Aside from the obvious what are the differences between a career as an electrician and a plumber? While each of these trades are considered blue collar they can both be very lucrative and require minimal upfront investment as opposed to traditional college degrees.
Electricians install and maintain the electrical workings of homes and commercial businesses. While demand for electricians ebs and flows with the amount of new construction to some extent there is always a demand for their services. The licensing and education process for becoming an electrician differs from a plumber differs slightly. An electrician will need to complete an apprenticeship which is paid and then pass a test to become an Journeyman electrician; after completing these requirements they can go on to specialize in one of many fields including:
- Field Electrician
They can also become a Master Electrician and start their own company; which is where the most money can be made although there is the most risk and liability. You can find more information about the different types of companies that you can be start here.
Plumbers on still have to go through an apprenticeship process and become liscensed in most states however the time to complete the requirementsa re usally less than what is reuired for becoming an electrician.
While the income potential of a Master Electrician that starts their own company is virtually unlimited there is a fairly typical salary structure for “normal” electricians that does vary by state. It should also be noted that the licensing and education requirements vary by state and not all states have reciprocity with each other so some planning is needed in order to ensure you pursue the correct education per your state.
One thing to keep in mind is that electricians do need to supply their own tool kits which can be expensive however your toolkit will be built over the years and the tools that you will need to start off with or your apprenticeship will not set you back significantly.
Unions are prevalent not only for electricians but also for plumbers which adds to job security and higher wages; however it can make it harder to get in to these careers if you are not part of union or have any family memebers who are part of a union.
Plumbers are also in high demand and have a little bit more stable demand as there will never be a time when a plumber is not needed. There are also several specializations that a plumber can work towards. Plumbers like electricians have to complete an apprenticeship period and also pass a test. As with becoming an electrician the apprenticeship is paid and you don’t have the student loans that come with a college degree. In fact some very prominent people (Michael Bloomberg) have told todays young people that instead of racking up student loans becoming a plumber or pursuing another blue collar profession could be a better career choice with more stability and opportunity for growth.
Plumbers just as electricians can start their own plumbing companies very easily and this can lead to a very profitable business. Many plumbers after they have started their own business will aos move into partnering with a contractor and doing custom bathrooms and plumbing for high end builders or homeowners.
The working conditions of electricians and plumbers share some similarities however there are also many differences. Similarities include:
- Spending time outdoors
- Working in unfinished or under construction buildings
- Both need to be physically fit as there is some heavy lifting involved
- Work in and around construction sites
Some of the differences include:
- Electricians work with live wires and there is the potential for severe injury or even death
- Master Electricians have to sign off on building plans and bear responsibility for any faulty wiring that was done
- Plumbers deal with sewage and other very unplenat liquids which can be very hard for some people
- Plumbers typically do not work in dangerous environments or have the possibility of any physical harm
The current job outlook for both plumbers and electricians is good due to the economy improving as well as the demographic shift of people moving for retirement or work. The BLS forecasts that plumbers will grow by 12% until 2024 with a median annual salary of $50,660, not too shabby. Add to this the fact that the educational costs for these careers is minimal compared to the cost of a college degree ($24,000 per year for tuition) and you have a very attractive choice for many people.
People have shied away from these careers because these professions have been perceived as not glamorous and that there is no room for growth or increasing your income however as the financial crisis taught everyone having a degree does not guarantee you a high paying job.
People also forget that while you may spend the first couple years, in the “trenches” so to speak your mid to late career is spent managing teams of other plumbers or electricians especially if you own your own business. There are also sales and marketing opportunities where experienced people can make very good money instead of being in the field installing toilets or electrical boxes.
As with many things in life there is not right or wrong profession to chose it ultimately comes down to what will make you happy in life and what you feel you will enjoy most. Choosing any profession solely because of money or job outlook is a definite recipe for unhappiness.