Any decent plumber can fix a minor leak or replace a toilet, but when a project is big or complicated, a master plumber is the one for the job. Only experienced plumbers can reach this level. The job is physically demanding, but the typical master plumber salary is high enough to make the sacrifices worthwhile for motivated candidates.
Master plumbers are plumbers who have enough experience and expertise to handle complex jobs. They can do all the same things that other plumbers do, such as install and repair water and gas lines that lead to toilets and other fixtures; repair drainage systems and replace leaking pipes. Master plumbers can also perform high-level tasks such as create blueprints and come up with creative solutions to tricky plumbing issues in old buildings. Many experienced plumbers earn this distinction.
Basically, any customer who has a basic plumbing need might hire a master plumber, or a journeyman plumber, which is the step below master plumber. But a customer who has a complicated plumbing need will often seek a master plumber, and plumbing companies that hire pros to join their ranks may require that job candidates be master plumbers.
Becoming a master plumber doesn't require a bachelor's degree. Obtaining a high school diploma, GED or equivalent is enough to get started. The typical first step on this career path is to become an apprentice. Apprentice plumbers normally split their time between classroom training and on-the-job training, overseen by experienced plumbers called journeymen. Local branches of the UA, United Association, which is the national plumber's union, offer five-year paid apprenticeships.
Upon completing an apprenticeship, a plumber reaches journeyman status, which means he can work unsupervised. From there, how long it takes to become a master plumber depends on local and state licensing requirements, which vary from place to place. In New York City, for example, master plumbers must have at least two years of experience working as a journeyman plumber in the city in order to be licensed as a master. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, becoming a master plumber requires at least five years of experience as a journeyman. Some states don't license master plumbers on a statewide basis, leaving licensing requirements to local government bodies.
Master plumbers work either independently, for plumbing companies or for large employers like cities or universities. These jobs usually require standard weekday hours, although master plumbers may make themselves available for emergency jobs on nights, weekends and holidays.
Years of Experience and Salary
Because master plumbers must have many years of experience to reach this point, getting even more experience won't necessarily affect a master plumber's salary. These professionals are already quite well paid. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median plumber income was $52,590, as of May 2017. (Median means that half of plumbers earned more than that and half earned less.) But that data includes all plumbers, not just master-level ones.
Some industry insiders say that an experienced pro can earn a master plumber salary of upwards of $50 per hour and $100,000 per year, but that depends on geographical location (plumbers in major cities can charge more than those in small towns) and how many hours a master plumber is willing to work.
Job Growth Trend
Plumbing is a fairly stable and recession-proof career path. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 16 percent growth in plumbing jobs between 2016 and 2026, which is a much faster rate of growth than the average for all industries.