Plumber vs Electrician (Differences and Similarities)

Updated 21 May 2023

A plumber and an electrician are both qualified tradespeople who install, maintain and repair systems used in residential, commercial, retail and industrial structures. They share similarities in skills and working environments but their specific employment responsibilities differ. Exploring the differences and similarities between these two trade roles can help you determine which one might suit your skills and personality. In this article, we discuss a plumber vs electrician, outline their primary duties, detail their differences and similarities and list some pros and cons for each role.

Plumber vs electrician

When discussing the differences and similarities between a plumber vs electrician, consider reviewing a definition of each trade role. A plumber installs, maintains and repairs systems involving gas, water and liquids. These systems can include gas units, water pipes, sinks and toilets. An electrician installs, repairs and maintains electrical systems. These systems might include power conversion units, telecommunication systems, light fittings, electrical heating units and electronic equipment. Both trade roles perform duties in buildings and on construction sites, such as residential and commercial building projects.

Related: 18 Highest Paying Trades in Australia (Plus Primary Duties)

What are plumber and electrician duties?

Below, you can review several duties associated with plumbing and electrician roles:

Plumber duties

Here, you can examine typical duties performed by a plumber:

  • identifying the layout of plumbing systems by reviewing plans provided by clients and builders

  • installing and fixing hot water units

  • designing plumbing system layouts, including water pipes, drainage pipes, discharge pipes and sanitary units

  • ensuring the efficient flow of sewerage between structures and sewerage mains

  • installing gas appliances, such as regulating devices, gas units and flues

  • identifying and repairing defects or damages on plumbing systems.

Related: What Do Plumbers Do? A Complete Guide of Duties and Skills

Electrician duties

Below, you can explore some duties an electrician may perform:

  • reviewing plans to identify the layout of electrical systems and components

  • identifying and repairing issues with electrical systems and components

  • ensuring the safe and legal installation of electrical units and appliances

  • using diagnostic equipment to identify electrical systems with damaged fuses or incorrect electrical flow

  • connecting electrical appliances and systems to a centralised power supply

  • ensuring the correct flow of electricity between systems and power units.

Related: What Does an Electrician Do? Definition and Salaries

Differences and similarities between a plumber and an electrician

Before exploring how a plumber and an electrician's job roles differ, it can be helpful to understand that the differences and similarities between these trade roles can vary depending on the specific job, employment agreement and employer. Below, you can explore some differences and similarities between a plumber and an electrician:


Here, you can find some of the differences between a plumber and an electrician:


A plumber and electrician may use different equipment when performing their duties. A plumber tends to use cutting and grip tools more frequently than an electrician. For example, a plumber may use mole grips, tube cutters, hacksaws, hole saw kits, pipe benders, plumbing torches, sealing tape and water-resistant glue. An electrician typically uses equipment for stripping wires and diagnosing electrical systems. This equipment can include wire stripping pliers, diagonal cutting pliers, digital multimeters, voltage testers and circuit finders. While their equipment may differ, they sometimes use the same tools depending on the job, such as pliers, screwdrivers and trenching tools.


The materials used in plumbing and electrical works differ substantially. A plumber typically uses a range of coated fabrications that provide water resistance and ensure efficient flow of liquid. The materials a plumber uses can include cast iron piping for waste lines, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping, chromed copper piping, galvanised iron piping, black iron piping and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) piping. The materials an electrician uses pre-fabricated units and components made from a variety of minerals, such as copper, lithium and cobalt. They may use fuses, switches, circuit breakers, junction boxes and electrical wires.


A plumber and electrician both repair, install and maintain systems for buildings, but the specific systems they work with differ. A plumber installs sanitation units, toilets, sinks, hot water converters, storm drains, sewerage outlets and filtration systems. An electrician installs systems such as home automation units, security systems, heating and cooling power supplies, lighting fixtures, switch boxes, power meters and power outlets. The difference between the systems a plumber and an electrician work with are usually the systems' primary functions. Plumbing systems focus on the removal, delivery, filtration and heating of liquids while electrical systems typically provide power, functionality and lighting.


The physical tasks that a plumber and an electrician perform typically differ, though they both share the similarity of performing manual labour. A plumber typically performs more extensive manual labour, including the lifting and positioning of heavy pipes or plumbing units. They might also perform more earthworks than an electrician, such as digging trenches for piping systems or excavating holes for storm-water drains. An electrician may also dig trenches, excavate holes and lift heavy objects, but they typically focus more on the positioning of wires and electrical systems in wall and roof spaces.


Below, you can review similarities between a plumber and an electrician

Work environments

Depending on a plumber's or electrician's employment, they might work in different environments, but in many situations, they share the same workspace. Plumbers and electricians are responsible for the functionality of residential, commercial, industrial and retail spaces because most buildings require electricity and plumbing. For this reason, they both work on construction sites and share spaces with a variety of other trades, including carpenters, cabinet makers, tilers, painters and bricklayers. Depending on the stage of a building project, a plumber and an electrician may work alongside each other performing their respective duties.

Related: What Do Tilers Do? (With Primary Duties and Skills)


The specific qualifications a plumber and an electrician require are different, but both types of qualifications are typically apprenticeships. To become a qualified plumber, you typically require the completion of a three to four-year plumbing apprenticeship. During the apprenticeship you work alongside qualified plumbers, performing practical duties, learning theoretical processes and completing examinations in education environments. The qualification process is essentially the same for becoming an electrician, except you focus on electrical works and gain employment with a qualified electrical team. The technical skills you learn differ, but the duration, learning environment and training agreement are typically similar.

Related: How to Become a Plumber (With Skills Guide)


The licensing required is different for a plumber and an electrician, but both roles require licensing to conduct work legally and independently. A plumber requires registration to work, and a licence to supervise work and issue compliance certificates. An electrician requires an electrician's licence. While the licences for a plumber and an electrician are different, they both allow a plumber or an electrician to perform work legally. Another similarity is that a plumber and an electrician typically apply for their licences after completing their apprenticeships. Depending on the state or territory, the licensing requirements may differ.

Related: How to Become an Electrician In 4 Steps

Adherence to building codes

Both a plumber and an electrician conduct their responsibilities in compliance with building regulations and codes. The specific codes and regulations that apply to them may differ, but both roles are accountable for the correct and safe installation of the systems they deal with. A plumber and an electrician both perform their duties to ensure electrical and plumbing systems pose no risk to residents and occupants of the relevant buildings.

What are the pros and cons of a plumber and electrician?

Below, you can explore some potential pros and cons for each role:

Pros and cons of a plumber

Here, you can review the pros and cons of a plumber:

Pros of a plumber

Below, you can find several pros of being a plumber.

  • Physical fitness: A plumber's job duties naturally involve physical labour, which can be excellent for maintaining fitness and improving health while working.

  • Variation of duties: As a plumber, you might conduct a variety of different duties, which can help maintain your motivation, interest and passion in the job role.

  • Opportunity for self-employment: As a plumber, you can typically own your own business or work as a contractor, providing employment flexibility.

Cons of a plumber

Here, you can explore some potential cons of being a plumber.

  • Arduous conditions: Some working environments and responsibilities may be hazardous, uncomfortable and unsanitary.

  • Unpredictable jobs: Some repair and diagnostic jobs might be unpredictable, as it can be challenging to diagnose plumbing issues below ground.

Pros and cons of an electrician

Below, you can review the pros and cons of being an electrician:

Pros of an electrician

Here, you can find some pros of being an electrician.

  • Variation of duties: When working as an electrician, your responsibilities may vary between contracts and employment, allowing you to maintain your motivation and engagement.

  • Opportunity for self-employment: Similar to a plumber and most trade roles, you may have the opportunity for self-employment as an electrician.

Cons of an electrician

Below, you can find some potential cons of being an electrician:

  • Hazardous: Extensive safety awareness and training is necessary to work safely with electricity.

  • Monotonous: While you may have the opportunity for a variation of work duties, electrical work can potentially be monotonous and tedious to perform, depending on your personality.

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