Home Plumbing How Much Does a Plumber Make?

How Much Does a Plumber Make?

by Michael Blount

Plumbing is a specialized trade that requires training and licensing to perform professionally. Plumbers usually charge for their work by the hour, and the national average cost is about $100 per hour plus a service fee or minimum charge7. However, the amount a plumber makes can vary depending on several factors.


Becoming a plumber takes 3-5 years because you have to complete an apprenticeship1. Some aspiring plumbers also go to a technical college or school to learn more about the theoretical aspects of their job, but this might not be necessary, depending on the requirements in your area1.

Once you have your basic degree, you can start working independently, but it’s unlikely that you will earn the highest salary possible unless you complete additional certifications1.

Types of Plumbing Certifications

There are several different certifications plumbers can obtain to increase their skills and demonstrate their expertise to potential clients and employers1. Some of the most common plumbing certifications include:

  • Master Plumber License: This license allows plumbers to work independently and run their own business. Requirements vary by state, but generally include several years of experience and passing an exam.
  • Journeyman Plumber License: This certification is given to plumbers who have completed an apprenticeship program. Journeyman plumbers can work on jobs independently but cannot supervise others or run their own business.
  • Backflow Prevention Assembly Tester Certification: Certifies that plumbers can test backflow prevention devices, which protect water supplies from contamination.
  • Medical Gas Systems Installer Certification: Allows plumbers to install medical gas and vacuum systems in healthcare facilities.
  • Green Plumber Certification: Shows expertise in water efficiency, renewable energy systems, and other sustainable plumbing practices.
  • CPD – Certified in Plumbing Design: Demonstrates advanced design skills for complex plumbing systems.
  • CIPP – Certified in Plumbing Product: Shows in-depth product knowledge for specifying and installing plumbing fixtures and appliances.

The more certifications a plumber has, the more valuable their skills are and the higher salary they can command. Many plumbers get certified in specialized areas that interest them or where they see a market demand.


Generally, plumbers living in large metropolitan areas such as New York and Los Angeles can expect to earn more than those living in rural areas1. The average hourly wage is $28-29, but you can earn more in places like San Diego, CA, Houston, TX, or Phoenix, AZ1.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your quality of life will be better in a city because the cost of living is also higher1. Here are some examples of how plumber salaries can vary by location:

  • New York, NY – $63,070 annual mean salary2
  • Los Angeles, CA – $59,410 annual mean salary3
  • Chicago, IL – $60,960 annual mean salary2
  • Phoenix, AZ – $53,550 annual mean salary4
  • Houston, TX – $52,940 annual mean salary5
  • Rural Kansas – $41,950 annual mean salary6

As you can see, plumbers in major metropolitan areas like LA and New York City make over $10,000 more per year than plumbers in rural Kansas, on average. The higher wages in bigger cities reflect the higher demand and cost of living.

It’s important to balance salary with cost of living when choosing a job location as a plumber. Use a cost of living comparison tool to see how wage and living expenses compare across different cities and regions you’re considering.


General plumbers tend to have a lower wage than people who have specialized in one specific field of plumbing1. After you’ve worked for a few years, consider whether continuing your education could be a good step1. By that time, you’ll know which areas of plumbing you find particularly interesting and what skills you’re very good at.

Types of Plumbing Specializations

Some common plumbing specializations to consider include:

  • Service plumbing: Focusing on repairs, maintenance, and emergency calls for residential and commercial customers.
  • Remodeling: Plumbing installation and upgrades for remodeling and renovation projects.
  • New construction: Working with builders and contractors to rough-in and finish plumbing systems in new buildings.
  • Drain cleaning: Clearing clogs, hydro-jetting, camera inspection, trenchless sewer line repairs.
  • Water heaters: Installation, maintenance, and repair for water heating systems.
  • Backflow prevention: Testing, repairing, and installing backflow devices.
  • Medical gas: Installing specialized medical gas and vacuum systems in hospitals and clinics.
  • Green plumbing: Focus on water efficiency, renewable energy systems, sustainable practices.

Specializing allows you to command higher pay, since you offer more specialized, in-demand skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paid plumbing specialties are:

  • Pipefitters – $62,150 median annual salary7
  • Sprinklerfitters – $61,130 median annual salary8
  • Steamfitters – $68,740 median annual salary9

Employment Situation

The plumbers with the lowest wages and the worst benefits are often those working in small businesses, since these companies don’t always have the resources to pay top dollar1. Big plumbing firms are economies of scale, so they can offer higher wages and excellent benefits1.

Keep in mind that this is only a general guideline, and it might not apply to your area1. Here is a comparison of average plumber salaries by employment situation:

  • Self-employed plumbers – $45,550 annual mean salary10
  • Plumbers at small companies (<50 employees) – $43,270 annual mean salary11
  • Plumbers at large companies (>1000 employees) – $59,600 annual mean salary12
  • Union plumbers – $65,250 annual mean salary13
  • Government plumbers – $60,890 annual mean salary14

As you can see, union and government plumbers tend to have the highest average salaries, followed by those working for large companies. Self-employed and small business plumbers have the lowest earnings on average.

Working for a well-funded union shop or large plumbing corporation can provide higher pay, benefits, and advancement opportunities. However, some plumbers prefer the freedom and flexibility of working for themselves or a small local company. Evaluate all your options to find the best employment situation for your needs and goals.

Customer Service Skills

No matter if you’re employed or self-employed, you won’t be able to achieve a high salary unless you serve your customers well1. Every time you visit someone at their home or business, provide them with the best service possible.

To make an excellent impression, arrive on time, clean up your workspace after you’re done, work quickly and efficiently, and tell customers about the cost of your service upfront1. Here are some other customer service tips that can help plumbers earn more:

  • Clearly explain what you’re doing and why it needs to be done. Customers appreciate understanding the situation.
  • Be friendly and personable. Chat with customers and build rapport.
  • Take safety precautions to protect their property from damage.
  • Offer maintenance tips to prevent future plumbing problems.
  • Follow up after the job to ensure they’re satisfied.
  • Ask for reviews and referrals from happy customers.

Providing 5-star customer service gets you more word of mouth referrals, repeat business, and positive reviews online. This helps build your reputation so you can increase your wages over time. Focus on customer care as much as plumbing skills.

Level of Experience

Plumbers who have several years of experience are more likely to earn a high wage than those just starting out1. Professionals with more than 10 years of experience can expect around $11 per hour more than those who have recently started1.

Here are the average hourly wages for plumbers based on years of experience:

  • Less than 1 year: $16/hour15
  • 1-4 years: $22/hour
  • 5-9 years: $28/hour
  • 10-19 years: $34/hour
  • 20+ years: $44/hour

As you gain more on-the-job experience, your skills become more valuable. You also build up networks and gain certifications over time. All of this leads to higher earning ability.

However, experience isn’t everything. You also need to continually expand your plumbing knowledge and expertise throughout your career. Consider ongoing training courses each year to stay up-to-date on the latest codes, tools, and best practices.


The faster you can complete your tasks, the more money you can earn1. While some people naturally work more quickly than others, there is a lot you can do to improve your efficiency1.

  • Use tools that improve productivity like digital forms and invoicing.
  • Have a well-equipped truck and organized parts inventory.
  • Plan optimal driving routes to reduce transit time between jobs.
  • Cross-train assistants to help with basic tasks.
  • Limit meetings and office time to maximize billable hours.
  • Learn shortcuts and techniques to speed up common repairs.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand to avoid wasting time.

There are also apps available to help plumbers boost efficiency. HomeTown Expert offers route optimization, scheduling, invoicing, and more. ServiceTitan provides CRM features to streamline operations. Using technology can help plumbers finish more jobs per day and earn higher pay.

Tracking your productivity over time is also key. Set weekly goals for billable hours or jobs completed and continually try to improve. The more efficient you are, the higher your plumber salary will climb.

Plumber Salary Overview

To summarize the average pay for plumbers:

  • The median plumber salary is $59,8805.
  • The salary of a plumber varies with experience, and typically ranges from $36,700 to $59,8805.
  • Plumbers made a median salary of $60,090 in 20224.
  • The best-paid 25% made $78,960 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $44,5004.
  • The top 10% of plumbers earned more than $98,800 annually4.

So while the median salary is around $60,000, top earners make over $90,000 per year. Location, specialty, experience level, and excellent customer service all contribute to a plumber’s earning potential.

Tips to Increase Your Plumber Salary

Here are some final tips to help boost your plumber salary over the course of your career:

  • Consider specializing in a high-paying field like pipefitting, sprinkler system installation, or steamfitting.
  • Gain additional certifications related to your specialty to stand out.
  • Work for a highly reputable, busy company or union if possible.
  • Provide exceptional customer service to get more referrals and repeat business.
  • Continuously improve your efficiency with new tools, training, and planning.
  • Move to a major metro area where demand and wages for plumbers are higher.
  • Join professional organizations to network and stay on top of the latest industry trends.
  • Negotiate higher pay every few years based on your growing experience and skills.

With hard work and dedication, it’s possible for many plumbers to earn a six-figure income after working for 10+ years and specializing in a high-paying niche. Carefully consider which career moves will help you maximize your salary potential.


Q1: How much does the average plumber make per year?

The median annual salary for plumbers in the United States is around $59,880. The top 10% earn more than $98,800 per year.

Q2: How much does a plumber make per hour?

Plumbers typically earn between $16 – $44 per hour depending on their level of experience, specialization, and location. The national average is around $28 per hour.

Q3: What skills or certifications increase a plumber’s salary?

Specializing in a field like pipefitting or medical gas installation leads to higher pay. Additional certifications like a master plumber license, backflow prevention certification, and green plumber certification also increase salary potential.

Q4. Do plumbers make more in certain cities?

Yes, plumbers in major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles earn the highest salaries. However, cost of living is higher in these cities. Rural plumbers tend to have lower wages.

Q5: Do plumbers earn more if they work for a large company?

Plumbers working for large companies, government agencies, or union shops typically have the highest earnings and best benefits. Self-employed plumbers tend to earn less.

Q6: How much more do experienced plumbers make versus new plumbers?

Plumbers with 10+ years of experience can earn around $11/hour more than those just starting out in the field. The average jumps from $16/hour for beginners to $44/hour for veterans.

Q7: How can plumbers increase their salary over time?

Specializing in a niche field, gaining certifications, moving to higher-paying areas, providing excellent customer service, and boosting efficiency are key ways plumbers can earn more each year.

Q8: What are the highest paying plumbing specialties?

The most lucrative plumbing specialties are pipefitting ($62K average salary), sprinkler system installation ($61K), and steamfitting ($69K).

Q9: Can plumbers earn six figures per year?

Yes, it’s possible for the most experienced plumbers who specialize in high-paying niches to earn six figures after working 10+ years in the field. The top 10% of plumbers make over $98,800.

Q10: Should I become a plumber if I want to earn a high salary?

Plumbing can be a lucrative career if you work for a top firm, specialize in an in-demand field, gain ample experience, and provide great service. The earning potential is higher than many trades.

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