Most people think plumbing is a non-skilled profession or dirty work. Sure, you may have to deal with clogged toilets, but there’s way more to this profession than toilets and sinks. The plumbing industry is very important because, without it, modern life wouldn’t exist. More and more buildings are being put up, and problems with drainage, sewer system, and pipes appear too frequently. As such, plumbers are required to install plumbing systems in new buildings, as well as repair and maintain these systems regularly.
So, what are the pros and cons of being a Plumber? The perception of the plumbing industry, and all other trades for that matter, is changing dramatically. More and more people are looking at them as promising careers they can earn a living from. With the current shortage of plumbers and many rewards to this trade, there has never been a better time to join this industry.
To become a plumber, you need to possess various skills and competences, including problem-solving skills, safety skills, people skills, good physical skills, and of course, complete technical plumbing courses. With the wide selection of careers to choose from, it’s understandable that you may be confused or afraid of pursuing a career in the plumbing industry due to societal misconceptions. Well, the following sections of the good and the bad can help you make the right decision for your future:
10 Pros of Being a Plumber:
- Opportunity to become your own boss
As a licensed plumber, you can choose to work for someone or start your own business. Being self-employed comes with a certain degree of freedom as it allows you to schedule your appointments and working hours, as well as work with any type of client. This gives you extra time to travel, spend with your loved ones, and rest. However, starting and running your own business is not a walk in the park. But with some extra effort and the right drive, the rewards are worth it.
2. Less/no student loan debt
Training to become a plumber doesn’t cost much. You can do it at a community college or a vocational school, not to mention, there are several apprenticeship programs where you can train and make some cash at the same time. While your college friends are accumulating thousands of dollars worth of student loan debts, just to get a degree that might not land a well-paying job (that’s if they get one in the first place), you’re learning useful skills in a secure occupation while you earn.
3. Job variety
Training in this industry will prepare you to become an apprentice, a plumbing technician, or a licensed plumber. At this stage, you’ll possess the right knowledge and skills to install, repair, and maintain various types of plumbing systems. You can then decide to take a more specialized route, which pays better, to become a pipefitter, steamfitter, pipelayer, gas service technician, project manager, or a distribution manager. Also, plumbers work in all kinds of industries. Basically, where there are water and people, there’s a need for a plumber.
4. Advancement opportunities
As mentioned earlier, there are many specialties in the field of plumbing. Plus, technology in this industry is constantly developing, thereby providing more opportunities to advance your skills. Taking advantage of all these learning opportunities will allow you to become certified in advanced technologies and reach the master levels. This will land you more opportunities and higher-paying jobs than several other professions. The possibility of growth and expansion as a self-employed plumber is also massive.
5. Physical and mental wellness
Who needs a gym when you move heavy pipes around every day? You’ll also need upper-body strength to run the equipment. The physical requirements of this job could help to keep your body active and healthy. Also, working as a plumber means solving puzzles with every job. You’ll have to analyze the situation, troubleshoot the problem, and find the most efficient way of solving it. This allows for mental stimulation.
6. Exceptional pay
Having skills that many don’t possess will guarantee high pay. Plumbers earn a comfortable living –whether as an independent contractor or working for a plumbing company. The average salary of a qualified plumber is $50,000 a year. Plumbers with specialties or those living in areas with a higher cost of living can command even more. Plumbers in a union can also expect great benefits such as health insurance, retirement benefits, life insurance, and more.
7. High demand
The job outlook is a key factor to consider when choosing a profession to pursue. The good news is the demand for plumbers is set to increase by 12% in the next decade. This is due to the increasing level of construction activity. Also, there is a massive demand for repair, renovation, and maintenance work to upgrade old plumbing or install more energy-efficient systems. Reliable plumbers can quickly come up with a steady stream of work.
8. Job security
Plumbing will not be outdated by technology –at least not any time soon. It requires manual skills that robots and computers can’t do. Even a down economy will have less effect on this industry. As long as there are drains, pipes, and toilets, the world will always need plumbers. It’s also a field that homeowners don’t want to go DIY on because there’s too much that can go wrong, which could be costly or even fatal. All this makes for excellent job security.
9. Pride in what you do
Plumbers may not hold people’s lives in their hands, literally as doctors do, but they do save lives. Without proper plumbing systems to bring clean water for human use and remove wastewater of various types, we would be at risk of acquiring potentially fatal diseases. Plumbers also do important maintenance work and fix problems that would otherwise cause harm or a fortune to repair/replace/rebuild. As a plumber, knowing that you have protected human health and saved your client a fortune gives you a feeling of satisfaction.
10. No boring routines
Plumbing involves a lot of troubleshooting, problem-solving, and presents a healthy dose of daily challenges. There’s always something new to be learned. Being a plumber also means never having to stay in one place for too long. A prominent plumber will have clients from different parts of the country, meaning they need to travel a lot for work.
10 Cons of Being a Plumber:
- Long, irregular hours
Plumbers usually work an 8-hour shift; however, some plumbing issues have been building up for who knows how many years and often take longer than expected to resolve. Plumbing issues are also usually emergencies and immediate intervention is necessary to prevent further damage or risk to human health. So, whether you’re self-employed or working for someone else, be ready to work late in the evening, over the weekends, during the holidays, and be on call most of the time.
2. Physically demanding
Plumbers spend most of the time working on their feet, carrying heavy equipment, crawling, bending, and hunching. We mentioned earlier that this can help you stay active; however, such repetitive motion can start to take its own toll and result in soreness and, especially if you’re not in excellent health. Be sure to have a massage once or twice a week to avoid back and leg pain.
3. Plumbers work under pressure
The same lack of predictability that makes plumbing interesting can put pressure on a plumber. Clients want to see fast results. This means working swiftly and efficiently, as well as meeting tight deadlines to keep a schedule. You must also be level-headed when it comes to emergencies. Even if everyone is in full panic mode when disaster strikes, you need to maintain composure so you can concentrate on resolving the problem.
4. Occupational risk
Plumbers are at risk of many hazards in the workplace. Things like chemicals, sparks, loud noises, flying particles, falling objects, asbestos, molds, gases, and working tools can be found where plumbers work. Poor handling of these items or even accidents can expose a plumber to all kinds of hazards, including:
- Eye injuries
- Hand tool injuries
- Severe reaction to handling/inhaling mold
- Flammable and electric situations
- Slips and falls
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to biohazard materials, and so on
Be sure to wear the right protective gear, including gloves, goggles, earplugs, respiratory masks, etc. Thorough showers should also happen after exposure to harmful materials. Obviously, you’ll insurance to cover all eventualities.
Reputation is everything in this industry. Most people hire plumbers through referrals from friends, family, and colleagues. Reputation is hard to build but quite easy to break. In the age of social media and online reviews, it’s easy for unsatisfied clients to inform others of the service you provided that they were unhappy with. Any simple mistake or job done poorly can damage your professional reputation.
6. Exposure to lawsuits
Many problems can arise during plumbing. Unfortunately, a client can sue you for damages you did not anticipate will occur while fixing a problem. One of the most common lawsuits that plumbers deal with is water damage to a client’s property. A third party can also sue you if something you do or fail to do results in their bodily or property damaged. Be sure to have enough insurance to cover such uncertainties.
7. Apprenticeships take years
Although formal training isn’t necessary to become a professional plumber, you’ll have to spend 4 or 5 years in an apprenticeship program with a plumbing company or through a union. There’s also a written test that you must pass to become a licensed plumber. This can be nerve-racking if you’re not fond of coursework.
Stress isn’t the most likely thing to pop up in anyone’s mind when thinking of plumbers. However, plumbers are a varied group. There are new plumbers, long-time veterans, business owners, and more in the ranks. There are different stressors for everyone. For starters, rookies worry about how they’ll succeed, experienced plumbers work under a lot of pressure, while business owners worry whether profits are being made and customers are being satisfied. Stress may not be the biggest threat plumbers face daily, but it sure isn’t a stress-free job.
9. The gross stuff
Plumbing isn’t the most glamorous occupation. Dealing with toilets, clogged pipes and sinks, and blocked drains means you’ll likely come across some disgusting stuff. From human waste to stinky, rotten food, everything you find in some of these unpleasant environments is nasty.
10. Difficult and impatient clients
Some people are just difficult to deal with. Plumbing emergencies equals stressed-out clients who just want the problem fixed fast. This means they’ll be venting their frustrations on you, making you stressed as well. You’re also bound to find clients who create obstacles by changing their minds mid-project, arguing over the price, or even refusing to pay.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.