Master Plumber: Salary and Career Facts

As a master plumber, you will be qualified to install and repair all aspects of plumbing systems. You may also manage a team of plumbers and train individuals new to the trade. Explore the training and licensure process to becoming a master plumber. Review the typical salary for this career. Schools offering Plumbing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Master Plumber?

A master plumber is a highly trained professional plumber. They are qualified to install and repair pipes that carry liquids in residences and businesses. It is common for plumbers to be contacted when pipes are leaking or clogged. Master plumbers may also work on construction sites and be involved in developing blueprints. Their focus is determining where the pipes and fixtures will be placed. Factors they have to consider in this process include building codes and cost. They are responsible for ensuring building codes are met and that the project stays on budget. Master plumbers also supervise apprentices and less experienced plumbers, and may be responsible for teaching apprentice plumbers.

Training Required Apprenticeship, or completion of a certificate or associate's degree and three years of work under supervision of a licensed plumber
Key Skills Knowledge of building codes, ability to budget project costs, ability to read and develop blueprints for projects, understanding of plumbing systems and materials used
Key Responsibilities Supervising plumbers, developing building plans, ensuring project stays on budget and follows building codes, identifying source of plumbing problem, communicating with clients
Licensure or Certification License
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12%* (for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters)
Median Salary (2016) $58,090** (for master plumbers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **PayScale

What Education Do I Need to Work as a Master Plumber?

To become a master plumber, you will need to first complete an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships may be administered jointly by unions and affiliated companies or by non-union organizations. Apprenticeship programs generally last 4-5 years and combine classroom instruction with hands-on training under the supervision of a licensed plumber. Classes are typically held at night a couple of times per week.

Another option is to enroll in an associate's degree or certificate program in plumbing at a technical school or community college. After you graduate from one of these programs, you will work under the supervision of a licensed plumber for about three years before obtaining your plumber's license.

Most training programs cover topics in mathematics, physics, drafting, blueprints, safety regulations and local plumbing codes. You will need to have obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent to be eligible to enroll in an apprenticeship or degree program. In some cases, apprenticeship programs may also have a minimum age requirement and administer a test to assess your general aptitude.

What Do I Need in Addition to Education?

Master plumbers generally must be licensed in the state in which they work. Once you complete your apprenticeship or degree program, you will need to first obtain a license as a journeyman plumber and gain work experience. Work experience requirements vary considerably by state but typically range between 1-5 years.

Once you meet the minimum work requirement as a licensed journeyman plumber in your state, you are eligible to sit for your state's master plumber licensing exam. Exams test knowledge of local safety regulations, plumbing codes and general knowledge of the trade, including repair, maintenance and installation of plumbing systems.

What Skills Do I Need?

As a master plumber, you will need to be able to repair all parts of plumbing systems according to state codes and safety regulations. This includes waste disposal, water, drainage and gas systems. You must also be able to install new pipes, valves and plumbing fixtures. In addition to practical skills, you must understand and interpret blueprints and local codes described in manuals. Master plumbers also design plumbing systems while taking into consideration factors such as layout, grade and design function. Master plumbers often need good managerial skills to train and supervise a team of plumbers.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers, along with pipelayers, pipefitters and steamfitters, are among the highest paid occupations in the construction industry (www.bls.gov). The median annual wage of all plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was $50,620 as of May 2015. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for plumbers in October, 2016 was $58,098. The salaries of plumbers tend to vary by level of experience and responsibility. For example, the BLS states that apprentices typically earn about half the wage rates of experienced plumbers. Apprentices can increase their wages as they acquire new skills.

Many plumbers are paid by the hour and earn additional pay for working overtime hours. According to PayScale.com, the national hourly rate for master plumbers ranges between $19.13 and $38.82. Master plumbers may also receive bonuses, commission and benefits in addition to their base salaries.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Boilermakers, electricians, and heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers all have careers with similarities to master plumbers. They typically learn through on-the-job training, or complete an apprenticeship or certificate to prepare for their careers. Boilermakers install and repair boilers, which store hot liquids and gases. They may be used to heat homes. Electricians install and repair wiring and electrical systems. They may also work on construction sites and be involved in the development of blueprints regarding the location of electrical panels and wiring. Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers install and repair furnaces, air conditioning systems and refrigeration units. Like master plumbers they may have to assess a problem and perform repairs.

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