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What qualifications do you need to be a plumber?

Posted on 27/02/2018

So you want to become a plumber?

The correct qualifications allied to plumber experience are key to ensure you can work safely and to a high standard.

Older plumbers may be City and Guilds qualified, the forerunner to today’s NVQs. These are recognised and accepted plumber qualifications.

For qualifications to be recognised, they need to be provided by an accredited organisation such as Pearson or City & Guilds.

What are today’s nationally recognised plumbing qualifications required if you want to work in the UK?

Diploma in Plumbing Foundation

If you have no experience or feel you would benefit from a refresher then an entry level qualification like the Diploma in Plumbing Foundation may be the right place to start.

It is designed to teach you the basic skills in your training as you progress to become a plumber.

Levels 1 and 2 of this qualification consist of 19 units that will equip you with a sound foundation from understanding and applying safe working practices to the fundamental scientific principles.


The main category of qualifications for plumbers since the 1980s has been National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or SVQs in Scotland. The NVQ program merged with the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) in 2008 and then this subsequently merged in 2015 with the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

Despite this, the term NVQ is still commonly used.


NVQ Level 1

All NVQ training is done on the job.

The NVQ Level 1 covers routine and basic industry knowledge that can help you to secure a traineeship or junior position with a firm. This will help you get that vital plumber experience as you learn a wealth of practical skills needed before you can progress to the more advanced NVQ Level 2.

This course can take anything from 4 months to a year to complete, but there is no time limit so you can work at your own pace.


NVQ Level 2 (SVQ 2 in Scotland)

This is the minimum qualification a plumber will need to begin a career.

In order to complete this course you will need a basic prior knowledge relating to plumbing or heating preferably alongside basic practical skills.

To gain the NVQ Level 2 you will need to go on a work placement as well as undergo guided learning.

You will have to sit a test to get on the course assessing your scientific and numerical ability – important skills for any plumber.

There are two NVQ Level 2 plumbing qualifications to choose from:

  • NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating
  • NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems

These include understanding and applying the following within Business Services Engineering (BSE):

  • Safe working practices
  • Communicating with others
  • Environmental protection measures
  • Scientific principles
  • Site preparation and pipework fabrication techniques
  • Cold and hot domestic water system installation and maintenance techniques
  • Central heating system installation and maintenance techniques

The NVQ Level 2 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating also teaches a plumber to understand and apply:

  • Domestic rainwater system installation and maintenance techniques
  • Domestic above ground drainage system installation and maintenance techniques

Assessment

To achieve your NVQ Level 2 you will have to pass a series of assessments and sit practical and theory exams. These take place in a training centre.

You will also have to submit a portfolio of work and pass performance assessments in your workplace to demonstrate your skills.


NVQ Level 3 (SVQ 3 in Scotland)

It can take three years to achieve this level but this plumbing qualification means you are officially competent.

This is perfect for a plumber who already has a well established skills and knowledge base and is working with minimal supervision.

There are mandatory units that you will have to take:

  • Understanding and carrying out electrical work on domestic plumbing and heating systems and components
  • Servicing and maintaining oil firing pressure jet appliances
  • Installing, commissioning and handing over ‘active’ solar thermal hot water systems
  • Being aware of the requirements to install, commission and handover rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse systems

You can also specialise as there are six pathways available with this qualification:

  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Gas Fired Water and Central Heating Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)
  • NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Heating (Gas Fired Warm Air Appliances)

As with NVQ Level 2 you will have to pass practical and theoretical tests along with workplace assessments.

Once you have passed NVQ 2/3 you are fully qualified plumber.


Our Local Heroes plumbers are required to have recognised qualifications and at least five years experience. If you meet our requirements, why not become a Local Hero?

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/461401/after-the-qcf-a-new-qualifications-framework-decisions-on-conditions-and-guidance-for-the-rqf.pdf

https://www.plumbcenter.co.uk/resource-zone/career-zone/plumbing-qualifications-guide/

https://www.cityandguilds.com/qualifications-and-apprenticeships/building-services-industry/plumbing/6189-plumbing-and-domestic-heating#tab=information

https://www.cityandguilds.com/what-we-offer/learners/career-ideas/how-to-become-a/P/plumber

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/plumber

https://www.ableskills.co.uk/plumbing-courses/plumbing-gas-courses/

https://www.ncchomelearning.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-differences-between-qcf-rqf-and-nvq-infographic/