How much do plumbers make in your state? A plumber salary database, shared with ServiceTitan by Payfactors.com, has the answer.
Here is what the data show about the average plumber salary based on state and experience:
ENTRY (0-2 years)
INTERMEDIATE (2-4 years)
SENIOR (4-6 years)
Clearly, a career in the trades can be quite lucrative. The industry is expected to grow 14 percent, much faster than average, between 2018 and 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so the jobs will be there.
If only for financial reasons, any aversion to plumbing—and the trades in general—doesn’t make sense. But Ron Lutwiller, former COO at The Roby Companies in Charlotte, N.C., says it's about attitudes toward the trades — because those average salaries for plumbers are actually quite high.
"That tells you one thing — that no one young wants to be a plumber," Lutwiller says.
This problem isn't new.
Eddie McFarlane, Vice President of Learning and Development at Haller Enterprises, says there was a labor shortage 20 years ago, just like today. The biggest difference? Everybody knows it now, both plumbing business owners and potential employees.
“We need to understand that it’s not bad, it’s not good, it just is,” he says. “We can bemoan the fact that it’s tough, but what separates great organizations, is working on the problem.”
Payfactors.com database shows plumbers’ salary range
The database from Payfactors.com, which works with human resources and compensation specialists in an effort to modernize compensation and salary benchmarking through technology, was developed based on more than 2,000 commercially available, reputable compensation surveys.
Each survey complies with generally accepted principles and practices of WorldatWork and U.S. Department of Justice compensation survey standards, the database covers all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The data include figures for the 10th, 50th and 90th percentiles for various experience levels, providing a range for plumbing salaries that informs hiring managers and job seekers alike. The 90th percentile figure is the plumber salary at which 90 percent of similar employees make less, and 10 percent make more.
To maintain congruency, each survey's average plumber salary data is aged to June 1, 2020, using aging factors specific to the combination of the job's function, level, and geographic location. The figures include base salary only, so benefits, commissions, bonuses, spiffs and similar enhancements are not included.
The data are broken down for plumber salaries by state, region and for selected cities.
Among the findings from the plumbing salary data:
The 50th percentile salary for an entry-level plumber (0-2 years experience) nationwide is $46,400. For intermediate experience (2-4 years), it’s $57,700, and for senior plumbers (4-6 years), it’s $60,700.
The plumber salaries in the data fall in a wide range even in the same state, based on location and other factors. For entry-level technicians in Arkansas, for example, the 10th percentile is at $28,800, and the 90th percentile at $53,800.
The 50th percentile is higher than the national figure for entry-level plumbers in 10 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Alaska has the highest median salary for entry-level and senior plumbers, but Massachusetts has the highest-paid intermediate plumbers.
Entry-level plumbers have the highest median pay in two of the nation’s biggest cities, with San Francisco ($54,800, $26.35 per hour) and New York City ($53,200, $25.58) topping the list. Next up is Fairbanks, Alaska ($51,300, $24.66).
Cost of living is an important factor to consider. San Francisco has the highest salary for entry-level plumbers, $54,800 at the 50th percentile, but is last—with a bullet—when cost of living is factored in. Compared with San Francisco, the $45,400 entry-level plumber salary at the 50th percentile in Burlington, Vt., delivers twice the standard of living. Every city in the data offers at least a 25 percent cost-of-living bonus vs. San Francisco at the entry level.
Arkansas ($39,600) and West Virginia ($39,800) have the lowest median salary for entry-level plumbers; Alaska ($50,400) and California ($49,300) have the highest.
There are lots of regional variations in salary, too.
The median base pay for plumbers, regardless of experience level, is lower than the national average in every state in the South and Midwest.
In the Northeast, all but Vermont, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have median plumbing salaries above the national average.
The more rural Western states and Hawaii are below the national median; California, Washington and Alaska are above.
Plumbing salaries affected by need for qualified candidates
Like with all jobs, plumbing industry salaries are tied to supply and demand.
Plumbing business owners, like others in the skilled trades, struggle to find qualified employees in a highly competitive climate. They also worry about investing time and money in training, only to see those plumbing service techs leave to go off on their own or work for another company.
The scarcity means plumbing business owners always have to be on the lookout, but also wary. Good, qualified tradespeople can be difficult to find and expensive to replace, which means competitive pay is important.
“We made a commitment to never stop recruiting,” Chad Peterman, president of Indianapolis-based Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, says. “We’re always interviewing people. We always have our proverbial pole in the water when it comes to finding great talent.”
Asking interview questions about a candidate's motivation for leaving the last job can identify those who could leave for a dollar more, even if the culture and atmosphere at your company is superior. Being happy at work is important, too.
If there’s a labor shortage at your company, it’s a company problem, Peterman says.
”There are plenty of great people out there,” he says. “There are plenty of people in the trades to staff your company that live in your city. It’s just that you haven't created a place that they want to come and work.”
Know your worth, but don’t overestimate it
Sometimes, inexperienced technicians can overestimate their worth without having the knowledge or sales experience to back it up. Certifications are nice, but employers can and should expect candidates to be able to do what they say they can do.
And there is a need to work your way up in the trades, as there is in most jobs. Expect your salary to be commensurate with the revenue you produce.
Being a good team player can lead to more revenue overall
By working together and doing the best possible job, everyone can earn more.
The #1 newsletter for the trades.
Make sure you know what you claim you know, hiring managers say, and find a company that will build on that knowledge.
Some companies have training academies and on-site skills tests for job candidates, where qualified applicants shine. That kind of test keeps trade companies from “settling” for employees, which is counterproductive. A two-hour, in-house skills assessment in the warehouse can be a great safeguard against unqualified employees, and a great chance for candidates to show their value.
The process can also keep a company from hiring someone else’s problem. If an experienced job candidate walks in your door, it might not be what you think.
Companies should ask the right questions and require the right skills and demeanor to keep from hiring someone else's problem, at any price.
Plumbers with an aptitude for sales can earn more
Troubleshooting a problem and performing repairs or being part of an install crew requires technical skill but not sales ability. Recognizing, and capitalizing on, opportunity increases revenue for companies and earning potential for technicians.
Service technicians with an attitude that’s a little outgoing and a little persuasive, but not necessarily someone who’s just really friendly and personable, can succeed as selling techs, produce more revenue and earn more money. But they can't be the type who spend all their time talking to customers without selling anything.
It is, however, easier to train on the technical aspects than to instill sales ability.
Plumbing salaries: Frequently asked questions
How much does a plumber make?
The median plumber salary for a senior plumber in the United States is $29.18, or $60,700 per year.
An entry-level plumber, in the 50th percentile nationally, makes an average of $46,400, or $22.31 per hour.
In the 10th percentile (where 90 percent of plumbers make more, and 10 percent less), a senior plumber nationally makes $23.13, or $48,100. In the 90th percentile, the numbers are $35.91 and $74,700.
How much does a master plumber make?
More experience and better credentials draw higher salaries. Nationally, a senior-level master plumber salary, at the median, is $60,700, the data shows.
The range of master plumber salaries can be wide. In Alaska, a senior plumber in the 10th percentile earns $52,300, while one in the 90th percentile makes $81,200. In Arkansas, that range is $41,100 to $63,700.
A senior plumber in New York City makes, at the 50th percentile, $69,600. In Atlanta, a plumber in the same situation makes $60,800.
Do plumbers get paid well?
Plumbers have high earning potential for those who don’t want to go to college. Requiring only a high school diploma or the equivalent, the median salary for an entry-level plumber is $46,400, and for senior level plumbers the median figure rises to $60,700.
Whether a plumber makes good money depends on more than just the raw dollar figure.
If loans are necessary to attend college, that debt must be taken into consideration. Plumbers often attend trade school and avoid most if not all that debt.
Cost of living is another factor. Larger, urban areas generally have higher salaries, but the dollars don’t go as far in those locations.
What cities have the highest plumbing salaries?
In the payfactors.com data, the top five cities in the survey for entry-level plumber salaries are San Francisco, New York City, Fairbanks, Alaska, Danbury, Conn., and Trenton, N.J.
Bigger cities tend to have higher salaries for plumbers. San Francisco has the highest entry-level plumber salary at $54,800, or $26.35 per hour. But it also has the highest cost of living of any city in the data.
When adjusted for cost of living, the highest plumber salary among the cities in the data is in Cleveland, Ohio, where the 50th percentile entry-level salary of $45,000 would be equivalent to more than $177,000 in San Francisco.
The average salary for an entry-level plumber in New York City is $53,200.
How do plumber salaries compare with those in other trades?
Plumber vs. electrician salary: Nationally, the 50th percentile salary for an entry-level plumber ($46,400) is lower than the 50th percentile salary for an electrician ($47,900).
Plumber vs HVAC technician salary: Nationally, entry level plumbers make less than entry-level HVAC technicians ($47,100), at the median.
The margin is small—generally less than a dollar an hour—but the 50th percentile for entry-level plumber salaries is lower than those for both electricians and HVAC technicians in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Salaries for all three trades increase most rapidly—generally by about 25 percent, although there are outliers—by the time the technician reaches the intermediate level (2-4 years). Plumber salary increases slow afterward, the data shows.
Plumbing salaries: Other factors to consider
Cost of living is also a factor not addressed in the database. For example, the median base pay for an entry-level plumber in Charleston, W.Va., is $42,900. According to the cost of living calculator at bestplaces.net, to have the same standard of living in Danbury, Conn., you’d need to make $62,500—where the median pay for an entry-level plumber is $51,300.
Licensing requirements vary slightly by state. Some states require lengthy apprentice periods. In Wisconsin, for instance, the requirement is five years. Apprentices could make less than licensed, entry-level plumbers. North Carolina requires 4,000 hours of experience, including 2,000 hours of hands-on experience, before taking the licensing exam.
Plumbing unions and more: Other factors could be in play as well, such experience level, skillset, whether the plumber is covered by a union, and more.
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