Fully licensed plumbers can expect to enjoy a yearly salary of around $56,000 per year1. Plumbing can offer potential job seekers a reliable career without the need for expensive college classes. While expected to grow just a little more slowly than the average job sector, it’s a common trade school choice and offers job stability.
Plumbers can also go into more niche areas to earn higher salaries in fields that require specialized knowledge, problem-solving skills, and even customer service know-how. This guide offers an overview of some of the highest paying plumbing jobs available, what to expect from each, and how to achieve the required certification.
Highest Paying Plumbing Jobs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes a wide range of salaries for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, with some positions earning nearly six figures depending on experience and area. For example:
- Manufacturing plumber average annual salary: $58,580
- Government plumbers annual salary: $58,260
- Plumbers in heavy and civil engineering construction average annual salary: $56,840
- Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors average annual salary: $55,620
Plumbers are responsible for the repair and installation of pipes and appliances that require a water flow. They are also problem-solvers for when issues arise in a home. A great plumber can also offer advice for homeowners who need to make critical decisions about their plumbing.
Commercial Plumber Average Annual Salary: $80,000
Commercial plumbers can expect an average base salary of $80,000 per year, with some on the higher end earning over $100,000 per year, according to PayScale2. Commercial plumbers are responsible for the installation and maintenance of larger-scale water and waste systems, typically in buildings or city structures. They may also be involved in water systems for large apartment complexes.
Commercial plumbers go through similar apprenticeships and journeyman paths as residential plumbers but focus on large system design.
Pipefitters Average Annual Salary: $62,386
Pipefitters can expect an average annual salary of just over $62,000, with some earning as high as $107,000 per year, according to PayScale3. Higher salaries also come with more experience or riskier maintenance positions. As populations get bigger, the energy demand should keep these positions in demand.
Pipefitters work in a more specialized area. Power and industrial plants require water systems for safety and operations. Pipefitters plan, maintain, and repair these systems. They also monitor power generation systems.
Steamfitters Average Annual Salary: $83,988
Steamfitters earn an average annual salary of $83,9884 per year. Steamfitters also work in the power and industrial sector. This specialized position trains and apprentices to gain the skills necessary to build containers for high-pressure gas materials. Those with experience can transition into steamfitting with a salary bump.
Project Managers Average Annual Salary: $78,000
Project managers make around $78,000 per year, according to PayScale5. Project management skills can transfer to other industries and disciplines as well, offering professionals multiple opportunities across various job sectors.
The construction and civil engineering industries require planners who can manage projects and understand what goes into plumbing projects. The position may require a project management certification or relevant career experience.
Sprinkler Fitters Average Annual Salary: $51,512
The average annual salary for a sprinkler fitter is around $51,5126, with professionals on the higher end of the scale earning over $100,000 per year.
Sprinkler fitters install automatic sprinkler systems designed to keep buildings safe from fire. These positions require not just installation skills but knowledge of the rules and regulations that help buildings remain compliant.
Plumbing Construction Average Annual Salary: $63,489
Construction plumbers make $63,489 per year on average7, but professionals can add to that salary with other specializations and skills, such as project management.
Construction plumbers can refurbish old systems that pose a risk or design brand-new systems that can manage modern water needs. They can work with construction managers, civil engineers, and others involved in the construction process to ensure the building is safe and environmentally friendly.
Gas Service Technicians Average Annual Salary: $39,360
Most gas service technicians receive an average hourly wage of $20.50 per hour, and a total pay between $37,000 and $62,000 per year, depending on location, years of experience, and other pay factors, like skills and education8.
Although most people think of water when they think of plumbing, plumbers also deal with other types of liquids. Gas service technicians keep these pipe systems at gas stations running and safe. Until there’s a switch to 100% electric vehicles, demand for this position will remain steady.
Popular Career Paths with a Plumbing Degree
Students can build a career in a variety of industries with plumbing skills. Here are some common options for plumbers looking to break into the field.
Independent Plumbing Small Business Owner
Many plumbers operate their own businesses as residential or commercial plumbers. They can have employees or operate alone and build a client base in their city. This option requires some business sense to help start the business and keep it operating.
Commercial and construction plumbers, sprinkler fitters, and project managers in plumbing are in demand in the construction industry. New buildings must adhere to environmental codes, and old buildings need retrofitting to replace risky old systems. Plumbing work remains a key component of both commercial and residential construction projects.
Energy and Power Plumber
Certain types of plumbers can work in industrial power plants to ensure the heating and cooling systems are operational. These connected systems are required for the safe operation of the plant, and plumbers are instrumental in maintaining this optimal performance.
Plumbing Technology and Research
As all of our systems get smarter, research and design departments can use the expertise of plumbers to build IoT components and other connected systems, which could monitor residential and commercial plumbing components. Plumbers can fill in gaps in the understanding of these plumbing systems to help these technology teams develop products that work.
Plumbers in Manufacturing
Some manufacturing firms also need to retain plumbers to manage their buildings and facilities. If the plant uses water in the manufacturing process, plumbers need a specialized understanding of those systems to ensure they are compliant and operational. Plumbers working in manufacturing may also need to work odd hours if there are emergencies. Manufacturing downtime is expensive, and issues need to be fixed quickly.
Average Salary for Plumbing Degree Graduates
In general, plumbers earn a good average salary depending on their specialization and their location. The BLS puts a plumber’s yearly salary at just over $56,000 per year and expects that to remain steady.
The job outlook for plumbers is expected to grow about 5%1 on average between 2020 and 2030. Although this is slightly slower than the average growth of all occupations, the BLS still predicts around 51,000 new plumbing jobs for that period. Some of this growth relates directly to COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Steamfitters, in particular, should expect job growth as states adopt new building codes and pursue compliance.
How to Find a Job After You Graduate
Plumbing requires vocational training and then an apprenticeship to gain certification. The apprenticeship often allows plumbers to network and build a customer base as they work with a senior-level plumber.
Plumbers can also continue to train by taking classes and learning new skills for more specific parts of the job. As they earn these new certifications, it becomes easier to gain employment. Plumbers can also start their own businesses right out of school, bypassing the need to seek outside employment. For these professionals, acquiring additional skills for client prospecting, marketing, and running a small business could help.
Plumbers can also look into construction fields or earn other certificates such as project management to bolster resumes and catch an employer’s eye. Those going into fields such as steamfitting can also look for positions in larger cities to help them keep up with new building codes.
Discover More About a Career With a Plumbing Degree
Q. Is it worth it to get a plumbing degree?
Plumbers need a high school diploma to apply for vocational training in the plumbing field. It’s a lower-cost education than many four-year schools offer and can lead to some high-paying career options.
Q. How long does it take to earn a plumbing degree?
Most vocational training programs take about two years to complete. Students interested in acquiring more specialized skills may need to tack on some additional time for coursework and apprenticeship.
Q. What is a plumbing apprenticeship?
Post-graduation, students often work with a senior plumber to gain real skills in the field. Most apprenticeships take between two to five years to complete before students can pursue the final certification to become a licensed plumber.
Q. What happens during the plumbing apprenticeship?
Apprentice plumbers work with seasoned professionals at real jobs. Through an apprenticeship, they can learn and apply the skills necessary for repair, maintenance, and installations, as well as take part in problem-solving and learning the business side of the plumbing industry.
Q. Do I need to be licensed after my plumbing degree?
Potential plumbers should check state and local regulations to find out what kind of license they need. Specifics will depend on where the students plan to work as a plumber. For example, in the state of Massachusetts, to become a licensed journeyman plumber requires 8,500 hours working as a licensed apprentice plumber, the completion of 550 hours of plumbing theory, and the passing of an exam. These professionals can then complete additional requirements to become a licensed master plumber in the state.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters: Occupational Outlook Handbook. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/plumbers-pipefitters-and-steamfitters.htm
 PayScale. (2021). Average Plumber with Commercial Skills Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Plumber/Hourly_Rate/4a0546c4/Commercial
 PayScale. (2021). Average Pipefitter Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Pipefitter/Hourly_Rate
 PayScale. (2021). Average Steamfitter Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Steamfitter/Hourly_Rate
 PayScale. (2021). Salary for Skill: Project Management. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Skill=Project_Management/Salary
 PayScale. (2021). Average Sprinkler Fitter Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Sprinkler_Fitter/Hourly_Rate
 PayScale. (2021). Average Construction Plumber Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Construction_Plumber/Hourly_Rate
 PayScale. (2021). Average Gas Service Technician Hourly Pay. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Gas_Service_Technician/Hourly_Rate