Career Pathways



It takes years of training to become a qualified plumbing or heating engineer, but it can open up a world of possibilities. However, a career in the industry is not an easy option and demands a dedication to lifelong learning. The sector is embracing rapid technological change, as it stands the frontlines in the fight to conserve energy and water. As the cornerstone of public health, engineers are continuously learning and adapting to the demands of new technology, consumer trends and Government Regulation and Legislation.

Skills you need to become a plumbing or heating engineer

Before we look at where a career can take you, it's worth exploring whether you hold some of the aptitudes needed to join the sector. Some may come naturally, some may need to be learned, but most engineers will hold these aspects in common:

Like it or loathe it, maths is an engrained part of a plumbing and heating engineer’s role. Whether you need number skills for measuring pipe runs, calculating heat loss or giving quotes for customers, you’ll need a sound head for numbers to work in the industry.

You will spend a vast amount of time problem solving. Your services will be most in demand when systems go wrong, so calm and rational thinking, combined with an analytical mind will take you far.

You will need to understand and follow detailed technical drawings and plans to scale. As your education and career develops you may also become involved in designing systems. The ability to take what is on a 2D piece of paper and apply it to real life is a skill you need to develop both quickly and effectively. Attention to detail is an absolute must!

You will need to master physical skills such as working with a range of tools and materials. A steady hand, dexterity and a good eye for detail will be crucial. Practice will always make perfect, so be prepared to put hard work and effort, over a number of years to truly master those skills.

If you are planning on working in the domestic sector, then good social skills are key. You are entering people’s homes so a friendly, open, polite and professional demeanour will make a huge difference to how a customer perceives your service. It’s vital to develop communication and diplomacy skills too – most complaints occur due to poor communication – so hone them from the start of your career and you’ll be on the right path to delivering outstanding customer care.

While we all like a laugh here and there, workplace injuries are an occupational hazard in the construction industry. You need to work safely and sensibly and not just for your own sake, but for the health and safety of your colleagues and clients too. Common sense and maturity will help your career go far.

It takes time and patience to learn all the skills you need and to understand the harder technical aspects of the trade. There will be times when tasks frustrate you, or when a particular theory just isn’t sticking in your head so you will need the ability to persevere. You will also need to develop a dedication to lifelong learning as the pace of technological and regulatory change in the industry can be swift. Expect to have to learn new techniques, technologies, regulations and standards throughout your career.

Being professional isn’t just about your experience and skills, or the qualifications you hold. It’s about your attitude to work, the industry and your clients. Professionals have a trusted air of authority and take pride in their work. They don’t cut corners. They don’t take risks. They work in line with Water and Building Regulations. They respect their client’s property. They communicate well. They strive for knowledge and keep their skills up-to-date.

Career pathways

The plumbing industry has diverse career paths, good wages and the opportunity for individuals to run their own business. Because of this, many stay on the tools throughout their careers. Some may stick to general plumbing - relishing the fact each day will bring something different - while others may choose to diversify into a specialist area, such as renewables.

For others, their career leads into design, research and development, consultancy, public health engineering, teaching or higher management. The career pathways offered by the plumbing and heating industry can provide opportunities for everyone.

As you develop your professional skills and knowledge, further opportunities will be available to you. Our career pathways diagram shows how qualifications, skills and experience are key to your career progression.

Download our Career Pathways graphic


As well as the advice on this website, the Plumbing & Heating Skills Partnership (PHSP) has launched new and comprehensive advice on the correct routes to becoming a qualified plumbing and heating engineer.

Aimed at both school leavers and career changers, the guidance maps out straightforward messages on what qualifications and training you need, tips for choosing a training provider and the warning signs that could mean the training won’t lead to qualified status.  

With some training providers offering intensive courses over a few weeks or months, the clear advice from PHSP is that it takes four years to become fully qualified for those with no prior experience.

Support for career development

The great news is you don’t have to go on this learning journey alone. To support you, the CIPHE’s membership structure allows you to rise through the ranks as you develop, from Trainee, all the way to Fellow. This is supported by the milestones achieved via the CIPHE’s Apprentice, Journeyman and Master Plumber Certificates.

The CIPHE can also help you achieve professional registration with the Engineering Council UK at Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng), to cement your professional status.

Learning never ends...

Once you have entered into the plumbing and heating industry, your education does not end with your apprenticeship or NVQ qualification. Membership of the CIPHE will enable you to apply for further professional qualifications and awards, such as:

  • Engineering Technician (EngTech)
  • Incorporated Engineer (IEng)
  • Chartered Engineer (CEng)
  • The Master Plumber Certificate.

Training providers

Find out what training options are available to you, and how to find a good training provider.

Find out more

Approved Training Centres ATC

Browse our directory of CIPHE Approved Training Centres (ATC) to find a quality training establishment near you.

Find out more


Find out about apprenticeships in the plumbing and heating industry.

Find out more