Plumbers' Employment Outlook

Excellent career potential in plumbing

Choosing a career as a plumber, pipefitter, pipelayer or steamfitter isn't just a good idea because the jobs make up the largest portion of the construction industry. Demand for these skilled workers is set to be much higher than supply over the next decade.

Employers are eager to hire workers with the right skills, as older professionals retire and replacements are needed to fill their shoes. It's safe to say that most graduates looking for a job won't be disappointed.

Where plumbers and pipefitters will find work

Plumbing and pipefitting professionals will be working for contractors more than they did in the past because of a decrease in full-time maintenance jobs with organizations running pipe systems. The big companies are more inclined now to enter temporal service agreements with contracting companies than to hire their own maintenance staff.

Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters may find themselves unemployed between construction projects, but that doesn't mean workers will always face instability. Compared to other trades in the construction industry, plumbing professionals have a lot more assurance of work when new construction activity is low.

Even cash-strapped consumers and businesses are more likely to view plumbing as a top priority over other construction services. And there will always be existing systems that require maintenance, repair or replacement. An increasing amount of fire sprinkler installations will keep many sprinklerfitters busy as well.

Pipelayer wages

  • Median hourly earnings - $13.68
  • Middle 50 percent - $11.05 to $18.69
  • Top 10 percent - over $25.07
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.19

Pipelayers will be sought after to help build new water and sewer lines, as well as oil and gas field pipelines.

Plumber, pipefitter and steamfitter wages

  • Median hourly earnings - $19.85
  • Middle 50 percent - $15.01 to 26.67
  • Top 10 percent - over $33.72
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $ 11.62

Plumbers' skills will be needed for new construction projects, building renovations (mainly bathroom) and repair and maintenance.

Pipefitters and steamfitters will gain work in the maintenance of water and wastewater treatment plants, power plants and office buildings and factories. Maintenance worker hours can include evening and weekend shifts. These jobs can involve a lot of travel.

Median plumber, pipefitter, steamfitter wages by industry

  • Natural gas distribution - $23.86
  • Building construction(not residential) - $21.55
  • Building equipment contractors - $19.85
  • Utility system construction - $18.29
  • Local government - $16.300

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004