Written by Kacie Goff
The plumbing trade has been in demand for decades. People will always need plumbers. Even if new building stopped altogether, repairs and maintenance for existing plumbing would keep the vast majority of plumbers in steady work.
All told, if you’re looking for a consistent, reliable field, plumbing delivers. But is it lucrative, and how much money could you make? Let’s get right to it.
First, we’ll turn to one of the most trusted sources for average salaries: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They say that in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available), the average plumbing professional earned $55,160. That includes pipefitters and steamfitters.
Plumbers working in the manufacturing field or on government projects earned a little more — just over $57,100 and nearly $56,800, respectively. The average plumbing contractor was earning right around $54,760 in 2019.
That’s a pretty solid salary. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks plumbing as the sixth-best highest paying job without a degree.
But it’s important to note that not all plumbing roles are created equal, so you should keep a salary range in mind.
While that figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics gives you a good ballpark, how much you’ll get paid depends on how you decide to use your plumbing license. Some people go work for a plumbing company. That usually means consistent work but it also means earning a flat hourly rate, which effectively caps how much you’re going to make.
Alternatively, you can work for yourself. At that point, how much you get paid really depends on how good you are at pricing your projects. If you underprice, the majority of what your client pays you could go toward materials. But if you get good at finding the sweet spot, you can potentially earn more, especially as you get more experience and get better at finishing projects more quickly.
Let’s assume, at least at the beginning, that you decide to work for a plumbing company. If you do, you’ll probably be wondering what kind of hourly wage you can expect.
Again, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has data for us. They say that the average plumber earns $26.52 an hour.
As you can probably guess, that hourly wage — and the average plumber salary — varies pretty widely depending on where you live. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) says that Bay Area plumbers can earn more than $48, for example, nearly double the average hourly rate. But that makes sense since living in the Bay Area costs an arm and a leg these days.
Ultimately, you can expect your earnings as a plumber to reflect the local cost of living. So that you’re not flying totally blind guessing at what you’ll earn locally, we pulled a couple of good sources. Here are two places to get a feel for the average plumbing salary you can expect to earn in your home state:
Yes. Like all jobs, the more experience you have as a plumber, the more you can expect to earn. When you’re an apprentice, you might start with a salary as small as $20,000 — but you can expect that to grow steadily. By the time you’re a journeyman, you’ll be in a position to average something near that $55k mark we’ve been talking about.
As a master plumber, you literally have the paperwork to show that you’re a seasoned pro. And that means you can charge more. As a result, master plumbers can expect to earn a fair chunk over and above journeyman plumbers. With a master license or certification, you’re looking at an average salary of around $62,500.
But is it worth staying in the plumbing field and working your way up to become a master plumber? Let’s take a look.
Again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has the information we need. They say that the job market for plumbers should grow by about 4% over the next decade, which is in line with average growth across all industries. The Bureau expects about 20,000 new plumbing jobs to become available by 2029.
Ultimately, that means you can rest easy. Work for plumbers won’t be in short supply anytime soon. So if this is a career that interests you, it’s well worth exploring.
That’s the big question of the day. We’d love to be able to give you a simple answer, but it ultimately depends on the state in which you live. Each state has its own plumbing authority with its own licensing requirements. Usually, though, getting your plumbing license or certificate is pretty easy. The average process includes:
In most states, getting your plumbing license is a relatively cheap, easy process.
At that point, you’ll be able to legally complete plumbing projects — and earn that comfortable salary we’ve discussed.
From there, all you need to do is maintain your plumbing license. That usually means taking a handful of continuing education hours and sending in your renewal application and a small fee every once in a while. Fortunately, because more and more states are allowing for online continuing education hours, renewing your license is easier than ever before.
All told, getting and maintaining a plumbing license isn’t a huge hassle. And that license allows you to work in a steady field that pays its people pretty well. If you’ve been looking for a change or you’re just starting out, a career in plumbing is well worth considering