Pipefitter Job Description
Pipefitters install pipes that carry acids, chemicals, and gasses. Though they sometimes work in residential homes, most of their work is in commercial, industrial, and manufacturing environments.
Pipefitters work with many different materials on the job. Smaller systems use small plastic, copper, or steel pipes that can easily be installed by one or two pipefitters. In large industrial systems, huge steel pipes are often used. It sometimes takes an entire crew of workers to install these large pipes.
Pipes are rarely cut to the exact size that they need to be for a project, so pipefitters often need to cut or bend pipes to make it fit correctly. Bending tools, pipe cutters, and saws are commonly used for this purpose. Once the pipes are the right size, pipefitters solder or screw them together.
Some pipefitters choose to specialize in working with a particular type of system. Steamfitters, gasfitters, and sprinklerfitters are three of the most common specialties for pipefitters.
This can be a physically demanding occupation. Pipefitters often have to lift heavy pipes, and sometimes have to work in very tight spaces. They are also at risk of other injuries from soldering equipment, hot pipes, and sharp tools. This isn’t a particularly dangerous occupation, but minor injuries are very common.
The majority of pipefitters work full time, but working overtime is often required as deadlines approach or in the case of an emergency. Working nights and weekends is sometimes necessary.
How to Become a Pipefitter
Some pipefitters learn their trade at a technical school. These programs result in a certificate, and teach students about pipe systems and how to use their tools. They normally include courses in welding as well, which is an important skill in this occupation.
Not all pipefitters attend a technical school, though. In fact, most learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships for pipefitters normally last between four and five years. Every year, apprentices have to complete 2,000 hours of on the job training as well as 246 hours of technical classroom training.
Apprentices are paid for their time, though they work at a discounted rate. This way, apprentices can learn their trade, and employers can benefit from the cheaper labor.
To qualify for an apprenticeship, you will have to be at least 18 years old, pass a drug test, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a math test.
Most apprenticeships are offered by businesses and unions. If you want to find an apprenticeship, check with your local union chapter.
There are currently 419,900 pipefitters in the United States, with 22,880 new pipefitter job openings created each year.
Pipefitter jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Pipefitter salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most pipefitters make between $36,000 – $64,800 per year, or $17.33 – $31.15 per hour.