Tools of the Trade: Essential Hard and Soft Skills Every Plumber Needs

Trade professions, which generally refer to jobs that are specialized and require advanced training and education outside of college (such as plumbers and electricians), are one of those necessary jobs that tend to make more money than people might think. But there is a unique set of both hard skills (learned through education and/or hands on experience) and soft skills (characteristics that help employees work with other people) that plumbers in particular need in order to be successful at their job.


Hard skills

Technical know-how

The first thing someone is going to want to know about you as a plumber is if you’re competent at, you guessed it: plumbing. It’s essential to have the technical knowledge needed to install and repair different types of pipes, fix leaking or clogged pipes, install piping for different types of systems, connect appliances that utilize water, install different types of plumbing fixtures…the list goes on. All of that and more will be taught through the course of your trade school experience, so pay attention and master those skills, and you’ve got the hardest part down.

Keeping up with innovation

You may not think of plumbing as a cutting edge industry, but you would be mistaken. There is plenty of new technology and trends you’ll have to stay up on. From hands-free faucets and toilets with motion sensor technology to programmable showers with personalized settings, clients with money to burn will want the newest luxuries available—and it’s up to you to be able to provide it.

Physical fitness

While there’s no need to be a bodybuilder if you want to go into plumbing, it’s important that you have the physical stamina and know-how to successfully navigate any type of job. Not only do you need “good manual dexterity and coordination” in order to work with tiny objects, but it’s likely you’ll have to lift heavy materials, climb into and onto all sorts of places, and even work in extreme hot or cold weather if it’s an outdoor job.

Soft skills

Problem solving

A large part of plumbing is solving problems. Whether that’s toilet leaks or a burst pipe, it’s essential that plumbers are able to think on their feet and adapt to any sort of situation that may arise either before or during their visit. Think of it as a puzzle: You have to take a long, hard look at the situation, figure out the problem, and tease out all the possible solutions. Then you have to not only decide which option is the best one to present to your customer, you also have to actually do the work correctly and promptly in order to arrive at your next job on time.

Customer care

Most people would likely consider plumbing a straightforward, independent job that involves getting in and getting out with minimal fuss. But you would be shocked at how much you’ll find yourself having to be the “face” of the company. Whether it’s listening to the customer’s issues, answering questions, or just being a friendly presence while working in someone’s home, it’s important to remember you represent not just yourself, but your company as a whole.


Plumbing is one of those professions where the amount of money you earn very closely correlates to your reputation. Customers, whether they are a single home or part of a multi-building office complex, trust you to enter their personal space and solve a problem. That kind of trust demands openness and honesty if you want to gain a reputation for being good at your job.

A combination of both hard and soft skills is essential for success in any job, whether it’s in a trade profession or in an office. But the combination mentioned above is uniquely suitable for someone looking to join the plumbing profession. It’s yet another reminder that being a well-rounded worker usually equates to being a good one.

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