What Does a Plumber Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, and More

Plumber Fixing Sink
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Plumbers install and repair pipes that supply water and gas to, as well as carry waste away from, homes and businesses. They also install plumbing fixtures such as bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, and appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines. Experienced plumbers train apprentices and supervise helpers. They work alongside other construction workers.

Plumber Duties & Responsibilities

Plumbers must be able to perform the following tasks:

  • Install pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Visually inspect equipment and operate test equipment such as pressure and vacuum gauges to determine the cause and location of trouble
  • Clear obstructions from sink drains and toilets
  • Troubleshoot problems and decide how to fix them
  • Repair pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Estimate costs of installations and repairs
  • Present recommendations and related pricing to customers
  • Plumbers must be capable of performing these tasks to ensure the proper functioning of properties' plumbing systems.

Plumber Salary

Plumbers' earnings vary based on their experience and location. They receive a median salary that is higher than that of other construction trade workers and other workers in general.

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,910
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $93,700
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $32,100

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.


Many plumbers belong to labor unions that negotiate wages on their behalf. Those that do must pay membership fees.

Education, Training, and Certification

Most plumbers receive their training by doing an apprenticeship, which combines classroom instruction with paid on-the-job training. Most states also require a license to work independently.

Apprenticeship: Apprenticeships are sponsored by trade unions and employers. They last from four to five years and include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. You will need a high school or equivalency diploma and must be at least 18 years old to be accepted into a program. In the classroom, you will learn about local codes and regulations, blueprint reading, and safety.

License: Plumbers are required to have a license to work in most states and municipalities in the U.S. In addition to needing two to five years of experience, depending on where the license is issued, you must also pass an exam.

Plumbers Skills & Competencies

To work in this occupation, you will need certain soft skills. These are strengths with which individuals are born or acquire through life experience. They will allow you to succeed as a plumber.

  • Listening Skills: The ability to pay attention to what customers say allows you to understand their problems.
  • Troubleshooting: After listening to a complaint, you will have to determine its cause and then figure out how to make the proper repairs.
  • Critical Thinking: When solving a problem, it is essential to weigh possible solutions before choosing the best one.
  • Verbal Communication: You must be able to clearly explain to customers the required work and related costs.
  • Physical Strength: Plumbers must be able to lift heavy equipment and tools.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for this field is excellent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment is expected to grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026. This is faster than the average for all occupations.

Employment of plumbers, as well as all who work in the construction trades, is dependent on the health of the economy. When there is a lot of construction taking place, jobs will be more plentiful.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017.

Work Environment

Plumbers usually travel to different work sites each day, performing their jobs in homes, office buildings, and factories. They work in tight spaces, typically indoors, but some may work outside, even in poor weather. Plumbers frequently sustain injuries, including burns, cuts, and falls.


Approximately 13% of workers are self-employed. Those who are can set their own schedules.

Work Schedule

Most plumbers have full-time jobs. Evenings and weekends are often part of their regular schedule, and overtime (more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours per week) is common. Plumbers, in order to respond to emergencies, must be on call regularly.

How to Get the Job

First, Decide If This Career Is a Good Fit

Are your interests, personality type, and work-related values compatible with working in this career field? Do a self-assessment to find out if you have the following traits:

  • Interests (Holland Code): RCI (Realistic, Conventional, Investigative)
  • MBTI Personality Types: ESTP, ISTP
  • Work-Related Values: Independence, Relationships, Working Conditions

Then, Find an Apprenticeship

Unions and businesses offer apprenticeships. Use Apprenticeship.gov from the Department of Labor to locate them. Upon completing an apprenticeship, you will be considered a journeyworker, allowing you to work on your own.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in working as a plumber may also consider other construction trades. Here is a list, along with their median salaries:

  • Carpenter: $46,590
  • Glazier: $43,550
  • Boilermaker: $62,150
  • Electrician: $55,190

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018