The Ultimate Plumber Salary Guide

Nothing says emergency like a toilet that won’t flush.

Reliable sanitation and clean water systems are two of the distinctions that set first world countries apart from third world countries. If you take away clean water and reliable sanitation, a first world country will quickly devolve into third-world status. 

Our country needs people who can ensure we have reliable sanitation and clean water. In particular, our country needs the noble blue-collar workers, the heroes in coveralls, or in other words, plumbers. 

If you’re looking for a promising, secure future and enjoy working with your hands, consider a career in plumbing. Plus, people will think you’re amazing because you can solve a problem that has put their home or business at a standstill.

Many people hold the misconception that plumbing is not a lucrative field. A plumber’s salary looks modest initially, but a plumbing career has room for growth and requires little schooling and debt to start. Keep reading to learn about how much a plumber really makes. 

Plumber Salary

How much does a plumber make? This is often the first question asked when a person looks into the field of plumbing. 

Though plumber salaries vary, on average a plumber makes $24.25 an hour plus overtime. Several factors play into the salary of a plumber, such as where the plumber lives and works and what the plumber’s level of expertise is. 

Also, if you work for a company, then you’ll be paid extra compensation for working more than 40 hours a week, so you can figure that boost into a plumber’s salary as well.

If you’re an independent plumber, you still receive overtime pay when you receive a call after hours and have to do a job in the evening or on the weekend. In that case, you can charge more for after-hours charges.

Thus the average base salary for a plumber in the United States is $50,000 plus an approximate $6,700 for overtime compensation.

How Long Have You Been a Plumber? 

Your experience in the plumbing field matters. If you’ve worked for less than a year, you should expect a salary of around $42,200. If you have worked more than 10 years as a plumber, you should expect a salary of a little over $60,000.

Where Do You Live and Work? 

Your location determines how much you make as a plumber as well. You need to factor in both the amount a plumber makes where you live as well as your own cost of living when you’re figuring out if you want to dive into a career as a plumber. 

For example, in Denver, Colorado, plumbers make $77,000 a year. In Brooklyn, New York, you can hope for $63,000, and in San Diego, California, you can expect around $56,000 a year. 

When you factor in the cost of living for your location, you’ll see how plumbing makes more sense financially in some areas than it does in others. 

Take Brooklyn, New York, for example. Let’s compare a plumber in Jersey City, NJ, next to Brooklyn, to a plumber in Brooklyn. 

in Jersey City, NJ, a plumber makes $61,572 a year and $6,750 a year in overtime compared to Brooklyn where a plumber makes $63,000 and approximately the same in overtime. The two salaries look comparable. But look at the cost of living.

The cost of living in Jersey City, NJ is significantly less than in Brooklyn. If you’re a homeowner with no childcare and taxes not considered, your cost of living is 26.9 percent less in Jersey City, NJ. Food and groceries are 8.4 percent less, housing is 36.6 percent less, and your median home cost is 36.6 percent less. 

If you look at just salaries and not overtime, a Brooklyn plumber makes roughly $2,000 more than a Jersey City plumber. That’s a 3 percent difference in salaries, and yet the cost of living is anywhere from 8.4 percent to 36.6 percent different from Jersey City to Brooklyn.

So even though you’re making more money in Brooklyn, you’re spending much more money to live there. How much a plumber makes depends heavily on where he works but also where he lives. 

Apprentice Plumber

Your plumbing salary also depends on your level of plumbing. The first level of plumbing is called a plumbing apprentice. You usually make around $15 an hour or $30,000 to $32,000 a year as an apprentice 

As an apprentice, you work under a licensed plumber for a few years and then move up to the journeyman level. Apprentice plumbers do not make as much because they are basically in school, learning and working from their mentor plumber. 

An apprentice may go to school and continue to work at the same time. 

Journeyman Plumber

An apprentice will eventually move onto journeyman and master plumber status. A journeyman makes $18 an hour, so up to $60,000 with overtime. 

A journeyman has moved through the apprenticeship position, which takes two to five years. He has received his licensing credentials of the state and can work on his own now.

He will perform preventive maintenance and install systems according to blueprints and technical docs. He also will oversee apprentice plumbers. If a journeyman has an apprentice with him, he has the task of both plumbing and teaching.

In addition to overseeing the apprentice, the journeyman can install and repair systems. He can locate and repair leaks in pipes and perform preventative maintenance. 

Master Plumber

A master plumber makes $30 an hour and often work more than 40 hours a week. They’re eligible for overtime of 10 to 20 hours a week. Rising to master plumber status takes six to ten years.

Master plumbers do more than read blueprints. They can sketch them when necessary. They have all the tools necessary to maintain, service, install, and repair water systems. They work on drainable, potable water, waste systems, and gas systems. 

Master plumbers also install appliances and bathroom fixtures. They can not just work on water systems but they can plan them. 

Often a master plumber has the freedom of self-employment. Some enjoy the job security of working for contractors or government entities. Most belong to a union that protects their rights as blue-collar workers. 

Because of their expertise, master plumbers often see their work fluctuate. They can work on anything from unclogging a drain to planning a new water system for a home. Their experience, formal schooling, and state licensure mean they know more than an apprentice and journeyman and thus can charge more. 

Crunch the Numbers

When you answer the question “what is the salary for a plumber,” you need to take the long view. Take time to figure out the cost of education and the amount of time you can work as a plumber. You can better understand a plumber salary guide and see that plumbers make a good living. 

Schooling Costs

The cost of an associate’s degree for plumbing range from $3000 to $23,000 depending on where you obtain your degree. If you go the route of apprenticeship, the cost is $0 to $1,000 and lasts four to five years. Some programs even offer to pay for your books. 

Best of all, if you go the route of an apprentice, you’re making an apprentice salary right away, so you’re earning while you go to school. Most often people will go the route of a community college or technical school because the cost is less and the training is intense and specific. 

Tool Costs

You also have to figure in the cost of plumbing tools. Apprentices have to pay for their tools from the start. You should anticipate paying $300 to $400 for quality starter tools. 

The result is little debt for schooling and the opportunity to make money right away as a plumber. So plumbers from the start are earning that minimum of $15 an hour with little schooling debt to worry about. 

The Long View

If you crunch the numbers, a plumber could make more money throughout a lifetime than even a doctor. When you factor in the ability to work right away, the low cost of school, and the investment opportunities early on, plumbing is a great occupation for a lifetime.

Additionally, doctors have a higher expectation for their standard of living. Their work clothes cost more, and their colleagues expect them to drive specific cars and live in specific parts of town. Plumbers don’t have that pressure. 

When you figure out how much plumbers make, you should consider the outlook over the long haul. If you’re considering a career in plumbing, look at what you can make from the time you’re 22 to the time you’re 65.  

Job Outlook for Plumbers 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the job outlook for plumbers is good. They anticipate a 14 percent growth in the need for plumbers from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average growth rate. 

The world will always need plumbers. As buildings grow old, they need plumbers to repair them. As new structures go up, they need plumbers to install proper plumbing.  

Plumb a Line, Save the World

Not all heroes wear capes. A plumber is a hero in coveralls, willing and able to do a hard, sometimes loathsome job that keeps businesses and homes running. A plumber salary reflects this hard work and is something a plumber should be proud of. 

If you’re looking for a plumbing job in your area, contact us. We’d love to hook you up with the jobs in your neck of the woods.