Salary: The salary range for a qualified plumber depends on location (that is, a small-town plumber might make less than one in a big city). The national average for someone starting out is $18 to $25 an hour, or about $37,000 to $52,000 a year, according to Daryl Sharkey, executive director of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada. He says more experienced plumbers earn about $26 to $59 an hour, or $54,000 to $74,000 a year. Those salaries don't include overtime, which can add thousands to the annual salary. "It isn't uncommon for highly experienced plumbers to earn well over $100,000 per year," he said.
Education: Most plumbers gain experience through apprenticeships, Mr. Sharkey said. That includes both classroom studies and on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified plumber, called a journeyperson. "As an apprentice, you 'earn while you learn,'" he said. Wages start at about 50 per cent of a journeyperson's hourly rate.
The role: Plumbers install, repair and maintain pipes, fittings, fixtures and other equipment used to distribute water. Mr. Sharkey says duties range from reading and interpreting blueprints to installing plumbing systems in homes or industrial buildings, depending on the project.
By the numbers: There are about 47,200 plumbers in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey.
Job prospects: They are "exceptional and everywhere," according to Mr. Sharkey. "From British Columbia to Newfoundland and everywhere in between, there are jobs waiting for plumbers." The jobs can be found across several sectors as well, from houses and hospitals to oil refineries and water treatment plants. Mr. Sharkey cites $80-billion in construction permits issued in 2013 as evidence of the potential for future plumbing work. That doesn't include service, repair and maintenance jobs.
Challenges: It isn't just about fixing and installing pipes. "One of the plumber's most utilized skills is problem solving," Mr. Sharkey said. "In each and every environment, the issues change and require a logical thought process to bring the project, or job, to a successful conclusion." He says plumbers also need to know and understand the various plumbing codes and standards in each province and take them into account for each environment to ensure the installation or repair is done properly.
Why they do it: Getting paid to learn the skill is one bonus for people considering the profession. A skilled labour shortage for plumbers and other trades also means there are myriad opportunities and potentially high salaries for job seekers. Mr. Sharkey said plumbers also enjoy the variety that comes with the job, being able to work in different locations on a regular basis.
Misconceptions: That plumbers are overweight, lazy and uneducated. "Most certified plumbers are professional, courteous and committed to doing the job right," Mr. Sharkey said. "Plumbing systems are complex and require a level of diagnostics that comes from experience and training for which a plumber is uniquely qualified."
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