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Become A Pipe Layer

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Working As A Pipe Layer

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

  • Repetitive

  • $37,754

    Average Salary

What Does A Pipe Layer 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 Layer

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 Layer Demographics

Gender

Male

95.5%

Female

3.5%

Unknown

1.0%
Ethnicity

White

63.5%

Hispanic or Latino

14.8%

Black or African American

12.3%

Asian

6.3%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

83.3%

Dakota

16.7%

Pipe Layer Education

Schools

Weber State University

11.1%

Pima Community College

7.4%

Tulsa Welding School

7.4%

Forsyth Technical Community College

7.4%

Eastern Arizona College

7.4%

Hillsborough Community College

7.4%

Mercyhurst University

3.7%

Lincoln Technical Institute

3.7%

Northwest Missouri State University

3.7%

University of South Dakota

3.7%

Columbus State University

3.7%

Thomas Nelson Community College

3.7%

Moraine Valley Community College

3.7%

Cass Career Center

3.7%

ITT Technical Institute-Owings Mills

3.7%

Bismarck State College

3.7%

Eastern Washington University

3.7%

ITT Technical Institute-Newburgh

3.7%

University of South Florida

3.7%

Arkansas State University

3.7%
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Majors

Business

13.0%

Precision Metal Working

7.8%

General Studies

7.8%

Criminal Justice

7.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

6.5%

Automotive Technology

6.5%

Education

6.5%

Drafting And Design

5.2%

Electrical Engineering Technology

5.2%

Management

3.9%

Heavy/Industrial Equipment Maintenance Technologies

3.9%

Occupational Safety And Health

3.9%

Heating And Air Conditioning

3.9%

Liberal Arts

2.6%

Culinary Arts

2.6%

Fire Science And Protection

2.6%

Photography

2.6%

Construction Management

2.6%

Computer Science

2.6%

Industrial Technology

2.6%
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Degrees

Other

54.9%

Certificate

16.4%

Associate

14.8%

Bachelors

10.7%

Masters

1.6%

License

1.6%
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Top Skills for A Pipe Layer

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  1. Sewer
  2. Pipe Crew
  3. Water Pumps
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Installed water, sewer and storm lines, catch basins, hydrants, man-holes, gate-valves and service connections.
  • Set the pace for the pipe crew in order to meet production goals.
  • Pipe layer Installation of water, sewer and strom drain, pipe layng and some heavy equipment operation.
  • Job Responsibilities: Lay pipe, back filling and final grading.
  • Transported machines and material to and from job sites.

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Top Pipe Layer Employers

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