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How Much Do Plumbers Make? Important Factors You Should Consider

Plumbing in the Trade Industry

In Australia, the trades are the backbone of our economy, comprising the largest percentage of our small businesses and providing essential services nationwide.

They’re an attractive choice of career for anyone wanting hands-on work and stability in the future. But trades are more than that: they require skills, in-depth training and commitment to a craft. It can be hard to pick what trade to dive into, and you might be considering a career in plumbing. Or, you’ve started it and want to see where you can go with it in the future.

Money can be a significant factor in that choice, and when you ask ‘how much do plumbers make in Australia’, there are all sorts of factors that contribute to the answer you’ll get. 

So, let’s take a look!

Factors Affecting How Much Plumbers Earn in Australia

Each of these factors will affect how much plumbers make per hour, but in general, no single one of them is more important than the others. 

There will be times when a factor such as a key qualification or high demand will have a great effect on potential earnings, and you never know what opportunities might open up in the future. Being skilled and flexible is important in any career!

Location

This is a very important factor in how much plumbers make in Australia, as location can represent how much potential business is available, what kind of work is available and how much customers will pay. Higher demand means higher pay, but it can also bring plenty of competition. How much plumbers earn per hour in Australia depends on the state/city, and some pay better.

How much do plumbers make, city by city? Here are the top average earnings based on recent plumbing job offerings in Australia:

Melbourne, VIC: $49.47 per hour

Adelaide, SA: $51.77 per hour

Sydney, NSW: $44.60 per hour

Brisbane, QLD: $47.64 per hour

Perth, WA: $47.35 per hour

Canberra, ACT: $47.64 per hour

Gold Coast, QLD: $46.41 per hour

Geelong, VIC: $43.59 per hour

Newcastle, NSW: $43.39 per hour

These are just a reflection of some of the factors we’ll go into further. How much plumbers earn will naturally change over time, and it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the market! 

Education and Experience

Trades are an appealing choice not just for their stability and earnings but the fact that even while training, students will get paid while they learn. Apprenticeships are practical and paid experience, but the initial pay will be low. 

Apprentices will earn less than a fully qualified journeyman plumber, but the amount they earn will increase year by year as they study and gain on-the-job experience. 

Qualifications

If you’re wondering how education/experience and qualifications differ, it’s a difference in recognition and development. Once you’ve completed an apprenticeship, you don’t stop learning. Every day on the job contributes to your knowledge, and plenty of plumbers say that you never quite know what each job will bring. 

Qualifications are a way to formalise training and knowledge and expand your development. How much a plumber earns per hour in Australia goes up with the kind of qualifications you have on top of your experience. 

Industry Sector

This ties into qualification and experience: your niche in the plumbing trade in Australia can affect your overall plumber salary. You can get your start anywhere, but some areas have greater potential for how much plumbers can make. 

Sometimes, when you start an apprenticeship or start applying for new roles, you could learn about a sector that you never even considered. How much do plumbers make? It depends on the type of plumber! Off-shore jobs, for example, can offer a salary way above what a commercial plumber earns, but you’ve got to fly in and fly out on a set schedule and work away from family. 

You could even strike out on your own if you like! There are so many options in the plumbing job sector, especially when you start your own business (more on that below!)

Demand

Looking at the city rates above, how much plumbers make per hour varies. 

In the trades, and especially a trade like plumbing, demand is always present. How much demand is a fickle thing to pin down, and the market will change rates depending on the supply and demand in each region. 

It can be hard to predict, so it’s always a good idea to keep your eye on the local market and similar markets.

Examples and Comparisons

When asking how much do plumbers make, the level of specialisation and development are big factors. As it’s tricky to pin down what exactly influences a final salary, it’s important to remember that the level of experience and training is a good baseline. Plumbing prices on jobs can vary by service and qualification, so even the type of work a business completes regularly can shift the salary they’ll offer you if you’re skilled enough.

Here is a short list of just some of the various roles on offer in Australian companies, with attached estimated salaries. You can see how much plumbers make per hour and where a career in plumbing can take you. 

Apprentice

Apprentices have the benefit of their on-the-job training being paid work, alongside vital experience and opportunities after graduating. How much do plumbers make during their apprenticeship? It depends on the year of study undertaken. 

Apprentices make a percentage of the award rate, and the percentage increases each year. Finishing year 12 ups the percentage a small amount.

According to Fair Work, the percentages are:

1st Year: 50%, 55% with Year 12 completion

2nd Year: 60%, 65% with Year 12 completion

3rd Year: 70%

4th Year: 90%

Keep in mind these are basic percentages of the award rate. These can change based on age, level of study completed and penalty rates. It depends on the particulars of each plumbing apprenticeship.

Some examples of how much plumbing apprentices earn in different years of their studies:

1st/2nd Year Apprentice, Melbourne VIC: $15 - $23 per hour

1st Year Apprentice, Canberra ACT: $18 - $22 per hour

1st, 2nd, 3rd Year Apprentice, Brisbane QLD: $40,000 - $49,000 per year

3rd, 4th Year Apprentice, Sydney NSW: $50 - $60 per hour

Council Plumbing and Drainage Inspector

There’s an acceptance that once you’re in with a council job, you’re set with steady work. Combine that with plumbing, and you have a solid 9-5 that pays well with good benefits. 

Plumbing and drainage inspectors need plenty of experience with a range of buildings, inspection reports, drainage diagrams and project assessments. This is reflected in the average pay a plumber earns. 

Some example plumbing salary ranges on offer at the time of writing:

Shoalhaven Council, NSW: $71,570 - $80,450 per year

Isaac Regional Council, QLD: $89,940 - $98,980 per year

Moreton Bay Regional Council, QLD: $98,430 - $105,190 per year

Plumbing Estimator

Plumbing estimators assess plumbing projects, create estimates and bids, evaluate the costs of projects and collaborate with others in construction projects. This is the kind of role for those with experience in plumbing and in-depth knowledge of materials, project management and the project process. 

Some example plumbing salary ranges:

Commercial Plumbing Estimator, Perth WA: $100,000 - $120,000 

Junior Plumbing Estimator, Taren Point NSW: $60,000 - $85,000 

Residential Plumber

These plumbers are likely the first kind that pops into mind when someone thinks of a plumber. Residential plumbers have a range of jobs, like maintenance, hot water systems, sewage, emergency callouts and more. Residential plumbing is a standard first apprenticeship, and jobs are always on offer. Different fees and rates can be charged on top of a regular rate for specific jobs, which can cover costs and off-hours. 

How much do plumbers earn in the residential sector? Here’s a snapshot of some of the job offerings we found:

Plumber, Launceston, TAS: $40 - $55 per hour

General Plumber, Chelsea, VIC: $50 - $60 per hour

Maintenance Plumbing, Gold Coast QLD: $40 - $45 per hour

Residential Plumber, Canberra, ACT: $90,000 - $100,000 per year

Of course, these figures represent one side of the business, as an employee. So let’s look at the other side.

Small Business

When asking how much do plumbers make in Australia, we’ve been looking at it from the perspective of offered salaries and pay per hour. But starting in the trade doesn’t mean you’re looking at a TAFE to plumbing salary pipeline for the entirety of your career! 

If you’re considering plumbing or already in the industry, it’s good to know that you can become your own boss. There’s a lot to think about, but with your own business, your earnings are up to you, and you keep your profits. With your skill, a plan, and the right tools, you can grow a thriving business!

Not sure where to get started? Starting a business can be daunting, but with plumbing business guides like ours, you can be prepared for that step. 

Is Plumbing Right for Me?

So you’ve read most of the article, and hey, hopefully, everything’s sounded good so far. But just knowing the answer to ‘how much do plumbers earn’ is probably just one of the steps to deciding if plumbing is right for you. There’s lots to choose out there, especially in the trades.

Our plumbers and electricians article outlines some of the differences in what you can expect. Both are very popular options and have their own appeal. It’s good to remember that whatever you decide on, choosing the trades gets you on the fast track to success!

And when you’re ready to benefit even more from your hard work, AroFlo is here to help you get your business running! We’re job management software that handles tedious trade business admin. Check us out after you’ve started your business!

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