How To Become A Pipefitter

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 educational requirements for the job, what it pays and more.

 

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 purposes. He or she is known as a tradesperson who is trained in organizing, assembling, installing and creating and maintaining all types of pressure piping that must withstand high pressure. In addition, he or she maintains high-and low-pressure pipe systems in order to work with pressured water, valves, oil, gas, steam and other materials.

A Pipefitter manipulates metal to form the pipes according to specifications. He or she may also manipulate metal in other ways, including grinding, welding, cutting and bending. Pipefitters are involved in the entire process, from planning to installation.  As such, they 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 the pipes 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:

  • Having knowledge of system operations
  • Providing building and industrial maintenance
  • In some cases, performing rigging operations and transferring and handling hazardous materials
  • Fabricating pipes and tubing, as well as any necessary fittings.

Pipefitter Skills

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 quality standards for all services.  A Pipefitter should also know how to work in a fast-paced, demanding environment and have the ability to master new skill sets quickly. Being a pipefitter requires patience and physical strength, as he or she is 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 locating existing pipes
  • Advanced math skills
  • Ability to safely use power tools
  • Have a working knowledge of CMMS, Microsoft Word and Excel

 

How Do You Become a Pipefitter?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, employers are looking for Pipefitter candidates who have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition, most job postings we looked at required prospective Pipefitters to have successfully attended a technical school, as well as complete a training program, such as those offered by community colleges.

Good customer skills and communication, as well as the know-how to solve problems and the physical stamina to withstand working with dangerous tools and heavy objects, are just some of the subjects covered in Pipefitter programs.

Certification is important for the aspiring Pipefitter. She can find it in community colleges or technical schools, where she’ll be taught math skills, reading blueprints and welding. The program also will cover pipe welding, piping math, gas piping, and electric piping, and becoming certified usually takes under a year.

Moat Pipefitters undergo apprenticeship training no matter their education background. These programs last a long time, four to five years, so it’s important that a candidate be invested in becoming a Pipefitter. He should also have the stamina in which to study under a licensed Pipefitter.   While each state may set its own requirements, all require a training period of apprenticeship in order to be classified as a Pipefitter.

It’s only after an apprenticeship is completed that the candidate becomes eligible for licensure. While most states require some type of licensure, requirements vary by state.

After attaining a license, the Pipefitter candidate can start working for a pipefitting or plumbing business. During this time, it’s important for the person to start networking to build clients, and to advertise her skills, especially since she is isolated, as many Pipefitters are self-employed and work out of their homes.

Finding a job

Demand for Pipefitters is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 12 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 10,529 openings for Pipefitters during that period. Given this projected growth, aspiring Pipefitters are likely to find many job opportunities at power stations, refineries, offshore installations and factories, among others.

Any successful Pipefitter job search begins with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For guidance on creating a resume, take a 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, be sure to leverage your professional network, including people you met while obtaining a licensure or during your apprenticeship.

When applying for Pipefitter jobs, write a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you will bring to the role. Need some cover letter inspiration? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.

 

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.

  1. Illinois: $36.56
  2. Oregon: $34.91
  3. Alaska: $33.46
  4. Wisconsin: $32.80
  5. Minnesota: $32.78
  6. Hawaii: $31.40
  7. New York: $31.30
  8. District of Columbia: $31.23
  9. Missouri: $30.59
  10. Massachusetts: $30.44

 

Pipefitter Resources

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.

Professional Groups

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.

Books

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.

Pipefitters Handbook – Contains thousands of facts and figures relevant to pipefitters, or anyone concerned with layout and installation of pipe.

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