Looking For A New Career? How Much Do Plumbers Make?

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

I know that most of my readers who aren’t plumbers will scream “TOO MUCH” when posed with the question “ how much do plumbers make?”. We certainly aren’t here to judge. I think we can all agree being knee deep in sewage is no fun and it’s a task you’d rather leave to a professional. Before we start pulling apart what merits a decent plumber salary I think it’s only fair to highlight some of the training they have to go through to become a fully licensed plumber.

How To Become a Plumber – The Short Version

How much do plumbers make
I look like I ate myself in this picture.

Almost every state has strict set of requirements that dictates how to become a plumber. Most times a prospective plumber must complete a 4 to 5 year apprentice program; it varies from state to state. If you’re one of the 30% in the US that managed to choose the union rout it’s a fairly straightforward affair. Would be apprentices take a basic aptitude test that covers English, Basic Math & Science. Depending on the size of the class a cut off point is established and you get in or you don’t. In order for you to be accepted you must have a contractor sponsor you, which is basically a letter that says if you make the cut we will hire you. If you do score well and someone is in need of an apprentice you begin your 4 to 5 year apprenticeship. If you’re a union apprentice it will involve both classroom work

How much do plumbers make?
United Association Related Math Book

and field experience. Each union local is different as to how classroom training and field training is broken up. For instance some locals make an apprentice do all of their schooling at night while they work in the field during the day and others have one day per week dedicated to school and the rest is on the job training. In any case throughout the apprenticeship each trainee must maintain a certain GPA and attendance is mandatory as is work ethic. School consists of basic and high level plumbing related math, industry specific science, plumbing standards, codes and practices, service work training, basic business practices, OHSA Training, Use and Care of Tools as well as plumbing history. The education is pretty extensive. After the 4th or 5th year you must pass a competency test. I can tell you from experience that the test is a difficult one in most states. Some states still have a master plumber license, which consists of more classroom work and an even tougher state test. Most states have dropped the master plumber license choosing to toughen up the standard state-licensing program.

The Majority Of Plumbers Are Non Union

If you’re the majority and you’re not in a union the road to a license is a bit looser. You still have to find a contractor and serve your apprenticeship but the education is a bit rougher. It’s sink or swim. You learn on the job but you still have to pass the same test so chances are you’ll have to go to some form of school if you’re contractor doesn’t offer in office training.

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

How much do plumbers make?If you asked yourself how much do plumbers make, you need to know that either way it’s 4 or 5 years of rigorous training in less than ideal conditions, sewage, grease, cold, snow, rain, heat etc. I know, quit selling it. The average plumber salary is a tough number to pin down but the median is about $50,000.00 nationwide, which, is about $14,000 to $16,000 above the national average for all occupations. The top 10% earn more than $80,0000.00 per year. During the dark days of owning my own plumbing firm, during busy years we had no plumber earn less than 100K on the check, with benefits a union plumber could earn as much as 150K per year. So How Much Do Plumbers Make? Around $50,000.00 is a solid number.

Important Things To Understand When Talking About Average Plumber Salary

Most Americans will look at that and say WOW, that’s a lot for a plumber. Consider this first before rushing to judgment, plumbing can be brutal work, you can spend your days on your knees, you can be working in extreme heat or even worse in extreme cold. If you work in high-rise construction, in a cold weather town doing waste stacks in the frigid cold is something everyone should experience once. The lifespan for doing this kind of work is relatively short. Although you can move to another phase of plumbing your opportunities begin to diminish past a certain age. Your earning potential drops, as you get older because there are physically less things you can do. The industrious plumber will learn to estimate or learn CAD or trimble so when the body starts to break down they are valuable in other ways.

How Does This Affect A Plumber Hourly Rate?

Without exaggerating I’d say significantly. As a contractor your goal is to cover your costs and make a profit. If you are a union employer or a non-union employer with competitive wages you have to charge significantly more to offset those costs. There is an upside to this that the homeowner rarely thinks about. Plumbers at the high end of the salary scale are usually pretty darned good at their job. Plumbing is like any other product or service you buy; most times you get what you pay for. In the famous words of Joe Crisara “ What did you ever buy in your life that was really good that was also very cheap?” Most times the answer is nothing. Remember “The plumber protects the health of the nation”.


  1. I’m a journeyman licensed plumber in FL. . didn’t. need to be, but owner thought good marketing to advertise all employees licensed. The test was open code book. Need 72% to pass. They don’t tell you actual score or what you got wrong on the test. i. do service work. Almost nothing on the test is what I. do. All my training has been OJT. Not one formal hour of training or mentoring from a master plumber. I. make 50k sometimes mid 50’s Could make more but if I feel I didn’ . work efficiently, I have to discount my work.

    1. Hey Richard, I just sent you an email. How much you make and how much you are worth has quite a bit to do with your market. Florida is a right to work state of which I’m sure you are very aware. That drives the price of labor down because anyone can pick up a wrench and have at it. I’d rather educate the consumer on why they should hire someone who is licensed. I’m not sure of your last point. Are you saying you could make more but you would be compromising the quality of your work because you’d have to speed things up? I’m going to suggest something to you. Look up Joe Crisara. He is the owner of Contractor Selling. He’s a master of customer focused option and getting top dollar for your work. I was a T&M company back in my contractor days and I would never do it again. I have seen the light so to speak.


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