A plumber’s job has a lot going for it. Although the apprenticeship training of four or five years takes at least as long as a college degree, the apprentice gets paid for each day of education. The demand for the profession is nearly double the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, about 14 percent of plumbers were self-employed in 2010, allowing for flexibility in scheduling and tasks.
The average U.S. worker made $45,790 per year as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Plumbers made over 15 percent more, with a mean $52,950 per year. The highest paid 25 percent averaged over $66,050 and the highest-paid 10 percent earned over $84,440 yearly. Their wages were even greater than the mean $44,960 per year for all construction and extraction occupations. So, yes, compared to the averages, plumbers do make a lot of money.
The areas with the most jobs for plumbers differed from the ones boasting the highest salaries. Among states, Texas topped the opportunity list, with 31,570 out of a total 340,370 positions, and mean pay at $45,670 per year. For metropolitan areas, New York City ranked first, with 11,600 plumbers averaging $69,220 annually. As for high pay, Alaska, with its high cost of living, pushed compensation to a mean $71,600 yearly. Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York State were first among metro areas, with mean wages of $84,160 per year.
A big factor in determining both employment and compensation for plumbers was the employer. With 233,730 jobs, building equipment contractors showed the best employment, and mean pay at $53,580 yearly. Nonresidential building construction followed with 16,270 positions averaging an annual $57,300. First for high pay were manufacturers of navigational, measuring, electro-medical and control instruments, with mean wages of $73,030 yearly. Next was electric power generation, transmission and distribution, averaging $68,310 per year, and foundries, with mean salaries of $68,270 per year.
Jobs for plumbers are expected to grow by 26 percent through 2020, compared to the 23 percent predicted for all construction trades workers and the 14 percent projected for all occupations in all industries. Population growth and an improving economy will spur demand for new construction and the plumbing that it needs. In addition, the desire to meet stricter water-saving standards will provide opportunities. As with any construction occupation, employment will depend on the state of the economy. During good times, employers may have trouble finding enough plumbers. During bad times, plumbers may not find enough work.