Looking for a career in plumbing? Stay away from small family businesses.

I plan on getting out of my plumbing job as quickly as I can and I recommend that, unless you can get a union job, you stay as far away from this industry as you can. It will chew up your body for nominal wages and then spit you out.

I’ll start off by saying I’m a college educated individual with a 4 year degree in a STEM field. Couldn’t get a job in my degree field because entry level jobs wanted 3-5 years job-specific experience (I won’t go on, we all know this story).

I broke into the trade (service side) by a small family business offering me an apprenticeship starting at 16 an hour. I was excited because I had heard how awesome the trades were to get into from every single Reddit post that brings up employment advice and from Mike Rowe (dude undeniably has charisma).

Job started off well enough. Then the constant injuries started occurring. Some water heaters require lifting with your lower back because you’re placed in such an awkward position there simply is no way to gain leverage. Then something popped in my wrist pulling a sewage ejector up and out of a 30 foot-deep shit silo. This was after calling my boss and telling him I can NOT do this on my own. He told me he believed in me from the comfort of his office chair. Dominant wrist hurt for months and on this job, doing as much as plumbers do, it hardly ever had a chance to heal. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. There is no medical leave.

Our shop is so small that if I were to take off a day, 50% of our actual plumbing workforce is gone. I can singlehandedly fuck over the business for the day or week if I wake up with a mind bending headache or an awful cold. We have begged the boss to hire more people. I get that hiring is expensive. But the cost of one employee leaving equates to nearly if not half of your profit potential walking out the door, you can’t afford not to hire.

I realize all of this and try to be the best employee possible and never call out but the cost to my body and the pay I am receiving, now even at 24/hr is not adding up. I know one year of work at 38 hours per week (on average) I will have a hard time paying my deductible for my future back and/or knee surgeries.

The worst part of this is going back into the shop after busting my ass all day and seeing my boss decorating plastic pumpkins, making a coat hanger out of vintage porcelain faucet handles, and building model trucks. This is what I’m supporting through my efforts. Dude isn’t working on improving our website, researching advertising possibilities, or hiring more people. He answers phone calls to schedule jobs while writing down the absolute vaguest job descriptions (“they have plumbing work that needs done”) and fucking up addresses and customers phone numbers. He is a glorified secretary that takes home the most pay out of the two people doing the actual work. He bought into the family business. There is no way he could’ve built a business to this point on his own.

I can handle digging hypodermic needles wadded up in toilet paper out of a toilet horn or screwing around with transite asbestos vents but I will no support this leech anymore if I can help it.

I’m happy with the skills I’ve gained but no longer want to do this professionally. Any plumber working at a competent level should be easily clearing $70,000 a year. It just isn’t happening for me and I don’t want to brutalize my body getting to that point.

Guys looking to get into plumbing after reading this, don’t do the small family shop. If that’s your only way to get into the trade, I get it. Get your experience and get out. The responsibility they put on you for the price they pay is unreasonable.

If you are a plumber and you think I’m a whiny baby, you’re right. Good luck to you and your debilitating injuries you suffer now and pain that will wreck your later years.



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