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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:
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:
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:
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Plumber/Pipefitter
Top Careers After Plumber/Pipefitter
Hispanic or Latino10.3%
Black or African American0.4%
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Central Texas College8.9%
Central New Mexico Community College6.7%
College of Southern Nevada6.7%
Henry Ford College6.7%
University of Nevada - Reno4.4%
Illinois State University4.4%
Mesa Community College - Boswell4.4%
Mid Michigan Community College4.4%
Delgado Community College4.4%
Minnesota State University - Mankato4.4%
Truckee Meadows Community College4.4%
College of the Canyons4.4%
West Virginia University4.4%
Tulsa Welding School4.4%
El Paso Community College4.4%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Vordonia Contracting & Supplies Corp.||Islandia, NY||Aug 15, 2012||$64,813|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Asa of New York Inc.||Lindenhurst, NY||Dec 07, 2007||$64,697|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||NVE Plumbing and Construction, Inc.||Chantilly, VA||May 22, 2013||$63,814|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Silver Oak Landscaping Inc.||Fontana, CA||Jun 30, 2013||$54,262 -
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||L&B Universal, Inc.||Chantilly, VA||Apr 02, 2014||$53,435|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Asa of New York, Inc.||West Babylon, NY||Nov 28, 2007||$52,175|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Outerspaces, Inc.||Glenolden, PA||Sep 05, 2013||$49,733|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfiter||QED 1 Mechanical & Construction, Corp.||New York, NY||Jul 20, 2009||$49,545|
|Plumbers and Pipefitters||Scarlato Plumbing, Inc.||Sag Harbor, NY||Dec 02, 2010||$47,083|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Chon Engineering P.C.||NY||Oct 02, 2009||$46,999|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||K&M Plumbing LLC||Putnam Valley, NY||Apr 02, 2010||$46,999|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||C&L Pipe Services, Inc.||Houston, TX||May 01, 2013||$46,862|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Vordonia Contracting & Supplies Corp.||Islandia, NY||Jun 23, 2010||$46,519|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Ariana Contracting, Inc.||NY||Jan 30, 2008||$46,436|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, ADN Steamfitters||Hillcrest Plumbing & Heating Inc.||Cos Cob, CT||Feb 19, 2009||$44,307|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Knight and Grabowski Construction LLC||Stamford, CT||Sep 23, 2008||$44,036|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||RK Irrigation||Stamford, CT||Nov 05, 2010||$44,036|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters||Plumbing Plus Heating||Monroe, NY||Mar 11, 2010||$41,740|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, Steamfitters||Roman's Commercial Cleaning & Property Management||West Warwick, RI||Jan 22, 2010||$38,526|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Arista Mechanical HVAC||NY||Jun 11, 2008||$37,149|
|Helpers-Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Carl Carilli Plumbing & Heating, Inc.||New Rochelle, NY||Jan 28, 2011||$36,941|
|Helpers, Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitter||Kablan Building Contractors||Oct 17, 2007||$35,229|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Better Water Well Systems Inc.||Salem, NY||Aug 12, 2014||$32,178|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||CRU Mechanical & Heating, Inc.||NY||Apr 15, 2011||$31,785|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Unlimited Holdings LLC. A.K.A. A & C Sprinkler LLC||Toms River, NJ||Jan 17, 2014||$30,098|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Nj McCann Contract & Maintenance, Corp||Floral Park, NY||Oct 22, 2010||$30,095|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfitters||Bill Bradley Plumbing, Inc.||Greenville, NC||Dec 20, 2010||$29,531|
|Helpers-Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters||Pacific Fuel Oil Corp||Cedarhurst, NY||Dec 02, 2010||$28,988|
|Plumbers, Pipefitters, & Steamfitters||Boremasters, Inc.||Marion, NC||Dec 03, 2008||$28,968|
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