There is a belief that as professional designers, the plumbing industry found us, not the other way around. I don’t believe any of us went to a four-year college or university seeking simply a four-year degree. Some of us have technical aptitude and work in the real world to learn our craft, and some of us start as mechanical, or some other type of discipline, engineers. Currently, the profession of plumbing engineer is promoted by the need in engineering firms.
Need is the basis of many things in this world.
This question is one of my favorite questions. The main answer leads me to one of the ultimate truths brought up in my first column, “Plumbing Design 101.” The answer is that physics will always win. To explain this is a simple, yet critical understanding. The human race is nothing without water. A human being can live without air conditioning, or a car or a building or cell phone or a computer. We cannot exist without water. Physics will always win.
All water is recycled. The planet and its atmosphere are a recycling and supply process for water. Plumbing is a water distribution system. Without clean water, the human race perishes. We need the plumbing engineer/designer to design healthy systems with the information and products developed and represented by the marketing professionals. Those systems are then installed and maintained by the facility staff and plumbers. We also need the manufactures to produce products, the owners to build buildings, the plan reviewers to enforce healthy building and code bodies, and legislators to dictate healthy requirements.
Therefore, we all work as a team. This is because plumbing is a critical system to prevent a human being from dying. In this world, one in three people does not have clean water. One in 10 does not have a toilet. And if it takes you one minute to read this article, one child has died. These facts are per the World Health Organization.
Though water being critical is an important enough reason to get into the plumbing profession, it’s not the only one. It is necessary to acknowledge plumbing systems include much more than water systems, they also include systems that house medical gases, and fire protection, and comfort, and so much more. The plumbing profession is important for so many reasons.
This question is likely my second favorite. My gut answer on this is that it is an important and rewarding career. However, when explaining that to a young engineer, it is never enough. Therefore, I start by asking, “Would you rather be one of many, or one of few?”
The answer is thought about and typically answered with, “A few.”
In the firms that I have worked with, the ratio of mechanical to plumbing was 4:1 and as Revit creeped, some as little as 3:1. It has never been 1:1. There is clearly a need for plumbing engineers and designers, as well as a need for people knowledgeable with plumbing systems and products. As this critical profession continues to grow, a plumbing engineer’s demand will increase. According to Payscale, an online salary resource, the average entry level plumbing engineer salary is $60,337. The average salary will continue to increase due to economics. Note this will change as the average number of professionals continue to decrease. With the average of plumbing professionals currently at 45-50 years old, there will be a path of opportunities as a younger professional develops.
The plumbing engineer/designer is often also the fire protection engineer/designer in a firm. The answer to this question is exactly the same as above in that it is a rare position. It is also a rewarding choice. The truths are the same for experienced fire protection knowledge professionals as it is with plumbing engineers. The difference being a knowledgeable fire protection and plumbing professional is even more sparse. If pay is in indicator, Payscale average for a fire protection engineer is $64,204.
As I write this article, I state simple facts: Physics will always win; the planet is a water recycling process; and for me, plumbing is a rewarding and important career. Millions and billions of people live longer, healthier lives, because of plumbing. The profession is one of honor because we are stewards of humankind’s health. However, we as part of humankind, still must do more. Because in truth, two children died while you read this article in two minutes verses one minute.