So, you want to become a plumber in South Africa?
Plumbing is a great career choice for those who like working with their hands, enjoy being their own boss, and aren’t afraid of hard work and irregular hours. Plumbers will always be in demand and there are many great opportunities in South Africa.
If you’re interested in becoming a plumber in South Africa, there are a few things you need to do to get started.
Becoming a plumber requires a ‘dual system’ blend of mostly practical work and with some theory. You’ll need to find an accredited (CETA or SAQA) institution that offers plumbing apprenticeships and complete the required training. After completing your training, you’ll have to pass the relevant trade test and get your plumbing licence. Once you have all of that done and dusted, you’ll be a certified plumber!
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a plumber in South Africa.
Table of Contents
What does a plumber do?
A plumber is a tradesperson who specialises in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water, sewage and drainage in plumbing systems.
Plumbers also often work with natural gas lines and heating systems as well as install plumbing fixtures such as bathtubs, showers, sinks, toilets and appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines.
What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Plumber?
Plumbers must be able to perform the following tasks:
- Install pipes and plumbing fixtures
- Visually inspect equipment and operate test equipment such as pressure and vacuum gauges to determine the cause and location of trouble
- Clear obstructions from sink drains and toilets
- Troubleshoot problems and decide how to fix them
- Repair pipes and plumbing fixtures
- Estimate costs of installations and repairs
- Present recommendations and related pricing to customers
- Plumbers must be capable of performing these tasks to ensure the proper functioning of properties’ plumbing systems.
Plumbers also need to have good problem-solving skills to diagnose and fix plumbing issues. They also need to be able to read and follow blueprints and instructions and should be able to communicate effectively with customers and other tradespeople.
What are the minimum requirements to start studying to become a plumber in South Africa?
There are two main routes to study plumbing and obtain your qualification: a three year plumbing apprenticeship or obtaining an Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) if you already have the practical experience.
The minimum requirements to start studying to become a plumber in South Africa vary at the different institutions across the country. But generally, the basic minimum entry requirements are listed below.
Each institution has their own minimum requirements, so it’s best to contact the institution of your choice directly for accurate, detailed information.
What are the minimum requirements to start a plumbing apprenticeship?
- You must be at least 16 years old with a Grade 9 Certificate (NQF Level 1), although some employers prefer higher qualifications and
- You will need to have good results in Maths.
What are the minimum requirements for an Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL)?
- You must have at least three years of plumbing experience and
- Be at least 19 years old.
What qualifications do I need to become a plumber in South Africa?
There are no formal education requirements to become a plumber in South Africa, you will need industry-recognised training (Construction Education Training Authority approved) and you will need to pass your trade test to become a qualified plumber and be allowed to register with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board.
If you already have at least three years of recognised practical experience and want to qualify via the ARPL route, you should be able to submit Proof of Evidence of your training and skip straight to the trade test by registering with an ARPL ready training provider.
Complete a Plumbing Apprenticeship
The first step to becoming a plumber is to complete an accredited plumbing apprenticeship at a CETA approved institute. Apprenticeships offer on-the job training and the opportunity to earn money while learning all aspects of plumbing.
This is a three to four year program that will give you the knowledge and skills you need to be a successful plumber. During your apprenticeship, you’ll learn about plumbing theory, safety, and code requirements. Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you can then apply to write the relevant trade test.
Once the practical training and theoretical learning is completed, graduates can take the industry Trade Test. The two day test requires you to pass all the allocated practical tasks in order to become a qualified plumber.
What is a plumbing apprenticeship?
A plumbing apprenticeship is a great way to learn the trade while working under the supervision of a licensed plumber. Most plumbers are required to complete an apprenticeship which combines learning on the job with study at a technical college or an accredited plumbing training centre.
Apprenticeships typically last up to four years and include both on-the-job training and theoretical instruction.
What does a plumbing apprentice do?
As a plumbing apprentice, you will learn how to install, repair, and maintain plumbing systems. You will also become familiar with the tools of the trade and the principles of hydraulics. In addition, you will gain an understanding of local plumbing codes and regulations.
How do I apply for a plumbing apprenticeship?
You can apply for a plumbing apprenticeship by contacting a technical or vocational college that offers the qualification. Alternatively, you can contact a registered plumber in your area and inquire about shadowing or working as an assistant.
The Institute of Plumbing SA (IOPSA) offers a direct route to its member companies that offer apprentice programmes.
Can I reduce the length of my plumbing apprenticeship?
Plumbing apprenticeships require a minimum of 3 years of workplace-based learning. So while you may not reduce your plumbing apprenticeship, you are able to complete your apprenticeship while you are enrolled in technical courses.
What theory requirements are needed for a plumbing apprenticeship?
The NATED N1-N3 Certificate in Plumbing is a qualification from NQF levels N1 – N3 focusing on the theory of plumbing that you can complete at a technical college while doing your plumbing apprenticeship.
This certificate meets the academic requirements for you to write your trade test once you have acquired the required practical hours.
NB: Learning needs to be in place before applying to perform the trade test.
Complete the Plumbing Trade Test
A plumbing trade test can only be written after the completion of formal training. All plumbers need to write this formal trade test in order to receive national recognition in this field. You must apply at an accredited Trade Test Centre to undergo a trade test.
The trade test consists of two parts: a written exam and a practical exam. The written exam covers topics such as safety, tools, materials, and installation methods. The practical exam requires you to complete a series of tasks such as soldering, joining pipes, and installing fixtures.
Once you have passed your plumbing trade test, you are then eligible to register with the PIRB.
Register with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB)
In South Africa, plumbers must be licensed with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) in order to practice their trade legally and issue plumbing certificates of compliance (CoC).
To register with the PIRB, you will need to submit proof of your qualifications and experience, as well as pass the SANS 10254 examination.
View the PIRB’s step-by-step guide on how to register with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board to become a registered plumber in South Africa.
Once you are registered with the PIRB, you will be able to find work in the private sector or with the government.
Plumbers are in high demand in South Africa, so finding work should not be difficult. However, competition for jobs is fierce, so it is important to have a strong CV and portfolio in order to stand out from the crowd.
How long does it take to become a qualified plumber in South Africa?
The answer to this question may vary depending on which institution you attend, but in general, it takes between three and four years to become a registered, qualified plumber.
During your apprenticeship, you will learn the essential skills and knowledge required to work as a plumber. This will include completing theory-based modules, as well as gaining practical experience working under the supervision of a qualified plumber.
Once you have completed your apprenticeship, you will be able to find work as a plumber in South Africa. Alternatively, you may choose to further your studies by completing a higher national diploma or degree in plumbing. This could open up opportunities for you to work in management or teaching positions.
Where can I study to become a plumber in South Africa?
To find out more about technical and vocational studies, have a look at All you need to know to start studying at trade schools in South Africa.
Funding your plumbing studies at a TVET college in school in South Africa.
Plumbers are in high demand, so becoming a plumber can help you secure a stable and well-paying job. Plumbers also have the opportunity to start their own businesses and be their own boss. And, as a plumber, you’ll be able to help people in your community by fixing their plumbing problems.
If you’re interested in becoming a plumber, follow the steps outlined above. With hard work and dedication, you can become a successful plumber in South Africa!
Contact Fundi today to learn more about how we can help you develop and enhance your trade skills to achieve your career goals!