When Minnesota came to a standstill during subzero temperatures in January, Troy Good, a master plumber and general manager at Champion Plumbing, carried on with business as usual.
“I was getting calls left and right to fix frozen pipes,” Good shared in a personal interview with American Experiment. “There will always be a need for plumbers, no matter what’s going on.”
Good’s career as a plumber didn’t begin right away. “It took me a little while to learn about plumbing,” Good said. “In high school, I participated in a work study program that allowed me to attend school and work at the local Hardee’s. So, initially, that’s what I wanted to be, a fast-food manager.”
During his senior year of high school, Good decided to drop out and move to Florida to work in fast food restaurant chains, a decision that only ended up lasting a month.
Upon his return to Minnesota, his mother convinced him to get his GED. Because he knew a classroom setting for another four years wouldn’t be a good fit, Good started working in different trades. “I wanted to focus more on being out in the world and making a difference,” Good said.
After a stint in concrete labor, Good’s cousin introduced him to a plumbing shop. “At the age of 30, I jumped into an apprenticeship,” Good said. “Apprenticeships are designed for young guys right out of school to start, but I made it work.”
The four-year apprenticeship includes training and certifications and is followed by a test to become a journeyman for a year and then a test to become a master plumber.
“Once you take the journeyman’s test and you are a journeyman in Minnesota, it’s like a golden ticket right now,” Good said. “Licensed plumbers are hard to find.”
And there’s no glass ceiling to worry about or confinement to a lifetime of backbreaking work, Good continued. “After becoming a master plumber, you can work for somebody else, because everybody needs a plumber, or you can work your way up to management positions and eventually start your own business. I am currently a minority owner, general manager, and master plumber.”
Because plumbers do not need a college degree, they are often free from crushing debt and find themselves earning pay well above the average for other occupations. “I’m making six figures. Journeymen are making or very close to six figures depending on their abilities. And by abilities I mean the willingness to show up early, work hard, and go after it,” Good said. “If you’re able to do this in the trades, you will always have a good job.”
The Center’s report “No Four-Year Degree Required” reveals the earning potential and expected job growth in plumbing along with other in-demand careers that don’t require the traditional four-year degree route. Plumbers can expect lifetime earnings of just over $2.5 million, nearly 49 percent higher than the median lifetime earnings of four-year degree holders.