Why do plumbers earn so much money? (ANSWERED!)

Plumbers are not the most glamorous of professions, but they are willing to work hard, evenings and weekends – which is why they earn so much money. On average, the cost to hire a plumber is between $45 to $200 per hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers reported an annual mean wage of $52,070 as of May 2016. This makes them one of the highest-paid blue-collar jobs. This article explains exactly why plumbers earn so much money, what a plumber does and how you can become a plumber.

High demand for plumbing services

The need for plumbing services has stayed consistent over the years. In fact, the need for plumbers may even be increasing, as many houses are getting older and are in need of plumbing repairs, or even complete system replacements. While the need for electricians and general contractors may ebb and flow with the housing market, the need for reliable plumbing services is consistent as repairs need to be done to keep a house in working order.

Meanwhile, water and sewage systems have become much more advanced increasing the need for more training. This requires a lot of work as the plumbers have to follow these trends and study the new systems.

Harsh working conditions

Plumbers are not just some of the highest-paid blue-collar workers. They are also more likely to be killed on the job than the average worker. This is because they often have to work in cramped spaces, beneath floors and in crawlspaces, where it is difficult to see what is happening. Working in confined spaces with dangerous gases and fumes can be part of the job. This is especially true if the worker is careless or in a hurry. 

In an effort to avoid these hazards, many plumbing companies have transitioned to using systems that help the plumbers when they fall. Plumbers often have to follow training so that they can recognize dangerous situations and deal with them. 

Required certification and training

Many plumbers start their careers by earning an apprenticeship. During this two-year program, they learn the ropes from a journeyman plumber, while earning a small wage. After completing the apprenticeship, they can become journeymen themselves, which allows them to take on higher-paying plumbing jobs. 

However, most states require plumbers to be licensed (with the exception of a few apprentices on their way to getting their license). Licensing ensures that plumbers have the proper training and competency to safely do their job. Applying for your state’s plumbing license can be a long and tedious process, but it is a necessary part of the job. All of this limits the number of plumbers on the market.

Licensing can act as an extra safeguard against shady contractors. Consumers should be wary of unlicensed plumbers and avoid them whenever possible. Plumbers who have been properly trained and are licensed by their state are more likely to use safe working practices. This can help avoid injuries. Appropriate safety gear is also important to avoid accidents. This includes goggles and respirators, especially when working with chemicals.

A lot of overhead costs

The biggest reason plumbers earn so much money is because they have a lot of overhead costs. To get the job done, plumbers need a number of tools and materials, and this can add up quickly. Many plumbers have large trucks with hydraulic lifts to reach high locations and power tools like grinders and drills. 

They also need to wear special protective gear to keep them safe. Finally, many plumbers need to rent a workspace, or buy their own garage or shop to store their tools. All of these expenses add up and make it harder for them to turn a profit.

Is your plumber overcharging?

If your plumber is charging way above the average, they are probably not licensed. Plumbers are one of the few professions where unlicensed workers are common. They have a reputation for being “cowboys” who work quickly and carelessly. Many unlicensed plumbers will charge really high rates, but do a poor job. They may even be using outdated methods that could be dangerous. If you run into a licensed plumber who charges significantly less than his or her peers, you may have found a diamond in the rough. You should ensure they are licensed and have a good reputation before hiring them, though.

The following rates can give you a general idea:

  • Drain cleaning usually costs between $100 and $300
  • Appliance installation costs between $75 and $100 if the wiring and plumbing are done or between $200 and $600 if the wiring needs to be installed
  • Leaks start at the rate of $200 and can go up depending on the severity of the leak


If you have a plumbing emergency, you will likely have to pay a premium for a plumber to come out and fix your problem. Luckily, plumbers are well-paid for their services, even at peak times like the holidays. If you can plan ahead for a plumbing problem, you may be able to find a plumber who will offer a lower rate. Shop around, and you may be able to find a great deal.