Anyone who has ever had a sink unclogged, a running toilet quieted or a leaky pipe fixed knows how essential plumbers are to keeping households, apartments and commercial businesses running smoothly. Plumber is a general category that includes pipelayers, pipe fitters and steamfitters, as well as sprinkler fitters, who specialize in installing automatic fire sprinkler systems in buildings. As with many other skilled trades, plumbers get their training through apprenticeships or in technical schools and community colleges, according to the BLS, though pipelayers typically receive their training on the job. Apprenticeships, whether in a union or nonunion post, consist of up to five years of paid on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of annual classroom instruction. BLS forecasts that demand for plumbers will grow faster than normal through 2018, with the expectation of "very good" job opportunities. More than 555,000 Americans made their living as plumbers in 2008. About 12 percent of them were self employed.
* Median pay: $60,000.
* The highest 10 percent earn at least: $102,000
* Typical education: associate degree
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