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Become A Pipe Fitter

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Working As A Pipe Fitter

  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Getting Information
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $46,280

    Average Salary

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.

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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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Pipe Fitter jobs

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Pipe Fitter Demographics

Gender

Male

94.2%

Female

4.7%

Unknown

1.1%
Ethnicity

White

80.3%

Hispanic or Latino

12.3%

Asian

5.7%

Unknown

1.3%

Black or African American

0.5%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

76.3%

Carrier

8.5%

Dakota

5.1%

Portuguese

3.4%

German

3.4%

Hawaiian

1.7%

French

1.7%
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Pipe Fitter Education

Schools

Tulsa Welding School

9.3%

University of Phoenix

8.1%

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

7.3%

Lamar University

6.9%

Houston Community College

6.1%

Del Mar College

5.3%

Southeastern Louisiana University

5.3%

Trident Technical College

4.9%

Baton Rouge Community College

4.9%

University of Houston

4.5%

Brazosport College

4.5%

Universal Technical Institute

4.0%

A-Technical College

4.0%

Lee College

4.0%

Ferris State University

3.6%

The Academy

3.6%

Delgado Community College

3.6%

Jones County Junior College

3.6%

University of Southern Mississippi

3.2%

South Texas College

3.2%
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Majors

Precision Metal Working

17.0%

Business

13.6%

General Studies

6.8%

Heating And Air Conditioning

5.8%

Industrial Technology

5.6%

Electrical Engineering

4.5%

Drafting And Design

4.4%

Automotive Technology

4.3%

Education

4.0%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

3.9%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.8%

Mechanical Engineering

3.8%

Criminal Justice

3.7%

Computer Science

3.6%

Kinesiology

3.2%

Management

3.1%

Engineering

2.9%

Construction Management

2.4%

Accounting

2.1%

Biology

1.6%
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Degrees

Other

51.4%

Associate

16.4%

Bachelors

14.5%

Certificate

12.1%

Diploma

2.7%

Masters

1.9%

License

0.7%

Doctorate

0.2%
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Real Pipe Fitter Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Pipe Fitter American Pipe & Tank Islandia, NY Jan 08, 2015 $69,909
Pipe Fitters M. Esposito Heating Contractors, Inc. New York, NY Mar 16, 2009 $62,255
Pipe Fitter Custom Plumbing & Heating, Inc. Northvale, NJ Jun 20, 2011 $59,396
Pipe Fitter Custom Plumbing & Heating, Inc. Northvale, NJ Nov 09, 2011 $59,396
Pipe Fitter Nexmat, LLC TX Apr 10, 2014 $56,412
Pipe Fitter ATX Environmental Solutions, LLC TX Jun 01, 2014 $56,412
Pipe Fitter ATX Environmental Solutions, LLC TX Apr 10, 2014 $56,412
Pipe Fitter Nexmat, LLC TX Jun 01, 2014 $56,412
Pipe Fitter GNC America Inc. NY Aug 01, 2011 $56,140
Pipe Fitter GNC America Inc. TX Dec 20, 2012 $54,784
Pipe Fitter Nexmat, LLC TX Dec 20, 2012 $54,784
Pipe Fitter Hanyangeng USA Inc. TX Dec 20, 2012 $54,784
Pipe Fitters Avon Plumbing & Heating, Inc. NY Dec 17, 2010 $52,770
Pipe Fitter Space Plus, Inc. TX Mar 15, 2012 $49,149
Pipe Fitter Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. Huntington Beach, CA Jun 21, 2011 $48,797
Pipe Fitter North American Shipbuilding, LLC LA Oct 01, 2013 $48,627
Pipe Fitter Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC LA Jul 01, 2014 $48,627
Pipe Fitter Kiewit Offshore Services, Ltd. Ingleside, TX Oct 01, 2016 $47,730
Pipe Fitter Nexmat, LLC TX Dec 01, 2013 $46,519
Pipe Fitters Orbit Plumbing & Heating New York, NY Mar 31, 2010 $46,519
Pipe Fitters P.J.'s Softball Park, LLC Spring, TX May 11, 2011 $43,368
Pipe Fitter F. Gavina & Sons, Inc. Vernon, CA Aug 03, 2010 $43,222
Pipe Fitter F. Gavina & Sons, Inc. Vernon, CA Sep 16, 2008 $43,222
Pipe Fitter Plant Process Equipment, Inc. TX Feb 06, 2015 $43,201
Pipe Fitter Thoma-Sea Marine Constructors LLC LA Sep 06, 2013 $42,825
Pipe Fitter P.J.F. Fabrication, Inc. Dayton, TX Aug 02, 2010 $40,435
Pipe Fitters and Steamfitters J.W. Huff Construction Co., Inc. Alexander, AR Feb 07, 2011 $39,728
Pipe Fitters Foothills Fire Protection, Inc. Scottsdale, AZ Sep 08, 2010 $39,653 -
$56,349
Pipe Fitter Aquarius Plumbing, Inc. Prospect Heights, IL Apr 07, 2009 $36,171

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Top Skills for A Pipe Fitter

SafetyMeetingsPipeSystemLayoutPipeSupportsPVCHandToolsNewConstructionIsometricDrawingsHotWaterPressureGaugePipeLinesRefineryPrepPipeJobSiteTIGHvacPneumaticEquipmentProcessingSystemsOshaPSelect

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Top Pipe Fitter Skills

  1. Safety Meetings
  2. Pipe System Layout
  3. Pipe Supports
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Attended monthly safety meetings to ensure machine operation safety.
  • Planed pipe system layout, installation, or repaired, according to specifications.
  • Can fabricate pipe supports and new pipe spools.
  • Installed all PVC drains, water pipe and gas lines and setting of all fixtures.
  • Operate snake machines, sewer cameras, pipe threaders, and other plumbing equipment and hand tools

Top Pipe Fitter Employers

Pipe Fitter Videos

Become A Union Pipefitter

A day in the life of a Fire Sprinkler Pipe Fitter

Pipe Fitter, Career Video from drkit.org

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