Fitter Job Description
Fitters construct and assemble mechanical systems. These systems could be factory machines or the piping that carries the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process. Some fitters choose to specialize in mechanical fitting, pipefitting, or steamfitting, others work in the heating and cooling industry maintaining and repairing systems in commercial or factory settings. The manufacturing industry is the largest employer of fitters. Fitters thrive on physical, hands-on work in a work environment that doesn’t revolve around a desk. Some factories maintain evening and weekend hours, and heating and cooling companies often maintain a 24/7 schedule, meaning fitters may work nontraditional shifts.
Fitters who are new to the industry or a particular trade are considered apprentices and work under the direct supervision of a journeyman. Apprentices reach the journeyman level after a certain amount of work hours and professional development classes depending on the organization or trade union. All fitters work under the direction of the project foreman. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is set to rise 16 percent through 2026, much faster than average.
Fitter Duties and Responsibilities
While fitters may have slightly different responsibilities depending on their area of specialization, most of their responsibilities are the same. Important fitter duties and responsibilities based on several fitter job descriptions include:
Construct Structural Components Based on Blueprints
Fitters must be able to create and read blueprints for structural systems and use their welding skills to craft these components from raw material.
Inspect Structural Systems based on Local and State Building Codes
Most fitters work on commercial or industrial piping systems, which fall under the regulation of local and state business codes. They have to be experts in the codes in order to self-inspect their work and make sure everything is up to standard.
Fit Structural Components Together to Create Finished Systems
Using blueprints as a guide, fitters construct their components; the last task is assembling them to create the finished structure.
Troubleshoot and Repair Malfunctioning Systems
Fitters need to use their analytical and problem-solving skills to run tests on structural systems to determine the root cause of the malfunction. They then need to come up with a plan of action and use their welding skills to replace the necessary components.
Perform Regular System Maintenance
Fitters are responsible for creating and implementing a maintenance procedure and schedule for all of the systems under their control. This includes keeping an organized maintenance log.
Fitters rely mostly on technical and vocational skills to do their jobs. Fitters need manual dexterity to operate the various hand tools used during their duties, as well as mechanical skills to understand which tools to use and how to use them. Good fitters are problem solvers with strong attention to detail. In addition to these traits and areas of knowledge, the following skills are necessary to find a job as a fitter:
- Troubleshooting systems using knowledge of how system was designed to perform
- Solving and repairing system issues using problem-solving skills
- Welding components out of raw metals
- Collaborating with other fitters on larger projects
Fitter Tools of the Trade
- Basic hand and power tools – hammers, drills, saws, etc.
- Welding tools – to make structural components out of raw materials
- Computer-aided design (CAD) software – used to create and read blueprints
Fitter Education and Training
Fitters get most of their education from on-the-job training, as most employers only require a high school diploma. Most businesses and trade unions have a paid apprenticeship program that typically lasts 4 to 5 years. In addition to 2,000 hours a year of paid experience, fitters have to take classes such as welding, machine use, mathematics, and reading blueprints. Some states require certain types of fitters, such as pipefitters, to get certified.
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is $51,450. Those in the top 10 percent make above $90,530, while those in the bottom 10 percent make below $30,430.
Do you enjoy working with your hands and see yourself building a career as a fitter? If so, check out the list of resources below.
United Association – The United Association, dating back to 1936, is the oldest operating trade union for plumbers, fitters, and welders. Its apprenticeship program is one of the most rigorous in the industry. Membership in a union may be restricted depending on one’s state of employment.
Welding Tips and Tricks – This website contains an extensive list of picture and video tutorials on all kinds of welding tasks. It is a great resource for both aspiring and practicing fitters.
Welding Web – Welding Web is an online forum dedicated solely to welding discussion. It has more than 40,000 members who hold all types of welding positions.
The Pipe Fitter’s and Pipe Welder’s Handbook – This book provides guidance and calculations for both common and uncommon tasks performed by fitters.
The Ultimate Template and Layout Pattern Book for Pipefitters and Welders –This book is an excellent reference resource, as it contains more than 10,000 formulas and more than 1,000 templates of different systems that save time for fitters and welders alike.
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