Plumbers are classified as Realistic careers, according to the Strong Interest Inventory®. This inventory has been used and improved since 1927, and has helped numerous people find the career that is right for them as they better understand their personal preferences and interests. Realistic careers center on constructing, building and being physical. Individuals who enjoy working with machines or tools score highly in the Realistic category, as do individuals who enjoy solving concrete problems using information in the real world. Individuals with a proclivity for Realistic careers also enjoy working alone rather than in large groups.
Plumbers assemble, install, and repair heating, water, and drainage systems. They work on sections of pipe or tubing, install them in walls or underneath the ground and monitor them closely to maintain their optimal functioning. Plumbers are sometimes involved in the design of buildings or blueprints to ensure that all plans adhere to specific local, state, and federal codes. During construction, they measure, cut, and bend pipes as necessary, and install them. When renovations are made, they may alter or extend piping to create new structures. If a fixture is malfunctioning in an existing structure, Plumbers identify and locate the issue by observing pressure gauges or filling fixtures with fluid to locate leaks. Once they have the issue under control, they repair the plumbing fixtures, by stopping the flow of water, replacing or mending broken sections or fittings, and starting the flow again to confirm that the issue is resolved.
In order to complete their highly-demanding jobs, Plumbers rely on a wide range of hardware tools, including pliers, wrenches, hammers, blow torches, calipers, deburring tools, pumps and fluid regulators, forklifts, saws, gasket cutters, levels, drills, saws, pullers, ratchets, tape measures, and shears. They use soldering equipment, welding machines, tapping machines, thermographs, and trenching machines. For more high-tech tasks, Plumbers rely on desktop and laptop computers, two-way radios, and digital fluid regulators. They use many different kinds of software as-well, including accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks), scientific software, Computer Aided Design (CAD) software (e.g., Plumbing CAD, Elite Software Sprinkler CAD, etc.), database software, project management software (e.g., FastEST FastPipe), and word processing software (e.g., Atlas Construction Business Forms, Contractor City).
Plumbers have technical and practical knowledge of machines and tools involved with building and construction as well as design and engineering principles. They often have customer contact and work in teams. The ability to write and communicate in English and work well with others is important. Because much of a Plumber’s job is problem solving and troubleshooting, they must think critically about issues and make timely, informed decisions that can solve complex problems. They should have the ability to repair machines or systems, and monitor the operations of said equipment or systems. Finally, because they need to ensure that plumbing adheres to legal codes, they should have strong reading comprehension and communication skills. Most Plumbers learn “on the job” and, while they may have a vocational certificate, they rarely need to earn a college degree.
From a more physical perspective, Plumbers benefit from strong near vision as well as high dexterity in their fingers and hands, flexibility and multi limb coordination. They must react quickly to multisensory information, and adjust their behavior precisely and in a controlled manner. In addition to such fine perceptions and movements, they often use their body weight and force to lift, push, pull, and otherwise manipulate heavy loads. Being in good physical shape is extremely important.
The employment rates of Plumbers are skyrocketing in many states. Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada are all expected to increase their employment of Plumbers by over 40% before 2024. Employment is projected to decrease in just four states before 2024, all of which also have falling populations (Maine, Wyoming, West Virginia, and North Dakota). Plumbers salaries are also increasing nation-wide. In California, the best-paid Plumbers earn nearly $100,000 annually, while in New York Plumbers can earn over $120,000. Even the lowest-paid Plumbers in these states earn over $35,000 as an annual salary.
Below are some employment trends for Plumbers:
- Median Plumber Salary: $24.36/hour; $50,660 annually
- Employment: 425,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): Faster than average (9% to 13%)
- Projected job openings (2014-2022): 105,200
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Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org