Plumbers repair and install pipe systems that keep water flowing and toilets working. Master plumbers must have several years of experience, manual dexterity and pass federal, state or local certification exams.
Plumbers install or repair pipe systems that transport water, steam or air for sanitation and ventilation purposes. Becoming a master plumber requires years of rigorous training followed by passing several official certification exams. Income levels for master plumbers vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including years of experience and type of employer.
|Required Education||High school diploma, apprenticeship|
|Other Requirements||Experience, state and local licensure|
|Potential Job Growth*||12% between 2014 and 2024 (plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters)|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$50,620 (plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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To have a successful career in plumbing, one needs to be in good physical condition, with proficient manual dexterity and an aptitude for mechanical processes. Although many plumbers learn the trade through on-the-job training and apprenticeships, individuals can also choose to pursue formal training through community colleges, vocational or trade schools, as well as the armed forces.
Many plumbers begin by training as apprentices within local plumbing unions. Most states require plumbing apprentices to be at least 17 or 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. Apprentice programs typically take 2-5 years to complete. During this time, trainees learn to read blueprints and apply local plumbing codes. They learn through both hands-on training and classroom-style lectures. Following this period, the apprentice must pass an exam to become a licensed journeyman plumber. This exam is regulated and administered by their state of prospective employment.
To advance to master plumber status, licensed journeymen likely need to complete an additional 4-5 years of independent, hands-on work experience. They must also pass various federal, state and local plumbing exams. Typically, each state has a different set of conditions and testing parameters that must be satisfied by candidates pursuing their master plumber license.
Base Salary Overview for Master Plumbers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers, pipe fitters and steamfitters in general could expect to see 12% job growth in the industry over the period of 2014-2024. The BLS also states that the median hourly pay of all plumbers, pipe fitters and steamfitters was $24.34 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). However, data found at PayScale.com shows that the salaries of master plumbers can be affected by several factors. Two of the most significant factors are number of years of experience and the type of employer.
Salary by Experience
As of 2015 data compiled by PayScale.com, experienced master plumbers can expect to make $35,498 to $92,044. Additionally, the website noted that having project management experience is one factor that can contribute to higher earning potential.
Salary by Employer
Type of employer can also majorly impact salary. These may include state or local government agencies, commercial firms, public schools or franchises. While local government tends to offer an average salary of $52,700, the metal ore mining industry pays an average salary of $77,120, according to the BLS as of May 2015. Plumbers in Alaska, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon and Illinois make more than in other parts of the country.
Plumbers start as apprentices, before working their way up to licensed journeyman status. In order to become a master plumber, a licensed plumber must complete four or five years of hands-on work experience and pass certification exams. These exam requirements vary by state and locality.