There are many career paths for us to choose from, some of which might not be quite popular. If you enjoy solving problems and working with your hands, then read on, as pipefitting might be your career.
This guide will answer your questions about what a pipefitter does and the path to becoming one.
What is a pipefitter?
A pipefitter is a tradesperson who works with mechanical piping systems. The career is related to plumbing but requires more specialized training to work in industrial and commercial settings.
What exactly do pipefitters do?
Pipefitters work on installing and maintaining pipes that carry gasses, acids, and other chemicals.
They are usually called fitters and can either specialize in steam, gas, or sprinkler fitters. Pipefitters assemble, cut, weld, and install metal pipes. They also maintain these pipes and repair faulty heating and cooling systems.
In addition to the hands-on roles above, pipefitters read and analyze design plans and blueprints for both new and existing installations. This makes it necessary for them to be excellent troubleshooters and find and diagnose problems in design plans and existing systems.
How to become a pipefitter
As with every other skilled career, becoming a pipefitter involves a series of steps to develop and hone the necessary skills. For a career in pipefitting, you’ll need to do one or both of the following:
- Enroll in an Accredited School: You are expected to gain classroom knowledge before becoming a pipefitter. This is gained by enrolling in an accredited learning institution. This could be a community college, trade school, or any other institution that offers a school program for pipefitting.
- Join an Apprenticeship Program: This is where you spend time gaining practical knowledge and experience in pipefitting. You can find an apprenticeship placement with the help of the national union for plumbers and pipefitters, United Association. They offer apprenticeship opportunities to prospective pipefitters through local branch unions.
Skills and education required to become a pipefitter
Pipefitters will be expected to have physical strength, dexterity, the ability to troubleshoot, mechanical skills, and effective communication.
The only requirement is a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. As mentioned above, you can also enroll in a community college, trade, technical or vocational school that offers a pipefitter diploma program.
Expect to be in training for 4-5 years. You can begin an apprenticeship with your local plumber’s union after completing pre-apprenticeship training in plumbing.
Becoming a journeyman-certified pipefitter requires passing an exam. Once you complete these steps and get 3-4 years of experience under your belt, you can take another exam to become a master plumber.
License, certification, and registration
Most states need pipefitters to hold a license to work; therefore, passing these examinations is mandatory. You can also become an independent contractor by taking an examination after 2-5 years of working as a pipefitter.
How to find a job as a pipefitter
Many aspiring pipefitters gain employment at their apprenticeship company. You can also use job sites to look for pipefitter jobs near you. Another fantastic way of finding jobs as a pipefitter is to join a pipefitter’s union. While this is not compulsory, it increases your prospects of finding and keeping your job.
Pipefitter work environment
Pipefitters work in factories, commercial buildings, power stations, large office buildings, refineries, and homes, though pipefitters are less likely to work in residential settings. and any place needing piping systems.
Pipefitters often must work outside and/or in tight spaces, climb tall heights and work overtime when emergencies occur. This is a physically taxing career path.
Experienced pipefitters earn an average of about $52,000 with a lower limit of $41,000 and an upper limit of almost $62,000. Less experienced pipefitters make a much lower salary, with an average of about $44,000.
Pipefitter career path
After your apprenticeship or working as a helper, you’ll pass an exam to become a journeyman pipefitter. Upon passing the exam you can work independently as a pipefitter without being supervised by an experienced pipefitter.
Once you have gained 3-4 years of experience as a journeyman, you become eligible to apply for the master pipefitter exam.
Pipefitter job outlook
Pipefitting is a growing field with lots of opportunity. An estimated 94k new jobs will be created by 2029 for Pipe Fitters and Steamfitters. This represents a 2.49 percent increase in job growth each year.
About joining the plumber’s union
While it’s not mandatory, most pipefitters decide to join the plumber’s union. In addition to making it easier to find a position as a pipefitter, other benefits of joining a pipefitter’s union include:
- Access to training and education
- Access to larger-scale contracts
- Higher wages
- Access to insurance and legal protection
Is pipefitting a good career choice
If you like to work with your hands, are a good problem-solver, and have an interest in the field, this is a great field. There is an opportunity to make a good living as a pipefitter, and employment is growing.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor, employment of pipefitters is expected to grow by 5% between 2020 and 2030. These statistics translate to a yearly average of about 51,000 job openings over the decade.
Frequently asked questions
What Should I Consider Before Choosing a Career as a Pipefitter?
You should consider your current skills, interest in the pipefitter role, and willingness to commit to training. Asides from these, it is vital to check the job availability in your location and how you can grow your career in the coming years.
Is a Pipefitter a Plumber?
While they perform similar jobs, they are not the same career. Unlike pipefitters, plumbers rarely work with metals but use similar materials like copper, galvanized pipe, and PVC.
What State Pays the Most for Pipefitters?
According to the USA Wage, the highest paying state for pipefitters is Illinois, with an entry-level salary of $48,240 and an average salary of $95,090.
What is the Highest Salary for Pipefitters?
It is safe to say the highest salary for pipefitters is the figure from Illinois, $95,090; however, the average highest salary will be about $70,000.
What are Some Trades Similar to Pipefitting?
Trades like that of a pipefitter include a pipelayer, plumber, gas service technician, boilermaker, and welder.
Pipefitting is a great career choice in the present, one that shows even better prospects in the future. Make sure to do research about your local job and training opportunities in the field, and sign up for the Construction Fanatics newsletter for more helpful articles!