There isn’t much glamour in fixing slow drains and unclogging toilets, but plumbing can be a lucrative career. Master plumbers have undergone extensive training and therefore stand to earn more than plumbers without the designation. Like most professions, the average salary of a master plumber varies based on location, experience and type of employment.
Plumbers begin studying after graduating high school or getting an equivalency degree. There are several steps to becoming a master plumber. The first step is an apprenticeship. An apprentice plumber attends a program, typically put on by the local plumbing union, to learn the required skills. For two to five years, the apprentice will learn about local building codes, how to read blueprints and perform everyday repairs. He will also attend classes to supplement the skills learned on the job. After the apprenticeship, the plumber will take a test to become a licensed journeyman plumber. Over the next four to five years, he will work independently to gain the skills and experience needed to become a master plumber. He will also have to sit for and pass a series of tests. After successfully completing all of the tests, the plumber will become licensed as a master plumber.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earned a median annual salary of $46,660 as of May 2010. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $79,920 a year, while the lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $27,580. About 57 percent of plumbers were employed in the plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors industry. About 14 percent were self-employed. The BLS does not distinguish between master plumbers and other types of plumbers in its salary data, though incomes for master plumbers are likely to be above the average.
Some master plumbers work a regular schedule and are paid salaries. These include master plumbers working for a school or school division, who are tasked with maintaining and repairing the plumbing system within a specific school or many schools within the same division. In Virginia's York County School Division, for example, the minimum salary for a master plumber is $35,543 a year.
The going rate for a master plumber can be much higher in certain portions of the country. Indeed.com reports that a master plumber earns an average annual salary of $79,000 in New York City, where the cost of living is higher than many other parts of the country. By comparison, the average salary of a master plumber in Pflugerville, Texas, a suburb of Austin, is $54,000 a year. A job listing for a plumbing company in Baltimore said journeyman and master plumbers can earn between $60,000 and $110,000 a year.