Informational Guide

Electrician Vs Plumber - Which Has The Better Salary?

Interested in trade work? The biggest decision is choosing between electrician vs plumber. Our guide provides insight into both career paths.

by Ian Haynes

Trade careers like those in plumbing and electrical work have always been in high demand, and they always will be.

Working as a plumber or electrician offers a lot of opportunities, including a lot of job protection, a good salary, and the chance to work with your hands.

If you're interested in trade work, one of the biggest decisions is choosing between electrician vs. plumber.

This guide provides insight on both career paths and gives insight into how to become a plumber, how to become an electrician, what each job entails, and the pros and cons of each.

Aside from the responsibilities and everyday tasks, the main difference when comparing these two career paths is the growth percentage for available jobs.

While the number of electrical jobs is expected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, the expected rate of growth for plumbing jobs is 4%.

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Compare plumber vs. electrician salary and you'll see that these two professions have around the same median annual pay ($56,900/year for electricians and $56,330/year for plumbers).

However, there are some differences in other aspects of the job, including:

  • Education And Training Requirements 
    Both professions require the necessary training. Plumbers are currently required to have more classroom education than electricians but less hands-on training. Plumbers have to go through at least 246 hours of plumbing school classroom education and 1,700 hours of apprenticeship training, while an electrician will need 144 hours of education and 2,000 hours of training.
  • Working Conditions
    Both electricians and plumbers work full-time and have the potential for overtime work. Both of these jobs also have certain safety hazards involved; plumbers are more likely to be exposed to burns when soldering pipes and other plumbing fixtures, and electricians face the risk of electric shocks.
  • Nature Of Work 
    While both jobs are labor-intensive, the nature of work for each career is different. Plumbers work with plumbing systems, and electricians work with electrical systems.
  • Compensation And Benefits 
    You already know that the salary for both positions is very similar, so these two professions are neck and neck when it comes to paying potential. Just keep in mind that these incomes aren’t set in stone; rates for hiring a plumber/electrician may vary from one state to another, and service charges fluctuate. Plus, the more experienced you are, the more you can make doing either job.
  • Licensing Requirements
    The licensing requirements for each of these jobs vary depending on the state you live and work in. Most states require licensure for both plumbers and electricians, but the licensing terms and requirements are different for each.
Electrician Vs Plumber

What Exactly Does an Electrician Do?

Electricians are a valuable asset to every community. As experts of electricity, an electrician is responsible for tasks like safely wiring homes and commercial buildings, troubleshooting electrical problems, and helping out in the event of a power outage.

More specifically, here are some of the primary responsibilities of electricians today:

  • Read technical and wiring diagrams, including blueprints
  • Install lighting systems
  • Inspect electrical systems
  • Troubleshoot and repair electrical problems and malfunctions.
  • Learn and adhere to federal/state/local regulations based on the official electrical code
  • Train and manage other electrical workers in all aspects of the industry
What Does An Electrician Do

Pros & Cons of Working as an Electrician

There are pros and cons to every career path, including working as an electrician. The biggest benefit is the high demand and the job growth potential this career has seen in the past few decades.

A report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that

“employment of electricians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Homes and businesses continue to require wiring, and electricians will be needed to install the necessary components.” 

This growth means that electricians are in high demand, so finding work is easy.

In addition to the job growth potential and increasing need for electricians, here are a few more pros that come along with this trade:

  • It’s possible to start working right out of high school through an apprenticeship
  • Electricians are a necessity to society (and always will be)
  • It’s possible to make a very decent living working as an electrician - the average is about $57,000/year

But no career path is absolutely perfect, and there are a few cons to working as an electrician. 

  • It’s sometimes necessary to work odd hours, especially in power-related states of emergency
  • The work can be dangerous and involves a high risk of injury
  • Electrical work is very labor-intensive, often involving climbing, heavy lifting, and crawling

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What Exactly Does a Plumber Do?

Similar to electricians, plumbing professionals are an integral part of society. Just as electricity is a necessity, the same goes for our home plumbing systems.

Here’s a plumber job description according to The Balance Careers:

“Plumbers install and repair pipes that supply water and gas to, as well as carry waste away from, homes and businesses. They also install plumbing fixtures such as bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, and appliances, including dishwashers and washing machines.”

These are the main tasks most plumbers are required to perform:

  • Install pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Inspect equipment and operate test equipment like pressure and vacuum gauges to determine the cause of plumbing issues
  • Clear obstructions from sink drains and toilets
  • Troubleshoot problems and determine the best method for fixing them
  • Repair pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Estimate costs of plumbing installations and repairs
  • Train apprentices and supervise workers (more experienced plumbers)

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What Does A Plumber Do r

Pros & Cons of Working as a Plumber

Just like electrical work, working as a plumber has a lot of advantages. The main one is that this career is also in high demand, and there's a lot of potential for growth. Here are a few more pros to becoming a plumber:

  • It’s possible to earn a respectable salary - BLS says that “the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was $56,330 in May 2020.”
  • Training to become a plumber doesn’t cost much, and it’s possible to start right out of high school
  • There’s good job variety and strong job security
  • The demand for plumbing work is high and expected to continue increasing over the next decade

While the cons don’t outweigh the pros, there are still a few disadvantages to becoming a plumber. These are the main cons of the profession include:

  • The job is physically demanding and can require working under pressure
  • The hours can be long and irregular
  • There are occupational risks and the job can be dangerous at times

Points to Consider When Choosing a Trade Career

When deciding on any trade career path, whether it's plumber vs. electrician vs. carpenter or HVAC vs. electrician vs. plumber, it's important to consider all the main points for each career, like:

  • Career Options
  • Length of Training
  • Earning Potential
  • Your Personal Skills
  • Job Demand
  • Dirty Work

After looking into things like training time, salary, job demand, and more, you’ll have a much clearer picture of which career path is right for you.

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Can plumbers do electrical work?

This depends. Some plumbers have the knowledge, training, and licensing to do certain electrical tasks, but others do not. In most cases, if the problem you’re dealing with is directly related to an electrical system, it’s best to hire an electrician.

Do carpenters earn the same as electricians and plumbers?

According to a recent report on the carpentry profession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that “the median annual wage for carpenters was $49,520 in May 2020.” This is slightly lower than the ~$56,000 median salary of plumbers and electricians.

How much does a 1st-year apprentice electrician earn?

Unlike many other career paths, electricians have the potential to start earning while they go through their training period, which is a major selling point of working in the field. A post by Chron states that “during the first year, an average pay rate would be $18.44 per hour. After working 1000 hours, you can expect a modest wage increase. Pay increases, incrementally, as you gain more experience.”

How much does a 1st-year apprentice plumber earn?

An apprentice plumber’s salary is slightly lower than the salary for electrician apprentices. According to Indeed, “the average salary for an apprentice plumber is $16.86 per hour in the United States and $5,429 overtime per year.”

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Conclusion - Which Is Best For You?

Whichever career path you choose, both jobs offer a great deal of potential.

Plumbers and electricians earn a very good salary (especially when they’re good at what they do), both positions are in high demand, and training to become either doesn’t have to break the bank.

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Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.