Electrician Vs. Plumber

Electricians ensure that electricity is transferred safely from place to place through wires, while plumbers concentrate on systems that transport water and other substances, such as gas. Read on to compare these construction careers.

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Comparing Electricians to Plumbers

Electricians and plumbers have very similar training requirements. They also earn comparable salaries, but plumbers are currently experiencing faster job growth. Both of these professionals work in construction, but they focus on different systems.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Electricians High school diploma and apprenticeship; license $52,720 9%
Plumbers High school diploma and apprenticeship; license $51,450 (plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters) 16% (plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Electricians vs. Plumbers

Electricians and plumbers often work in very similar environments, like businesses, residences and factories. Both may be required to travel to different locations regularly. They may also both assume the responsibility of supervising helpers and apprentices. Their main duties involve installing materials into new buildings and repairing systems in existing structures. The major difference between these workers is the materials they work with: wiring for electricians, and pipes for plumbers.

Electricians

Electricians focus on electrical systems and do things like running wiring throughout houses and installing lights and switches. Crawling and climbing are both commonly required in order to access electrical systems, so electricians need to be physically fit and capable of performing these tasks. They also need the strength to be able to carry supplies and equipment. Endurance is needed to work long hours, since it's common for electricians to work during the day and evening, as well as on weekends. Most electricians are employed by electrical contractors, although some work for factories.

Job responsibilities of an electrician include:

  • Identifying reasons why electrical systems aren't working properly
  • Repairing electrical systems
  • Creating a design plan for electrical systems
  • Interpreting wiring diagrams or blueprints
  • Testing electrical systems with devices like voltmeters
  • Operating various tools, like wire strippers and conduit benders

Plumbers

Plumbers put in pipes and plumbing appliances and ensure that substances such as water, gas and sewage are transported throughout buildings safely. Plumbers typically work for contractors, although some work for manufacturing companies or the government. It's common for them to work long days, and they may also work weekend shifts and provide on-call services for plumbing emergencies. They must be strong so that they can carry supplies and hold tools. They also need the ability to work effectively in small, confined spaces and a strong knowledge of safe practices, since injuries like burns from soldering tools are common in this job.

Job responsibilities of a plumber include:

  • Removing defective pipes or parts
  • Welding pipes to repair leaks
  • Installing toilets
  • Knowing applicable regulations, like building codes
  • Performing maintenance on septic systems
  • Running testing on plumbing systems, like pressure tests

Related Careers

Those considering a future as an electrician or plumber may also be interested in becoming HVAC technicians or solar thermal installers, because these careers also involve working with tools, repairing equipment and installing equipment. Learn more about these similar occupations through the links below.

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