: Surviving plumbing – I plan to do this until I am unable to do so. I will continue to work as long as I can and past 65 years old if I can.

Q: What previous job history prepared you for becoming a plumber?

A: I came right out of high school and did some general labor jobs until I got a job as a helper with a plumber. I have good mechanical skills.

Q: What kind of traits does a person need to have to be successful at this job?

A: You will need good mechanical skills and be self-motivated. You will need good people skills and the ability to manage paperwork. You also need good problem solving skills and good communication and listening skills.

Q: Would you recommend the job to someone else?

A: I would absolutely recommend this job to someone who had the motivation or the skills to do it. It is a good public service and you can make a good living. People are always going to need a plumber despite the economy. A good reputation is the best advertising you can have. I haven’t advertised in 5 years – I work from mostly referrals.

If you think you’re cut out to be a plumber, take a look at our list of plumbing programs offered in California.