- Plumbers earn an average of $21.94 per hour, making them one of the highest paid construction jobs
- Plumbing jobs often require on call availability for emergencies on nights and weekends
- Most states require plumbers to be licensed
What do plumbers do?
Anyone who has faced a busted pipe or broken toilet will tell you that plumbers are heroes. Plumbers install and repair water supply lines, waste disposal systems, and related appliances and fixtures to keep homes and businesses flowing smoothly.
Being a plumber is physically demanding. Strength, stamina, and an ability to work in a variety of environments are all assets you'll need before you decide to pick up a pipe wrench. Repairing a faucet in a plush office restroom while smooth jazz wafts over the intercom may sound like a sweet gig, but you might also spend your morning wedged in a frigid crawl space fixing a broken drainage line. It all needs to get done, and there is some serious compensation available for the people who are willing (and able) to do it.
Unless it's for scheduled maintenance or installation, people who need plumbers usually need them right away. The good news is that urgency makes for excellent job security; the bad news is you might work more than 40 hours per week and be on call for nights and weekends. If you want a career with less potential for late hours, try pipelaying, pipefitting, sprinklerfitting and steamfitting, skilled trades often grouped with plumbing. These jobs require similar skills, but frequently offer more regularly scheduled hours.
How much do plumbers make?
The average salary for plumbing workers is $21.94 per hour. Apprentice plumbers can expect to earn around half the pay rate of a more experienced plumber in their area (with pay increases as their skills develop). Earnings also depend on the plumbing specialty; plumbers employed by their local government make about $20 per hour, while plumbers working in natural gas distribution take home an average of $26.27 per hour. Approximately one third of all plumbers, pipefitters, pipelayers, sprinklerfitters, and steamfitters employed in the United States belong to a union.
Training for plumbing jobs is available from trade schools, community colleges, and on the job as a plumbing apprentice. Apprenticeships typically span four to five years; involve paid on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of classroom time per year.
Though requirements vary by location, two to five years of experience and successful completion of a test covering trade knowledge and local code is usually necessary before a license will be issued allowing a plumber to work independently.
Career paths for plumbers
Many experienced plumbers choose to go into business for themselves; others become contractors. If you would like to be a supervisor or contractor, being familiar with Spanish will give you an edge communicating with a workforce increasingly made up of Spanish-speaking workers. Plumbers can also earn 'green' trade certifications to pursue opportunities with environmentally friendly companies.
The future of plumbing workers
The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) expects faster than average growth in plumbing positions over the 2008-2018 decade. Many current plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are expected to retire over the next decade, and some employers are already reporting a shortage of qualified applicants in the plumbing field. Skilled plumbers, particularly those with welding experience or environmentally friendly certifications, are well-positioned to be in demand.
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