In the past, many people thought that anyone beginning a career as a plumber was just not smart enough to go to college. That perception has changed and today the plumbing trade and plumbing apprentice programs are looked upon as the “other 4 year college”. In order to be a successful plumber, a person needs to be able to combine a mechanical aptitude, which not everyone has, with above average mental ability. Here are some examples of why intelligence is a big part of being a successful plumber.
One of the most common things that residential plumbers encounter in new construction is coordination of their work with other trades’ work in very confined spaces. This often occurs in floor systems where plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems are being run in a very confined space that is often only 14” deep. In addition, these floor systems are typically made with an engineered wood product, with very strict criteria as far as drilling and cutting. The plumber just cannot go in and cut holes and run pipe, he must first think about what he is doing, read and understand the cutting chart and visualize how his work will impact other trades before proceeding. The plumber needs to be very careful in planning his work so that it will function properly as well as allow the other trades’ work to be installed without damaging the structural integrity of the home.
Commercial plumbers working on office buildings, hotels, restaurants and other commercial building often face the same sort of coordination issues, except that they are further amplified. In addition, the equipment being used is often more sophisticated, with the introduction of various building management systems. In many cases the mechanical work and plumbing work are combined where pipe is used to carry warm or chilled water to heaters and air conditioners for central mechanical units. The equipment has specific installation instructions and criteria, so it is critical that the plumber have the cognitive ability to understand the concepts behind the actual work. In addition, often the structures are complex and the floor and wall structures must be x-rayed prior to drilling in order to avoid key structural components such as reinforcing steel or post tension cables. In short, plumbers that are doing commercial work are usually very smart.
Industrial plumbers working on plants, refineries and other industrial facilities often work on very sophisticated machinery and equipment. Often there is a great deal of coordination with other trades, such as millwrights, because of the extremely tight tolerances required. In addition, the industrial plumber will understand that there could be serious health, safety and environmental consequences if any of the work fails. A plumber working in a nuclear power plant understands the ramifications of a leaking pipe carrying radioactive materials!
Service plumbers often face situations where they must trouble shoot a number of possible causes to a plumbing problem a customer is having. In order to do this effectively, they must have a complete understanding of the plumbing system they are servicing, even if they did not install it! They must have the ability to translate symptoms of the problems to the actual problem and then take the appropriate action to rectify the issue quickly and cost effectively. Often service plumbers are encountering residential or commercial customers that are either inconvenienced or have had their operations completely disrupted because of a plumbing issue. Successful service plumbers are not only smart and have good mechanical skills, but they typically have very good people and management skills as well.
The plumbing profession is more mental than it is mechanical and physical. Plumbers have the mental ability to look at a set of plans, visualize the work that needs to be done and create a high quality finished product from raw materials. This product functions as designed and meets or exceeds the applicable codes. It is often created in adverse conditions as well. This would not be possible if plumbers did not have above average mental abilities. Plumbers at all levels are smart people, who could have chosen a number of professions. They elected to be a plumber because they wanted to, not because they had no other career options.
Learn more about how to become a plumber