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The Guide to a Plumbing Apprenticeship in Australia and New Zealand

Out of all the trades out there, why would you choose plumbing? Many reasons, actually, and there’s so much more to the profession than digging trenches and fixing leaking taps.

A Career in Plumbing

It can be hard to choose a career, whether you’re already in the job market, studying at uni/TAFE, or still in secondary education. Plumbing is a solid trade in Australia, with high demand and plenty of options for careers. 

For those still in high school, you might have already made your mind up on where you want to go. Maybe you’ve always found the trades appealing, you feel more suited to it than uni, or the stability of the career feels good. Or you’ve left school and worked or studied, and you want a change into a steady career option. While trades are different to university studies/degrees, there’s still plenty of work and learning to undertake, and just like any career, it’s good to get informed. 

If you’re reading this, you’re likely considering plumbing as your pick and want to know more about getting a plumbing apprenticeship.

The Pipeline to a Plumbing Apprenticeship

Plumbing is one of many options for vocational education in Australia and New Zealand. It’s great for people who want hands-on work and a job that doesn’t get dry (literally if your client doesn’t know how to turn the water main off). If you’re still not sure if plumbing is for you, check out our comparisons of plumbers and electricians.

So what are the steps to a plumbing apprenticeship?


The first step to becoming an apprentice is the right education. Your level of education and previous skills can open up different pathways to tertiary education but don’t worry if you feel under-qualified. Everything can be accessed starting with entry-level certificates.

High school students don’t need to leave school before starting their career in plumbing. You could earn a plumber apprenticeship wage while your peers are still studying!

To begin a Certificate III in Plumbing in Australia, you must complete Year 10 ‘satisfactorily’ (which means you pass your exams). For senior years, schools offer either a graded pathway for each subject or a pass/fail grading. 

Some states do this differently, but all offer vocational options starting in year 11. To enter TAFE, you’ll need to pass enough subjects to show you have the foundation to handle the coursework. There is a bonus to seeing out high school: finishing year 12 will grant you a small bump in your plumber apprenticeship wage. For more info, outlines the specifics for each state.

You're eligible for entry-level TAFE requirements if you graduated with a relevant high-school certificate. States differ in their educational requirements, and depending on your state, you need to plan your tertiary pathway. No matter how you get there, you’ll earn the same plumber apprenticeship wage as your peers.

In New Zealand, the requirements for an apprenticeship differ slightly. You’re required to complete Years 10 or 12 or a relevant educational certificate. Each year will require a certain amount of credits to be earned depending on your age and level of training. 

New Zealand offers Vocational Pathways so you can get started on your trades career while in high school, and Pre-Trade Training for everyone who wants to enter the trades.

Passing Foundational Subjects

Once you’re enrolled in a Cert III in Plumbing, you’ll start with classes and practical work at TAFE. TAFE will be your home base, supporting your learning and helping you find an approved supervisor to hire you as an apprentice.

In NZ, many employers will require a relevant pre-trade training qualification.

Finding an Apprenticeship/Supervisor

Before you get that plumber apprenticeship wage, you need to be hired. This isn’t as straightforward a process as simply applying and getting hired: getting an apprenticeship means entering into an agreement with a qualified supervisor. A plumbing supervisor has their own responsibilities when it comes to their apprentices to ensure they receive proper training and experience.

Both apprentice and supervisor are getting something out of the agreement. Employers get access to a well-priced talent pool and workers for their team; apprentices get on-the-job training and experience. And, of course, a plumbing apprenticeship wage to boot!

Getting the Apprenticeship

Of course, trade apprenticeships are similar to jobs. You’ll need to prepare as you do for a job: that means preparing for an interview with a prospective employer/supervisor.

As a student, your results, skills and previous job experience will help during an interview! Research the business and look up common questions. Even without relevant experience, preparation and effort go a long way to show you’re ready to learn and join the team!

Applying for Financial Support

Once you’ve secured your apprenticeship, you may be eligible for different scholarships and subsidies covering tools, uniforms and travel so you can get to work prepared and on time. These will depend on the certificate and apprenticeships, and you can check the online incentives checker or speak with your educational institution for more help.

As governments and the industry face more demand, support for women in plumbing has grown as more tradie ladies join the workforce. Woman-focused incentives are available for the plumbing industry to encourage more female apprentices.

Now that you’ve got more info, let's look at the apprentice plumber wage itself.

Plumber Apprenticeship Wage Factors

When you check online, salaries and wages vary greatly, depending on the jobs offered and the state/country. It could seem at first that some places are just better or offer more money than others, but many factors go into a plumber apprenticeship wage, and these will fluctuate.

Level of Apprenticeship

The level of your apprenticeship is the number of years you’ve been an apprentice or the credits completed as one. This isn’t just time spent; your supervisor and educator need to ensure you’ve earned enough experience and are ready for the next year.


In Australia, plumber apprenticeship wages are a percentage of the full wage offered.

From Fair Work, percentages for each level are as follows:

1st Year: 50%

2nd Year: 60%

3rd Year: 70%

4th Year: 90%

If you’ve completed year 12, you’ll get a 5% bump added to your 1st and 2nd years of apprenticeship.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, there are three levels of minimum wage:

-Starting-out wage

-Training wage

-Adult minimum wage

Apprentices are paid the starting-out and training wages, depending on their age level and the number of training credits completed annually.

16-19 year olds must complete at least 40 credits per year to be paid the starting-out wage.

20 years and older are paid the training wage as their apprentice wage as long as they have the proper credits, of course.

Both wages are 80% of the adult minimum wage of NZD 22.70, which equals NZD 18.60 per hour. However, plenty of employers offer higher apprentice plumber wages to encourage apprentices to stay with their business. The average apprentice plumber salary in NZ is around $47,950, which comes to about NZD $24 per hour.


Location is an important factor, as it can act as a summary of all the factors and give you a snapshot of the demand, skills and types of apprenticeships in that area. This will fluctuate over time as factors change. 

It might seem like capital cities would have the highest apprentice plumber wages, and that is often the case. Still, regional centres and cities also have these skills in high demand, and salaries will reflect that.

Some examples of average yearly salaries for cities around Australia are:

Brisbane, QLD: $50,658

Geelong, VIC: $60,220

Newcastle, NSW: $53,459

Perth, WA: $47,517

Canberra, ACT: $58,210

Skills Demand

Like any market, some skills are in more demand than others. A Certificate III in Plumbing is a good foundation and can provide a solid apprentice plumber salary. Within the plumbing trade, there are plenty of options for entry-level students, and at times, some will be in greater demand than others.

Employers/supervisors for different industries, such as roof plumbing, sanitary plumbing, and fire protection, will be looking for apprentices to join their teams. 

Type of Apprenticeship

This ties into the skills demand point above. Plumber apprenticeship wages can be affected by the apprenticeship you’re undertaking. Cert III in Plumbing is a standard and popular starting point for hopeful students and recent graduates.

However, depending on the pathway taken, you can earn more. If you’re studying for a Certificate IV, you’ll have specialisation and more experience that offers a higher apprentice plumber wage. 

Fair Pay and the Future

The important thing to remember when understanding these factors is that as an apprentice, you should be paid fairly! 

You are learning and being supervised, yes, but you are also on the job. You will be doing a lot of work with your supervisor and their team. At first, you’ll be doing a lot of learning, and your plumber apprenticeship wage will reflect this. But the longer you’re part of the team, the more you’ll be entitled to for your effort.

In the future, once you’ve completed your apprenticeship and a Cert IV in Plumbing Services and Operations, you can start your own plumbing business. Starting a small business gives you control over your earnings and where you take your career! 

Starting a business will always be a big step, but with more tools and apps than ever before, you can focus on running your business by streamlining your process. It all starts with the first step!

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