Are you considering a career as a pipefitter? If so, this is the place to be. This guide is packed with information and resources for aspiring pipefitters. Keep reading to learn about the educational requirements for the job, what it pays and the tools you will need to revamp your resume, including a professional Resume Builder, for today's market.
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What Does a Pipefitter Do?
A pipefitter, also known as a steamfitter, fixes and installs piping for heating and cooling systems and for various other systems. They are a tradesperson who is trained in organizing, assembling, installing, creating and maintaining all types of piping that must withstand high pressure.
Their duties include assembling and maintaining pipes that carry chemicals, acids and gasses. They monitor high-and low-pressure pipe systems to work with pressured water, valves, oil, gas, steam and other materials.
A pipefitter also manipulates metal to form the pipes according to specifications. They are skilled in grinding, welding, cutting and bending. Pipefitters are involved in the entire process, from planning to installation.
Part of their work is to draw up a blueprint of a pipe installation and often are responsible for selecting the right pipe. For installation, the pipefitter will transport pipes to their proper location when they are ready.
Pipefitters are typically employed by pipefitting firms. Many pipefitters also work in power stations, refineries, offshore installations and factories. Some common pipefitter duties and responsibilities include:
Knowing system operations.
Providing building and industrial maintenance in some cases, performing rigging operations and transferring and handling hazardous materials.
Fabricating pipes and tubing, and any necessary fittings.
Inspecting and clearing obstructions.
Studying blueprints and planning pipe systems.
Measuring and marking pipes for cutting.
How Do You Become a Pipefitter?
About 48,600 openings for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters are projected each year for the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a yearly earning of over $59,880, or just over $28.79 an hour. Here are the steps to become a pipefitter.
To become a pipefitter, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. For hands-on training, you may attend a vocational-technical school. Technical schools and community colleges offer post-secondary education training programs that can take a year to complete. Curriculums revolve around blueprint reading, math and welding. Hands-on piping work is also included.
Do an apprenticeship training program:
Apprenticeship training programs provide valuable experience. These programs encompass safety codes and regulations and blueprint reading. Pipefitter apprentices will also take mathematics, applied physics and chemistry courses and gain hands-on training experience.
Aspiring apprentices can apply online at the Construction Careers Foundation. These programs demand 2,000 hours of classroom, lab training and on-the-job paid experience supervised by professional mentors. This experience can take pipefitters and steamfitters around four to five years to complete.
Pipefitter licenses and certifications:
It’s only after an apprenticeship is completed that the candidate becomes eligible for licensure. Licenses will vary according to state. To be certified, pipefitters are required to have two to five years of experience under their belts and the ability to pass an exam on trade and local code. Here’s a list of important certifications you will need to be better prepared for this role:
- Journey Level Pipefitter-Steamfitter (JLPS) certification from National Inspection Testing Certifications (NITC).
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers Power Piping
- NFPA Certified Water-Based Systems Professional (CWBFP)
- STAR Steamfitting-Pipefitting Mastery certification from NITC
- Infection Control & Water Quality certification (ICWQ) from ASSE International
- Bac-Flo Prevention Assembly Tester (BPAT) certification from Bac-Flo Unlimited.
Create a job-winning resume:
Any successful pipefitter job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume highlighting your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, look at our library of pipefitter resume samples.
Once your resume is in order, search online for pipefitter job opportunities. As you look for openings, leverage your professional network, including people you met while obtaining licensure or during your apprenticeship.
A pipefitter must have good communication skills to work with different people, from supervisors to colleagues, and from customers to operations managers. Some skills include assessing customer needs, evaluating customer satisfaction and meeting service quality standards.
A pipefitter should also know how to work in a fast-paced, demanding environment and can master new skill sets quickly. Being a pipefitter requires patience and physical strength, as they are required to lift heavy objects and climb ladders often.
Other key pipefitter skills include:
The ability to draft and read blueprints for new installations or locate existing pipes.
Measuring pipes for cutting and threading.
Welding and assembling pipes.
Ordering required materials inventory including pipes, hangars, brackets and hydraulic cylinders.
Repairing and maintaining pipe systems.
Insights from a Pipefitter
In order to get an inside look at how to become a Pipefitter, we talked to Brian King, project manager and superintendent at Rohde Brothers in Plymouth, Wisconsin.
What is the common career path for a Pipefitter?
A pipefitter usually starts with on-the-job training as a helper where they sweep floors, pull and prep materials. Then they attend technical schooling as an apprentice to earn an associate’s degree in steam fitting. Once completed they become a journeyman, hopefully continuing on as a foreman.
What should someone consider before becoming a Pipefitter?
People considering a career in pipefitting should enjoy and be somewhat good at math, and also understand the physical demands of the job.
What type of person excels in this job?
Anyone can excel at this job if they enjoy their work. There is no specific type, and many come from all walks of life.
What are some of the most important skills for Pipefitters to have?
Good math skills and the ability to picture the project’s outcome in your mind are important skills for a pipefitter to have.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Pipefitter?
Seeing the end product – a complete work of art is the most rewarding aspect of being a pipefitter.
How Much Do Pipefitters Get Paid?
Pipefitters are typically paid on an hourly basis, with the median hourly wage in the United States being $24.34. The lowest-paid Pipefitter makes about $14.27 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn more than $43.13.
Top 10 States for Pipefitter Salary
Pipefitters in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.
Looking for more information? We put together this list of additional resources to help you as you continue to explore a career as a Pipefitter.
The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry
Represents over 300,000 plumbers, pipefitters, sprinkler fitters, service technicians and welders in local unions across North America
The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
Provides members with high-quality educational materials and programs to help them attain the highest level of managerial and technical expertise.
Plumbing – Heating – Cooling Contractors Association
Dedicated to the advancement and education of the plumbing and HVACR industry.
On the Web
US Pipefitters and Welders Connecting
A Facebook group for Pipefitters.
The Pipe Fitters Blue Book
The most widely used book in the trade today, commonly referred to as the “Pipe Bible.”
The Pipe Fitter's and Pipe Welder's Handbook, Revised Edition
Enables pipefitters to solve difficult problems they will face in their work by providing instructions and calculations for common and unusual tasks.
Contains thousands of facts and figures relevant to pipefitters, or anyone concerned with layout and installation of pipe.