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Pipe Fitter Careers

What Does a Pipe Fitter Do

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.

Duties

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Study blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the amount of material and type of equipment needed
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot systems that are not working
  • Replace worn parts

The movement of liquids and gases through pipes is critical to modern life. In homes, water is needed for both drinking and sanitation. In factories, chemicals are moved to aid in product manufacturing. In power plants, steam is moved to drive turbines that generate electricity. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair these pipe systems.

Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters perform three distinct and specialized roles, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They connect pipes, determine the necessary materials for a job, and perform pressure tests to ensure that a pipe system is airtight and watertight.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install, maintain, and repair many different types of pipe systems. Some of these systems carry water, dispose of waste, supply gas to ovens, or heat and cool buildings. Other systems, such as those in power plants, carry the steam that powers huge turbines. Pipes also are used in manufacturing plants to move acids, gases, and waste byproducts through the production process.

Master plumbers on construction jobs may be involved with developing blueprints that show the placement of all the pipes and fixtures. Their input helps ensure that a structure’s plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires. Many diagrams are now created digitally using Building Information Modeling (BIM), which allows a building’s physical systems to be planned and coordinated across occupations.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination.

Plumbers and pipefitters sometimes cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. With some pipe systems, workers may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. Because pipes are seldom manufactured to exact lengths, plumbers and pipefitters measure and then cut and bend lengths of pipe as needed. Their tools often include saws and pipe cutters.

They then connect the pipes, using methods that vary by type of pipe. For example, copper pipe is joined with solder, whereas steel pipe often is screwed together.

In addition to performing installation and repair work, journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters frequently direct apprentices and helpers.

The following are examples of types of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters:

Plumbers install and repair water, drainage, and gas pipes in homes, businesses, and factories. They install and repair large water lines, such as those which supply water to buildings, and smaller ones, including lines that supply water to refrigerators. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures—bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets—and appliances such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and water heaters. In addition, they fix plumbing problems. For example, when a pipe is clogged or leaking, plumbers remove the clog or replace the pipe. Some plumbers maintain septic systems—the large, underground holding tanks that collect waste from houses not connected to a city or county’s sewer system.

Pipefitters, sometimes referred to as just fitters, install and maintain pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are used mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. Fitters often install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Some pipefitters specialize:

  • Gasfitters install pipes that provide natural gas to heating and cooling systems and to stoves. They also install pipes that provide clean oxygen to patients in hospitals.
  • Sprinklerfitters install and repair fire sprinkler systems in businesses, factories, and residential buildings.
  • Steamfitters install pipe systems that move steam under high pressure. Most steamfitters work at college campuses and natural-gas power plants where heat and electricity are generated, but others work in factories that use high-temperature steampipes.

How To Become a Pipe Fitter

Although most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn on the job through an apprenticeship, some start out by attending a technical school. Most states and localities require plumbers to be licensed.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required.

Technical schools offer courses on pipe system design, safety, and tool use. They also offer welding courses that are considered necessary by some pipefitter and steamfitter apprenticeship training programs.

Training

Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn their trade through a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship. Each year, apprentices must have at least 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and a minimum of 246 hours of related technical education.

In the classroom, apprentices learn safety, local plumbing codes and regulations, and blueprint reading. They also study mathematics, applied physics, and chemistry.

Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some start out as helpers. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. To enter an apprenticeship program, a trainee must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass a basic math test
  • Pass substance abuse screening
  • Know how to use computers

Some plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn on the job through specific task-oriented training. Employers provide training that enables workers to complete a variety of tasks. The Home Builders Institute offers a pre-apprenticeship training program for eight construction trades, including plumbing.

After completing an apprenticeship program, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are considered to be journey workers, qualifying them to perform duties on their own.

With additional technical education and several years of plumbing experience, plumbers are eligible to earn master status. Some states require a business to employ a master plumber in order to obtain a plumbing contractor’s license.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states and localities require plumbers to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary, most states and localities require workers to have 2 to 5 years of experience and to pass an exam that shows their knowledge of the trade and of local plumbing codes before they are permitted to work independently.

A few states require pipefitters to be licensed. Several states require a special license to work on gas lines. Obtaining a license requires taking a test, gaining experience through work, or both. For more information, check with your state’s licensing board.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Plumbers who own their own business must be able to direct workers, bid on jobs, and plan work schedules.

Customer-service skills. Plumbers work with customers on a regular basis, so they should be polite and courteous.

Mechanical skills. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters use a variety of tools to assemble and repair pipe systems. Choosing the right tool and successfully installing, repairing, or maintaining a system is crucial to their work.

Physical strength. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters must be strong enough to lift and move heavy pipe.

Troubleshooting skills. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, pipefitters must be able to perform pressure tests to pinpoint the location of a leak.

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Average Salary
$44,897
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
14%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
8,977
Job Openings

Pipe Fitter Career Paths

Top Careers Before Pipe Fitter

Welder
12.6 %

Top Careers After Pipe Fitter

Welder
12.9 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Pipe Fitter

Pipe Fitters in America make an average salary of $44,897 per year or $22 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $58,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $34,000 per year.
Average Salary
$44,897

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
New York, NY
Salary Range48k - 74k$60k$59,821
Baltimore, MD
Salary Range38k - 59k$48k$47,760
San Diego, CA
Salary Range36k - 58k$46k$46,384
Knoxville, TN
Salary Range37k - 56k$46k$46,186
Newport News, VA
Salary Range36k - 56k$46k$45,532
Bowling Green, KY
Salary Range33k - 50k$41k$41,268
$28k
$74k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Pipe Fitters-Bowling Green KY
Pipe Fitters-Bowling Green KY
CCS Construction
CCS Construction
01/28/2021
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$39,65301/28/2021
$39,653
Pipe Fitters-Bowling Green KY
Pipe Fitters-Bowling Green KY
CCS Construction Staffing
CCS Construction Staffing
01/27/2021
01/27/2021
$39,65301/27/2021
$39,653
Contractor Pipe Fitter
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American Crystal Sugar Company
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01/24/2021
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$73,83801/24/2021
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HKA Enterprises
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01/24/2021
01/24/2021
$52,17501/24/2021
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HKA Enterprises
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01/22/2021
01/22/2021
$41,74001/22/2021
$41,740
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Pipe Fitter Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Pipe Fitter. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Pipe Fitter Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Pipe Fitter resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Pipe Fitter Demographics

Gender

male

92.4 %

female

4.8 %

unknown

2.7 %

Ethnicity

White

65.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

20.7 %

Black or African American

9.6 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

82.4 %

Carrier

5.4 %

Portuguese

2.7 %
See More Demographics

Pipe Fitter Education

Majors

Business
13.9 %

Degrees

High School Diploma

55.5 %

Associate

13.3 %

Certificate

11.3 %
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Pipe Fitter

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.6% of pipe fitters listed hand tools on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and dexterity are important as well.

  • Hand Tools, 13.6%
  • Pipe Supports, 9.0%
  • Pipe Systems, 8.5%
  • Safety Procedures, 8.4%
  • Water Systems, 6.9%
  • Other Skills, 53.6%
  • See All Pipe Fitter Skills

Best States For a Pipe Fitter

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a pipe fitter. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, New York, Washington, and New Jersey. Pipe fitters make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $64,017. Whereas in New York and Washington, they would average $59,800 and $56,249, respectively. While pipe fitters would only make an average of $53,801 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Maine

Total Pipe Fitter Jobs:
79
Highest 10% Earn:
$76,000
Location Quotient:
1.87
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Alaska

Total Pipe Fitter Jobs:
64
Highest 10% Earn:
$70,000
Location Quotient:
2.41
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Idaho

Total Pipe Fitter Jobs:
64
Highest 10% Earn:
$75,000
Location Quotient:
1.23
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Pipe Fitter Employers

1. Turner Industries
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$53,513
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
241+
2. Performance Contractors
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$54,097
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
170+
3. Fluor Corporation
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$56,384
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
146+
4. KBR
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$57,411
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
126+
5. Tradesmen International
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$57,272
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
77+
6. Zachry Holdings
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$54,352
Pipe Fitters Hired: 
75+

Pipe Fitter Videos

Updated October 2, 2020