When it comes to a plumbers net worth and salary, which is better? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for plumbers in the United States is $54,160. The median annual net income for plumbers is $23,130. Both professions have similar average salaries, but the plumber has a median salary that is roughly $4,000 higher than the doctor.
The plumber is a hard worker and loves his work, while the doctor has a demanding job and a family to support. How does the plumber’s income compare to the doctor’s? How much does the plumber really earn in the long run? We’ll let you guess how much money each makes.
At some point in your life, someone in your family probably told you to quit school and become a plumber. There’s obviously a good reason for that. Ten years ago, Lawrence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University, caused a stir when he claimed that future plumbers would have about the same purchasing power as doctors over their lifetimes.
He cited the cost of tuition and foregone wages as the two main reasons why aspiring doctors (or other professions requiring higher education) can’t build a fortune faster than plumbers. At the time, many experts criticized Kotlikoff’s sharp opinion and tried to find fault with it. But how good are his ideas today? I thought it was an interesting question. So I thought it would be fun to compare the long term jobs of plumbers and doctors with the 2021 data.
We analyze these two professions only in terms of their ability to create wealth. First, we check that the doctor is paying off all his or her student loans as quickly as possible. Next, we will adjust the modeling to take into account the Public Service Loan Benefit Program (PSLB) and see if this popular federal student loan program tips the scales in favor of this argument.
How do you become a plumber and how much do you earn?
One of the great things about being a plumber is how quickly you can get started and make money. In most cases, plumbers start out as professionals and earn about $12 an hour. They work under a licensed plumber for several years and eventually reach the level of experienced plumber, where they earn about $18 an hour. After a few years of training, you can take the master plumber exam in many states and increase your salary accordingly. A master plumber can earn an hourly wage of $30, depending on the state.
According to my research for this article, plumbers often have to work more than 40 hours a week. So I guess they would be entitled to overtime for 10 to 20 hours a week. If you calculate these hourly wage figures on an annual basis, a plumber can start at $30,000 as an apprentice, climb to $60,000 with some overtime, and then peak at $100,000 as a master plumber. The whole process takes about 6 to 10 years to reach the highest rank in the profession.
How do you become a doctor and how much do you earn?
It takes a very, very long time to become a doctor. You have to study for four years, study a lot of science and math, and take the MCAT. Then you apply to various medical schools and spend four years of your life there. Thereafter, a residence period of three to seven years is required. If you eventually want to become a specialist, you will need to set aside two or three more years for an internship.
During your stay you will earn between $50,000 and $70,000 per year. The brotherhood might be a little bigger, but not by much. After graduation, you can expect a significant salary increase, depending on the position you hold and where you work. If it is academic medicine, you will earn much less than in private practice. Outside of expensive specialties like dermatology, neurology, orthopedics and cardiology, you’ll probably start between $200,000 and $300,000, assuming you specialize.
Most doctors have a student debt
There’s a complication here that we need to address. Doctors have to take on student debt, and lots of it. When you factor in the cost of the loan, the long period of study during which interest continues to accrue, the annual increase in tuition, and the overlap between undergraduate and graduate coursework, physicians are left with a large debt after graduation.
How much do they owe? According to a recent report by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the average debt of medical school graduates is $200,000. While some students receive financial aid from their families, it is important to note that many of those who do not receive financial aid have much higher than average levels of debt. Let’s assume that tuition for four years of medicine is about $50,000 per year.
First round: Plumber vs. physician during medical training, assistantship and internship
I have an idea. A doctor spends $20,000 a year on his education and $50,000 a year on his medical education. A plumber’s income rises steadily from $12 to $18 to $30 an hour as he or she moves up the career ladder, from apprentice to craftsman to master plumber. They both spend 50% of their salary on investments or debt. I have an idea.
A doctor spends $20,000 a year on his education and $50,000 a year on his medical education. A plumber’s income rises steadily from $12 to $18 to $30 an hour as he or she moves up the career ladder, from apprentice to craftsman to master plumber.
Both invest 50% of their salary in investments or debt, and the return is 6%. The doctor’s debt has a 4% interest rate because he uses the revised Pay As You Earn plan to get an interest rate subsidy, perhaps because he hired me as his student loan counselor to optimize his debt. I try to give the doctor every advantage. Nevertheless, the following data provide a reality check.
Let’s say the doctor is a urologist. After all, a plumber deals with the leaky pipes that people put their stool on, while a urologist deals with the internal pipes, so I think that’s a good comparison. Urologists typically complete a five-year fellowship. Let’s further assume that our doctor, whom we will call Brad, decides to take a two-year internship after his assistantship. Our plumber, let’s call him Joe, is 32 years old and has been a master plumber for a number of years. Our urologist Brad is about to make money at the end of his internship and get a leadership position.
Second round: Plumber vs. physician after training
Urologists in private practice make a lot of money. They are one of the highest paid specialties in medicine, and they should be, because they deal with leaky bladders all day long. Anyway, according to Salary.com, the average salary for urology is $387,000. I don’t think our Doc Brad would work at this level. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say his starting salary will be just below that level – $380,000. For these two positions, salaries will increase by 3% each year to keep pace with inflation. At 41, Brad has finally surpassed our plumber in net worth. Remember, Brad graduated from college almost 20 years ago. It’s a long time to wait to break even. What if our plumber Joe uses his knowledge to start a plumbing business and hires a bunch of workers? It’s clear that Joe will overshadow Brad.
And that will likely continue even if Brad refinances at one of the companies I listed in the sidebar and drops his interest rate to less than 3% after he no longer qualifies for REPAYE interest subsidies. What if Brad had chosen the nonprofit hospital as his employee? Then the PSLF program should be considered.
Third round: Plumber vs. physician with PSLF
If we assume that Brad decides to work at a non-profit hospital, he will receive a lower salary, but will still be able to use the PSLF program to pay off some of his medical school debt. Brad’s total payments amount to approximately $119,000 before the entire debt is forgiven to the American taxpayer. At the height of his debt, Brad owed about $310,000. Because he works in a hospital, his salary will be lower, at $300,000.
It is interesting to note that the equilibrium period is almost identical. Urologist Brad starts gaining weight around age 41. Even with a PSLF, Brad has to wait a long time to finally get a great return on his investment.
What did I miss?
If you look at my numbers again, you will see that I assume a lifetime savings rate (in terms of debt and investments) of 50%. It’s very, very high. There are few doctors or plumbers who can muster up that kind of savings with a family, kids, marriage, mortgage, car, etc. However, keep in mind that a doctor is in a higher tax bracket than a plumber.
The doctor probably also has lifestyle costs that the plumber does not. Do you expect the guy who fixes your toilet tank to wear anything other than jeans, a t-shirt and maybe coveralls when he does the work for you? That’s right. Plumbers have much lower expectations of their social lives, from the car they drive to the house they live in. And liability insurance for plumbers usually only costs $500 to $1,500 a year.
Of course, these costs are nothing compared to the cost of professional liability insurance for doctors. Some argue that doctors’ high incomes make it easier for them to save money. Others will say I am not taking into account the better quality of life a doctor enjoys with the income left over after saving and investing for living expenses. Maybe I will. But I tried to tip the scales in favor of the doctor over the plumber. I went to a urologist with Brad, not a pediatrician or a family doctor.
Two things you need to become a doctor
If you want your net worth at the end of your career to be greater than that of the person you call into your private practice to solve toilet problems, the first thing you need to do is choose a specialty that pays better. Of course, surgeons make fantastic profits. But there are specialties other than surgery where salaries are well above the median salary of a physician. Find out which specialties will pay the most in 2021, according to Medscape.
The second thing you need is a solid personal finance strategy to pay off your student loans. In the above scenario, I modeled Brad, the urologist, who did everything perfectly, yet it may not have happened. He may have been granted deferment during his internship, failed to apply for PSLF during his education, forgot to refinance his loans when he became a guest, etc. In short, if you want your decision to become a doctor to make financial sense and not be the guy who fixes your pipes, be prepared to work long hours and make smart decisions about your debt.
You can get help with loans for medical education
Our team has helped hundreds of doctors create a plan and can likely help you save thousands of dollars as well. If you need to take out a six-figure student loan after medical school, contact us to see what we can do for you. We help doctors overcome high student loan balances with fixed rate advice. We perform a full credit analysis using our proprietary modeling tool to determine which repayment options (public, private, refinancing, etc.) are best for you.
To date, we have helped more than 5,500 clients pay off more than $1.3 billion in debt. And we saved the average customer tens of thousands of dollars. Book a consultation below. Ask me about your student loans Refinance your student loan and receive a bonus in 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do plumbers make more money than doctors?
The question on the minds of most people is, “Which profession has the higher net worth and salary? A plumber or a doctor?” And the answer is fairly obvious. Most of us know that a plumber is the one that installs your toilet and cleans your drain, but what about the doctor? Doctors have more prestige than plumbers, and many people would assume that they would make more money, but that is not always the case. Doctors are required to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and get three years of undergraduate-level education, and in return, they get paid a higher salary than plumbers, and also get to work in a higher paying specialty.
Can a plumber be a Millionaire?
Can a plumber be a millionaire? It might sound ludicrous, but that’s exactly what it says in the Guinness Book of Records. The record is held by an Indian plumber who has made over 1.8 million rupees in just a few years, after accumulating over 30 million rupees in his lifetime. If you’re busy and you can’t spend time with your children or your wife, just leave your family and join a plumber. What would you say the difference is between a plumber and a doctor?
For a plumber, it’s just finding leaks and fixing them. For a doctor, it’s making people well. If you ask a plumber to share his net worth, he’ll reply that he doesn’t have one, and if you ask a doctor to share her net worth, she’ll reply she doesn’t have one. However, doctors and plumbers earn respectable salaries.
Do plumbers really make 6 figures?
If you want to make a six figure income, you need to know how to make one. The plumbers of America are making a lot more money than most people realize. There are about 3.8 million working plumbers in the US, but only about 2.5 million medical doctors. How much is a plumber really worth? Does a career in plumbing help boost your earnings? UtmeClass takes a look at how much plumbers really make, and compare it to the pay for doctors, lawyers, and other professions.