Plumber or Electrician?

Amongst the trades, electricians and plumbers are often the two most compared occupations. They both have lucrative earnings potential, envied job satisfaction levels, and a high degree of technical competence required. But which one takes the crown as the best trade to work in?!

Well, this answer is dependent entirely on the individual in question. Each has distinctive component elements that make them attractive to some, and not so much to others. Furthermore, both are equally as flexible when it comes to accommodating individuals entering their respective industries. Training intensity, accreditation type, specialist roles, and style of employment can all be moulded to suit the prospective candidate.

This article offers a thorough comparison between both professions. Within this analysis, we visit a whole raft of items that demonstrate the key similarities and differences between the two disciplines. In this way, this review serves to support those currently making a decision on which career path, plumbing or electrical work, is the best to pursue.

As has already been referenced, the advantages and disadvantages of each role are often largely contingent on personal circumstances. Therefore, this piece does not intend to offer a definitive answer to the career choice articulated in the last paragraph. However, by digesting its contents, individuals can infer how each trade would relate to their workplace needs and requirements. In this way, it’s hoped this article serves to support people to make calculated, well-informed decisions on their next career steps.

Importance to society

One consistent quality shared by electricians and plumbers, is the value they add to everyday life. This concept applies to the clients they directly work with, and their impact on the general public as a whole.

Electricians can deliver innovative solutions to a range of everyday electrical failures. This means that frustrating breakdowns in production lines, or a lack of access to electrical equipment in domestic contexts, can be swiftly addressed. Their sterling work in commercial and domestic settings is trumped only by their critical role in the health sector. Without electrical professionals, life-saving support machines and state-of-the-art medical equipment would be susceptible to extensive pauses in use. Their importance to modern-day society can therefore not be under-emphasised.

Plumbers also offer a series of imperative services that provide a platform for communities to function, and health to be preserved. Installing and maintaining piping networks to deliver clean water, and divert harmful waste, keeps the country moving in a safe and efficient way.

Day Job: tasks and duties

So, how does each profession deliver on the essential commitments outlined above? Let’s review the routine tasks that electricians and plumbers would undertake in a normal working week.

Electricians: tasks

In a nutshell, electricians are accountable for the safe installation and maintenance of electrical wiring, units, and equipment. However, this simplifies a discipline that takes a considerable level of skill and knowledge to accurately execute.

On any given day, an electrician may:

  • Digest and subsequently analyse electrical blueprints and diagrams. This would include offering solutions on how to tackle current issues, and therefore mitigating against the risk of electrical faults.
  • Reviewing electrical plan documentation and identifying errors or risks.
  • Performing all work in compliance to industry health and safety regulations. Logging and reporting all safety contraventions and issues. Escalating to relevant stakeholders when level of severity/potential client and public impact is high.
  • Ensure that pre-emptive steps are taken to maintain electrical systems and equipment functioning as they should. Undertake general maintenance tasks when problems with electrical installations arise.

Plumbers: tasks

In similarity to the electrician role, a high-level description of a plumber’s daily activity doesn’t serve to illustrate the scope of involved works. Ultimately, plumbers are accountable for the installation and repair of water systems in domestic, commercial, and public service buildings. This includes units and piping relating to hot water tanks, gas heaters, heat pumps, and central heating & air conditioning programmes.

However, a deep dive into these tasks provides us with a clearer understanding of the level of complexity involved.

Plumbers routinely endeavour to:

  • Review, evaluate, and surmise information from building blueprints in order to aid the layout and construction of water systems.
  • Find innovative ways to incorporate hot and water cold systems and their supporting equipment into domestic, commercial, and public service buildings. Achieve this without compromising the building’s structural integrity.
  • Competently execute the installation of water-related fixtures and fittings. This includes delivery of toilets, sink basins, central heating & air-conditioning systems, gas stoves and septic tanks.
  • Install, maintain, and repair roofing pipes and spouting.
  • Suitably respond to plumbing emergencies, rectifying issues in pressurised environments. Offer solutions to mitigate against similar faults re-occurring in the future.
  • Conduct inspections into drainage systems, and install, maintain, and repair sewerage pipes.

The above lists, both in the context of electricians and plumbers, are not exhaustive. However, they do highlight the sheer depth and breadth of activity undertaken. Furthermore, they also serve to illustrate the level of detail, competence, and compliance required. Although each profession’s workload will peak and trough dependent on demand, there’s every chance that a substantial number of the advertised duties will materialise at some stage in the working week.

Earnings potential

Although job satisfaction is central to an individual’s career efforts, it’s also important to be compensated appropriately. If the earnings generated don’t reflective the challenges you face in role, then the result will likely be disengagement and an individual sense of injustice. In an ironic, vicious, cycle, this could actually impact on the amount of money you’re able to earn. Disillusionment or de-motivation towards work, which usually leads to apathy and a lack of focus, will undermine the scale of your financial opportunity. A client doesn’t want a worker who isn’t committed to the job at hand!

The size of the prize

There are a series of elements that conspire to significantly impact your earnings potential. This could be local demand, experience-level, grading of role within profession, and whether you offer any specialised technical services. However, one guarantee is that plumbers and electricians will always acquire respectable salaries.

According to the most recent data compiled by the Office of National of Statistics, out of all ‘traditional’ tradespeople, electricians and plumbers earned most per annum. This stat is further compounded when accounting for the fact that electricians have secured top-position in the rankings for the last eight consecutive years. Plumbers are always in close proximity behind. Therefore, these two professions routinely register higher annual salaries than carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers, tilers, painters and roofers. Moreover, some of the bandwidths between these trades and others are substantial. In comparison to roofers, electricians and plumbers will both acquire at least £7,000 more per year.

Integrity of data

It’s worth noting that the numbers deployed in this example use a median formula to determine each trade’s salary average. This is undoubtedly the most accurate calculation to use in this context. By ordering earnings from top to bottom, and then selecting the ‘middle’ value out of the pack, median averages invariably paint an extremely accurate picture of results. Mean averages can easily skew figures based on the extremities of highest and lowest within a given data set. Modal averages simply depict the most common answer in surveys, and could therefore be argued to be the least reliable of all. Therefore, these numbers stand up to scrutiny.

It’s also critical to mention that both trades have median average earnings ahead of the overall national curve. In the UK, the average salary of the population is 31k. As we’ll see, electricians and plumbers enjoy a marginally superior financial package.

When reviewing these numbers, one should also allow for regional variance. Building a holistic view on nationwide earnings, within any occupation, requires one to acknowledge how a location can cause significant fluctuation. For example, plumbers and electricians in London and the South-east, who preside over significantly higher living costs, will receive higher wages for work conducted. Indeed, this specific trend is not just restricted to these trades, as many industries facilitate higher wages in these areas.

Electrician salary

According to the same report produced by the ONS, a fully-qualified electrician (rather than a domestic installer- more on this to follow), will earn approximately £32,500 per annum. However, earnings do vary quite radically between those in self-employed, contractor, and salaried employment. Those in London or the South-East will most likely pick-up around £41,500, due to the reasons outlined above.

Electrical apprentices, unsurprisingly, command a figure substantially less than £32,500. On average, those on electrotechnical apprenticeship programmes should expect to roughly receive £15,000 throughout their 3–4-year course. However, the bandwidth in electrical apprentice earnings based on locality is particularly staggering. In Birmingham, amongst the city’s highest-paid trainees, the base number reflected above can be almost doubled.

This is because they’re effectively studying and observing, as opposed to carrying out full-scale electrical instalments. When reviewing salaries of those on apprenticeship schemes, regardless of industry, training and accreditation costs should always be factored in. As, in this way, employers are ultimately paying-out two sums of money to facilitate an apprentice’s employment. Although many companies now receive governmental financial incentives toward recruiting and developing apprentices, they still make tangible investment in an individual’s future career. Therefore, those considering undertaken apprentice programmes should never just look exclusively at the salary column. Moreover, any numbers should be contextualised within projected career earnings. An apprenticeship scheme will represent as little as 6% of your working life cycle. This demonstrates how this early modest salary pales into insignificance amidst the full financial landscape of one’s career.

Plumber salary

As referenced, plumbers do earn slightly less, but are still adequately compensated for the work undertaken. These professionals tend to earn just shy of £32,000, and therefore are never far behind the salary picked up by electricians. The London and South-east adjustment also applies here, but doesn’t quite land with the same authority. Plumbers in this region tend to earn around £37,500 per year, which is evidently a 5.5k climb on their national counterparts. For electricians, the comparable number is close to 9k.

As we’ll see, training to be a plumber sometimes takes on a slightly different format than the learning journey taken by those aiming to become an electrician. Therefore, it’s difficult to compare entry-point salaries, as there is not always a suitable equivalency between both professions. However, one like-for-like we can compare is that of apprentice earnings. Given the closeness of eventual career salaries, it’s perhaps unsurprising to note that plumbing apprentices also earn approximately £15,000 throughout their training programmes.

In recent times, the salaries of plumbers, electricians, and indeed all tradespeople have suffered as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, if reviewing averages in a contemporary setting, versus the immediate years prior, one will see a slight tailoring off in earnings trajectory. This is partially due to a downturn in work, but is also offset by the introduction of the UK government’s furlough scheme in 2020. This capped the earnings potential of some salaried employees to 80%.

However, given that we’ve seen some recent green shoots in recovery, it’s expected that these numbers will make a full recovery in months to come.

Getting qualified as an electrician or plumber

As you would expect, due to the high degree of difficulty and significant workload involved, candidates hoping to qualify for either of these professions have to undergo a rigorous training schedule. In these trades, this materialises in both the classroom, and in their respective works environments. Indeed, to truly grasp the two disciplines’ respective principles and regulations, it’s highly important to embrace both theoretical and ‘on-the-job’ coaching.

Furthermore, in undertaking these extensive learning programmes, candidates should be braced to apply significant levels of hard work and commitment. They’ll also need to demonstrate their accrued skills and knowledge in ‘live’ settings. Therefore, it’s likely that delegates will need to conduct these activities in pressurised, time-sensitive conditions.

So, if you’re averse to hard work and comprehensive study, and also struggle to deal with any gradient of stress, than it be worth having a re-think about your career plan!

Qualifying as an electrician

The available routes towards qualifying as an electrician are extensive in volume. Indeed, the number of pathways on offer outweigh what is presented to those looking to enter the plumbing industry. There is considerable variance in the components of each journey, impacting on individuals in different ways depending on personal circumstance. Candidates should therefore take ample time to research each path, and make informed decisions based on all of the information available.

The key consideration that defines one’s entry into the electrotechnical sector, is determining the capability level you intend to operate at. In this endeavour, there are ultimately two pathways on offer. These routes are differentiated by the knowledge and skill level required to perform each of their resultant roles.

The higher graded position, and therefore the more difficult route, permits individuals to become fully-qualified electricians. Those who have acquired this status, will be totally competent in all facets of electrical installation and/or maintenance. They will also be in possession of an ECS Gold Card, an industry-recognised accreditation scheme. This programme helps the sector to identify the level of capability and experience of individuals, from trainee through to specialist. Indeed, there is a myriad of different card types available, which appropriately grade and compartmentalise each electrical occupation. However, an ECS Gold Card is perhaps the most recognised, as this represents individuals who have gained a professional standing.

Domestic Installers

Domestic Installers, the lower graded group out of the two, do not quite hold the same level of stature within the industry. This is because the training programme undertaken is far less all-encompassing, and mainly focuses on the rudimentary practices of electrical instalments. Nevertheless, these individuals still command a decent presence in the market, and can offer several different services to clients based in domestic properties.

As training is less intensive in content, domestic installers can pass relatively swiftly through the qualification process. Courses, which are provided by a number of different learning providers, are available to anyone over the age of 18. They tend to be conducted over approximately a fortnight, although timeframes do vary contingent on learning provider.

Candidates will be tutored on the bs7671 wiring regulations, inspection and testing, and the governmental Part P Scheme. For reference, the latter element refers to work conducted in residential dwellings that would, unless executed by an appropriately accredited individual, involve having to liaise with the LABC (Local Authority Building Control department). The topics covered conspire to offer a perfect foundation platform of knowledge to get out in the community. Moreover, this allows domestic installers to deliver base-level, but nevertheless essential, electrotechnical services.

To pass, delegates will need to successful navigate a four-part assessment procedure. This will include three multiple-choice papers, and a practical examination.

Given its fast-tracked approach and limited content, becoming a Domestic Installer is conducive to those with relatively modest electrical career aspirations. However, it provides a great opportunity to get on the earnings ladder quickly, and requires significantly less training and commitment levels than the other learning journey.

Fully-qualified status

Indeed, to register full status as an electrician, individuals must complete a sequence of detailed courses. Although there are alternative routes within this, for the purposes of consistency (and time!), we’ll focus on the ‘front-loaded’ training route. This relates to students who are not undertaking an apprenticeship scheme (for personal reasons or otherwise). Apprentices will indeed attend extremely similar courses, but leverage these with early employment experience and collegiate endeavours. Those completing training as a private enterprise, will most likely complete most of their required learning before formally entering the industry.

Candidates engaging in ‘front-loaded’ training, will need to self-finance the upskilling process. This will be considerably outlay when factoring in every qualification required to be undertaken. However, as per earlier discussion, delegates should always frame this within the context of future potential earnings.

To successfully pass the fully-qualified path, individuals must pass a relevant Level 2 and 3 Diploma within the electrotechnical discipline. Furthermore, they need to navigate the Level 3 NVQ course, a reflective module that probes deeply into learnings acquired to date.

Compulsory employment experience

Students must attain an employment position within the electrical sector in order to conduct the NVQ qualification. This is because the assessment criteria demands that delegates can demonstrate ‘real-world’ examples of work conducted. Indeed, the whole focus of the training programme is centred around assessing whether individuals can function in the industry upon completion of the necessary qualifications. This includes having an awareness of health, safety, and environmental considerations.

By testing candidates in simulated working conditions, assessors can truly grasp whether prospective electricians can implement the skills learned when it really counts. It also serves to highlight those who may struggle under pressure. Once the NVQ has been accommodated, delegates will need to take one last final examination. This is the Electrotechnical Assessment of Occupational Competence, known more colloquially in the industry as the AM2 Assessment. This exam is segmented into five separate parts, and will again test skills and knowledge acquired to press. Once this is achieved, individuals will have eventually acquired professional status.

Additional courses

There is also a whole suite of supplementary courses that an individual may look to undertake. This will be dependent on whether a specific discipline is targeted, and or how far an individual wants to profess in their career. For example, those who are driven towards Project Management positions, or specialised occupations such as datacomms or fire detection & alarm engineers, will need to take on additional learning courses.

Qualifying as a plumber

There is significant risk of duplication here, as, although plumbing has fewer qualification pathways, there is still a considerable level of overlap with the aforementioned electrical-sector routes.

Again, for those keen on ‘front-loaded’ training paths, a strategic journey through a series of courses is required. However, the industry doesn’t obligate its respective students to acquire a Level 3 NVQ, with plenty of qualified plumbers just holding a Level 2 NVQ qualification. In this way, plumbers can operate within their trade without having to take as many learning steps. This clearly presents a time-saving and more financially appealing training path than prospective electricians ensure. However, as demonstrated, this ultimately impacts on their comparative long-term earnings capability.

Furthermore, there are some extremely experienced plumbers, who navigated their training a considerable period of time ago, who operate without any form of NVQ. This is because the previous expectation level was to only sit standard, not NVQ-level, City and Guilds qualifications. For reference, the City & Guilds are a renowned skills and certification facilitator across a number of industries. They are often the body most commonly used by the ‘trades’ for learning provision purposes.

Conversely, electrotechnical sector standards determine that no ‘professional’ electrician can offer their services without completing an appropriate NVQ. For those who were previously tethered to legacy training plans, and perhaps didn’t have ready access to this level of qualification, are given support to address this. The industry lays on an Experienced Worker Assessment (or ‘Mature Worker Assessment’ dependent on learning provider), which brings individuals up to speed with latest standards and regulations. This can be undertaken by anyone who has more than five years industry experience.

Direct application

There is also an opportunity for prospective plumbers to apply directly for employment, and subsequently learn ‘on the job’. To some extent, this is reflected in the electrical pathway, as the role of ‘electrician’s mate’ could be an option candidates decide to exercise. However, importantly, this still requires to have accrued at least a Level 2 Diploma, and therefore is not completely devoid of some level of training. In contrast, plumbers can, in effect, apply for trade positions as a complete novice at the point of entry.

Qualification duration

The qualification obtained will most likely be the Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma/NVQ in Plumbing and Domestic Heating. And, as per the electrical route, apprentices will mirror their ‘front-loaded’ training counterparts by attending similar courses. In both a plumbing and electrician context, apprentices will usually undergo a four-year programme of learning. Given that those who take front-loaded routes can largely determine the pace and intensity of their training schedule, it’s difficult to put an exact number on total learning duration. However, most individuals can expect to navigate their full journey within around 24-30 months. As some plumbing stakeholders tend to qualify at a reduced learning level, you can perhaps reduce these rough numbers by 6-9 months. Nevertheless, most younger plumbers will have committed to a Level 3 NVQ qualification, so therefore will have had a training span closer to the original number expressed.

Finally, there is now the option, for students connected to both trades, of embracing the brand new ‘T-level’ programme. Introduced in 2020 as a ‘technical’ (T) alternative to A-levels, 16-19-year-old adults enrolled on this scheme will participate in a hybrid format of learning. This will include classroom-based theory sessions, and taking occupancy of an industry placement position. In effect, this is a direct alternative to traditional apprenticeship schemes. However, there is no obligation for employers to pay those on T-level training plans.

Working conditions

As both plumbers and electricians are salient in maintaining a vast array of public and private sector buildings, there is no real pattern to either of their working environments. Indeed, each trade will find themselves conducting work in an extensive list of domestic and commercial settings. This could be residential homes and dwellings, offices, schools, hospitals and construction sites. In truth, the list is endless.

However, there are some nuances that separate the working conditions of these two occupations. An electrical professional is often deemed to be in more tangible danger than a plumber, given the inherent hazards linked to their role. Installing and maintaining electrical units and equipment is clearly dangerous, as the risk of electric shock is always apparent. Although electricians preside over robust health and safety guidance as part of their mammoth accreditation journey, the threat can never be totally expunged. Electricians will also have occasions when working at height is unavoidable, for example when addressing works on network pylons.

Generally, plumbers tend to work in slightly more serene environments. However, they’re still subjected to the perils of contaminated waste, potential electrocution in water, and flooding.

A positive aspect in both roles is the variation in workplace conditions. Although a little cliché, the concept of ‘no two working days are the same’ can be applied in this context. Both professions will find themselves out in the field (quite literally!), and also in the homes and businesses of the nation. This ideal mixture of environments provides mitigation against tedium, lethargy, and repetitiveness.

Work/life balance

As we can infer from the information discussed to press, both roles demand a huge amount of hard work and application. A tradespersons work/life balance is, again, largely dependent on both their personal situation, and career ambitions.

Within each sector, individuals have a decision to make on their employment format. This will serve to influence greatly on how much time they allocate to work, and therefore to what extent their job encroaches into their personal lives.


If opting for a self-employment approach, individuals should be aware that there is strong likelihood they will work a significant amount more hours. This is particularly the case if running their own business. Given this enterprise relies on constant focus, financial investment, client interaction and works organization, free time is often at a premium. Those operating businesses, particularly in the early days, can find themselves working ‘days-off’, reducing holiday intake, and incurring increased stress. Therefore, this role demands serious physical and mental exertion. However, business-owners have significant earnings potential, and are only ultimately capped by their own personal limitations, and work/life balance preference.

Self-employed contracting work

Some self-employed workers take a slightly different approach, and offer their services in a sub-contractor basis. Therefore, these individuals will attach themselves for a set period to a fixed employer, working for them until a project’s completion. Given that they will then need to locate the next ‘batch’ of work, this way of working can invite its own pressures. However, there is more job security than that associated with running a private business, as the ultimate accountability for acquiring work from clients lies elsewhere. Again, these workers are effectively in charge of their own destiny, so earnings potential is only really curtailed by their own individual approach.

Salaried employment

For those who require a little more protection and stability, salaried work, tied to a consistent employer, is the most favourable route. This means that regardless of workload, client satisfaction and job type, workers will earn a consistent wage each month. Unless, of course, their parent company goes out of business (however let’s think positively!). Individuals will also have the benefit of working alongside a consistent peer group. This will not only allow task to be conducted more productively, but also create more camaraderie and rapport with colleagues. Comparatively, self-employed work can often be a lonely existence.

However, ultimately, all three have advantages and disadvantages. What one lacks in security, the other gains in earnings potential. Despite these consistencies between plumbing and electrical pursuits, there are some subtle differences in working timeframes. It’s argued that plumbers work marginally more hours, and have a higher likelihood of working unsociable hours outside of emergencies. Nevertheless, both regularly see their respective workforces working overtime, weekends, and bank holidays. Given how reliant both industrial and domestic stakeholders are on electricity and water, emergency call-outs are an endemic feature of both disciplines.

Career growth

The opportunity for career growth and development is significant across both pursuits. As previously alluded to, both sectors champion those who run their own businesses, where lucrative rewards are certainly on offer.

Within the electrical sector, there is a range of specialist disciplines which may be attractive to electrotechnical workers. These correspond to both the fire alarm and datacomms posts expressed earlier, but also to a raft of alternative engineering roles. Positions such as field engineer, control systems engineer, and aerial and satellite engineer, all offer intriguing sector opportunities. Furthermore, the exponential growth of renewability and sustainability industries also provide low-hanging fruit to electrical professionals. Solar panel and electrical vehicle charging point installation are just two examples of pursuits available in a rapidly proliferating area.

Electricians may also want to diversify into building consultancy, electrical engineer or project management roles, but these will require additional, advanced training.

For those keen to launch a business from day one, plumbing might well be the right path to set you on exponential career growth. Most enterprises within the plumbing sector are small, independent, local companies, and therefore complement those with aspirations of going it alone from the off.

In similarity to electrical professionals, there are also a host of additional accreditations that individuals may want to target. An ACS gas certification will give you a leg-up on the competition, permitting you to work on domestic gas applications. Successful OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association) registration may also serve to supplement your career objectives. This allows individuals to more easily acquire roles within oil, solid fuel, and renewable heating businesses. In order to maintain this level of accreditation, plumbers need to pass regular assessment conducted by OFTEC’s inspection team. This body are accountable for regulating standards within this area of the industry.

Transferrable skills

Getting to a qualified status in either endeavour will facilitate you to embrace a whole range of transferrable skills. However, these do not just exclusively allude to technical capabilities. The values, principles and competencies absorbed during training drives plumbers and electricians to a unique level of professionalism. Hard work, dedication, problem-solving, and strategic thinking, are just some of the key qualities inherited from learning modules. These abilities will allow tradespeople from these sectors to embrace most job roles in any given industry or discipline.

However, certain transferrable practical skills and knowledge are also acquired whilst working in these roles. Therefore, both electricians and plumbers can often be attractive candidates for a number of employers and agencies.

Transferrable skills harnessed by electricians

Electricians can boast a number of learned technical attributes that sets them up for success in certain other pursuits. These are:

  • An understanding of how to install and maintain electrical wiring, equipment and fixtures.
  • An ability to produce wiring diagrams and electrical floor plans.
  • Solid foundation knowledge of critical maths and science topics.
  • A comprehensive understanding of electrical theory, its application, and the rules and regulations that support its safe practice.
  • An in-depth knowledge of codes and standards of practice in electrotechnical task.
  • A robust understanding of health, safety, and environmental considerations in the workplace. Including an awareness of specific legislation and HSE guidance.

Transferrable skills harnessed by plumbers

  • An understanding of water system design, and how to manifest technical drawings into practical installations.
  • A comprehensive understanding of drainage methods, and what component materials are deployed to support this endeavour.
  • An ability to competently solder and weld.
  • An appreciation of rudimentary electrical systems and installations.
  • As per electricians, plumbers will gain a robust understanding of health, safety, and environmental considerations in the workplace. Again, this also includes an awareness of specific legislation and HSE guidance.

Job security and future scope for work

Electricians and plumbers are subjected to increasing levels of public and private demand. Indeed, out of all of the trades, these two disciplines, in consistency to their earnings rankings, are placed in the top two positions for service requests.

Although the trades sector has presided over a recent decline in commercial revenue due to the pandemic, there has still been a consistent desire for tradespeople over the last couple of years. A series of lockdowns turned homeowners’ attention to local renovations and repairs, and therefore were in need of technical support and expertise. Further, as the commercial sector geared up for office returns, equipment and water system checks were needed to ensure seamless re-entry. Therefore, although the COVID-19 outbreak has delivered an odd setback for all of the traditional ‘trades’, it hasn’t got close to landing a knock-out blow to electricians, plumbers, or indeed any other craft work discipline.

For electricians and plumbers, demand is further accentuated by the shortfall in their respective ranks. This is especially the case for the former. It’s estimated that by 2023, due to declining numbers in those opting for electrical careers, the UK will be 10,000 electricians short of meeting the projected scale of work. Indeed, even today, experts suggest that over half of the nation’s regions and counties have 50 electricians less than their required quota. Plumbing numbers are also concerning when viewed against increasing trends for demand. So, in truth, pursuing either career will most likely result in being able to access a steady stream of work.


Both electricians and plumbers enjoy rewarding careers, which are well-compensated, challenging and diverse in scope. The differences in training paths, qualification levels, and working conditions range from the subtle to the extreme. However, as with all trades, there’s always be a certain level of overlap and duplication in their practices.

As positioned at the start of the article, there has been no intended narrative to guide the reader down a specific path. As you can see, each sector’s employment opportunities are highly dependent on a person’s circumstance and career aspirations. However, if you’re currently mulling over working in either industry, you’ll hopefully now feel better placed to make an informed decision. Furthermore, you should also hopefully feel more assured about the scale of the opportunity in each discipline. Plumbers and electricians are not only the most in-demand trades in the current marketplace, but are arguably two of the most sought-after services across all of society’s enterprises.

Moreover, the transferrable skills acquired during training means you don’t have to feel tethered to these industries forever. Whether inside or outside the trades sector, the values and technical skills obtained allow candidates to flourish in any pursuit.

Getting to a decision

In an attempt to simplify the themes considered in order to make a decision, prospective industry candidates may want to ask the following questions:

Do I love technical, complex challenges? Am I comfortable in navigating through hazardous conditions in order to effectively deliver for clients and the general public?

If the answer is yes to both, then a career as an electrician might be the right option for you.

Conversely, you also may ask:

Do I like getting my hands dirty and getting stuck into pressurised environments? Am I motivated by helping to facilitate safe, warm, and sanitary properties in commercial, public sector and domestic settings?

Similarly, if the response is positive, then training to be a plumber is most likely your favoured career path.

However, in all honesty, given the similarities in both roles, there’s a good chance that elements of either occupation will attract you. The key advice here is to carefully assess each path, consider your career motivations, and listen to your heart (and head!). Consulting with friends and family, course tutors, and industry professionals is also a great way to support the decision-making process.

In truth, you can’t make a ‘wrong’ decision on this. Both professions, if approached with the right attitude, are extremely rewarding and enjoyable endeavours.

So, don’t worry, take your time, and choose your path carefully. The right career is waiting for you!