If you have decided that you want to focus on the skilled trades industry, the best trades to learn will open a world of opportunities. But which trades are the right option for you?
Women are grossly underrepresented in many of the skilled trade industries. Choosing the best trades to learn based on the underrepresentation of women is a great way to help pave the way for others. If you want to figure out the best trades to learn as a woman, consider learning to become a plumber.
Why Is Plumbing One of the Best Trades to Learn For Women?
Out of about 540,000 plumbers in the U.S. around 10,000 of them are women. Why are women so underrepresented in this field? It is most likely because no one is talking to young women about the best trades to learn that will keep them employed.
While no one is turned away from trade schools, women are not exactly the target audience when it comes to advertising for these trades. Plumbing, like many other skilled trades, is a historically male-dominated field. After all, working with your hands and getting dirty is more commonly typified as a male job. For these trade schools, it might simply be easier to advertise to young men instead.
However, there does seem to be a shift happening in the right direction. Women are realizing that they deserve to get in on the tremendous benefits that are associated with the skilled trades industry. The pay is great, the benefits are nothing to shake your head at, and there are tons of opportunities for growth. A good plumbing contractor can easily make a six-figure salary.
Jan Ashford of Jan Ashford Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix is a prime example of what a woman can do in skilled trades. Offering some the best plumbing services, Jan took a once failing plumbing company, started out over $150,000 in debt, and turned the company around in 15 years to earn about $2 million a year. She thinks that the best trades to learn is plumbing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that she’s currently in the early stages of starting a plumbing apprentice school for young women to encourage women to get into the industry.
Some Myths About Women and the Best Trades to Learn
When we imagine a plumber, we likely imagine a big, burly guy with a wrench in hand. We stereotype what a plumber looks like because, historically, those are the images that have been shared with us. The fact is plumbing does not take a tremendous amount of strength or size.
One of the myths that likely have contributed to keeping women away from the best trades to learn is that you need a tremendous amount of physical strength to do the job. All you really need, however, is the know-how and the right tools to get the job done.
Other myths that may keep a woman from seeking out the best trades to learn include:
- Women are not good with their hands. There is a misconception that women cannot build things, or that they prefer to work in an environment where they do not have to get physical.
- Women do not like the “dirty jobs.” There is a myth that women do not like to get dirty. The fact is most men do not enjoy getting dirty either, but they still do it. No one likes it, but if it is part of the job, anyone can deal with it.
- Women struggle with learning math and other skills that are used in plumbing. Not true. Anything that a man can learn, a woman can learn.
Women seeking out a way to earn a good living should be evaluating the best trades to learn, including the plumbing trade. While there is nothing romantic about toilet repairs, it is a skill set that can provide a nice income and some great benefits.
What Do Plumbers Earn?
Maybe getting more women involved in trades starts with the salary. When we are having discussions about career options with girls, we should be talking about the best trades to learn if they want to make a good living. When we don’t have these conversations, young women everywhere could be missing out on a great opportunity.
A recent study found that about 2% of school guidance counselors talk to high school age girls about the best trades to learn. The same study also found that 80% of school guidance counselors spoke to high school boys about the best trades to learn as an option for further education.
Clearly, the fact that guidance counselors and others are not talking to young women is keeping these young people away from exploring the option. They are not even aware that it is an option because no one is telling them.
Here are some earning facts about the plumbing industry that you can share with any young woman in your life that is looking for a great future:
- In 2019, plumbers earned on average a yearly salary of $59,000. On the low-end, plumbers earned $41,000 a year. On the high-end plumbers earned $73,000 a year.
- Most plumbing jobs come with great benefits packages including sick leave, vacation, health insurance, and other perks.
- Commercial plumbing services make more, so they pay more.
In states where plumbers are unionized, the benefits are even greater, as is the pay. An apprentice plumber in NYS can earn about $30 an hour. That is someone with no experience. Of course, New York is a union state so the pay range is higher than in other regions. Typically, the earning power of any of the best trades to learn coincide with the cost of living. For example, in North Carolina where the cost of living is much lower, an entry-level apprentice can make about $19 an hour, which is a great salary for someone in NC.
Of course, many plumbers go on to open their own business. They get the experience that they need as a residential plumber by working under a journeyman for a few years, then they go out on their own. The best trades to learn can set you up for being your own boss.
There is the potential to earn a lot of money as a plumber. Even apprentices can do some freelance work on the side to earn extra income. You may not be able to install sump pumps as a side gig but you will be able to do the simpler jobs. It is expected by 2027 that about 86 million people will be freelancing. You could easily join those ranks through the best trades to learn right now.
Plumbing Skills Give You Job Security
Even in the DIY era that we live in, plumbers are always needed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are going to be in high demand over the next decade. Jobs in these fields are expected to increase by about 9%.
Overall job opportunities for plumbers are expected to be very good. That means there will be a demand for an influx of people in this industry for at least the next decade. All you need to do is take a look at the uptick in new buildings and the demand for real estate to see that the demand for skilled trades will be high in the future. Someone has to take care of all that plumbing.
The best trades to learn — including plumbing — will keep you working for years to come thanks to the high demand. Skilled trades, in general, are suffering from a phenomenon that other industries are not quite feeling the pinch of.
In the skilled trades sector, there is a disproportionate amount of people that are over the age of 50. As the baby boomer generation is retiring there are fewer and fewer people to take their place. After decades of the United States pushing people to get Bachelor’s degrees, there is a shortage in the skilled trades.
About 22% of people decide to get their secondary education in the skilled trades. That means a good percentage of high school graduates are going to college for an academic degree instead. What has that meant for the United States? A shortage of workers in the skilled trades sector.
What does that all mean if you are a woman looking for a meaningful career that you can start without having to take on thousands of dollars in debt? It means this may be the best time in history to learn to become a plumber.
With fewer people going into the industry that means there is less competition. That means you can climb the ladder relatively quickly and be valued as an employee for your skillset instead of having to prove yourself over and over again because you are a woman.
What Do You Need to Do to Get Into the Plumbing Industry?
If all this talk about great salary, benefits, and job security has you interested, there are few easy steps to taking advantage of the opportunity. First, it is always best to have a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma. Work on that first. Next, you have two routes to becoming a plumber. You can dive into school or an apprenticeship.
You can actually skip the trade school and work for a plumbing concern as an apprentice, but this may actually be the harder road to take for a woman. Why? You may spend more time proving yourself than you do learning. You also may miss out on some important information. For example, if the plumbing company you apprentice with does not provide certain services you will not have the opportunity to learn about those services. Let’s say you work with a plumbing company that strictly works on installations, and does not do repairs that require learning how to use a hydraulic pump. In this case, you never learn it.
The second way to learn the best trades to learn is by going to trade school (vocational school). Many community colleges double as trade schools. You can enroll in a plumbing certification program and learn how to do things the right way. In a trade school, every area of plumbing is at least explored and taught. You will be able to learn about all types of plumbing activities. Of course, there are other benefits of getting a formal education in plumbing which include:
- Networking. Everyone you go to school with or come in contact with at school has the potential of becoming part of your professional network. Plumbing contractors stick together and you are meeting them in the early stages of their careers. This can help when you are looking for a job, starting your own business, or have some questions about the industry.
- Job placement. When you go to a trade school for your plumbing education you have the benefit of job placement opportunities that you normally would not have. Many plumbing firms turn to trade schools to find their next employees.
- You can get cross-training. In this environment, you can take other classes as well as plumbing classes to further your skillset or your knowledge base. For example, you can learn basic electrical skills by taking a few classes to complement the plumbing skillset that you are developing.
Trade school is typically a short program that helps you to get all the basic information you need to walk into an apprenticeship with confidence. If you are ready to get your future on track the best trades to learn is a great way to get you where you want to be.
You can have a great future in plumbing and blaze the path for young women that are coming up behind you. Take the opportunity to become a plumber, and build the future that you see for yourself.