Plumber vs. Pipefitter: What’s The Difference?

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Plumber vs. Pipefitter What's The Difference

If you’re considering a career in the plumbing industry, you may have come across the terms “plumber” and “pipefitter.” While these two professions share similarities, they also have distinct differences. In this blog post, we will compare the careers of plumbers and pipefitters, exploring their responsibilities, required licenses, earning potential, and more.

What Do Plumbers and Pipefitters Do?

Plumbers and pipefitters both work with pipes and fittings, but their specific roles and responsibilities vary.

Plumber Responsibilities

  • Install, repair, and maintain plumbing systems in residential and commercial buildings.
  • Read blueprints and specifications to determine the layout of plumbing systems.
  • Install and connect pipes, fixtures, and appliances such as toilets, sinks, and water heaters.
  • Test plumbing systems for leaks and ensure proper functionality.
  • Diagnose and fix plumbing issues, such as clogged drains or broken pipes.
  • Collaborate with other construction professionals to ensure plumbing systems are installed correctly.

Pipefitter Responsibilities

  • Install, assemble, and maintain high-pressure pipe systems used in industrial settings.
  • Fabricate and install pipes and pipe supports.
  • Interpret blueprints and follow specifications to determine the layout of pipe systems.
  • Weld, thread, or use other methods to connect pipes and fittings.
  • Test pipe systems for leaks and ensure they meet safety standards.
  • Collaborate with other tradespeople, such as welders and electricians, to complete projects.

How Are Plumbers and Pipefitters Similar?

While plumbers and pipefitters have different areas of expertise, there are several similarities between the two professions:

  • Both work with pipes and fittings, although the types of systems they handle may differ.
  • Both need to be knowledgeable about plumbing codes, regulations, and safety practices.
  • Both require physical stamina and the ability to work in various environments, including tight spaces and outdoor conditions.
  • Both professions offer opportunities for specialization and career advancement.

How Are Plumbers and Pipefitters Different?

Despite the similarities, plumbers and pipefitters have distinct differences in their roles and responsibilities:

  • Plumbers primarily work in residential and commercial buildings, while pipefitters focus on industrial settings.
  • Plumbers deal with a wider range of plumbing systems, including water supply, drainage, and gas lines. Pipefitters, on the other hand, specialize in high-pressure pipe systems used in industries like manufacturing and power generation.
  • Plumbers often interact directly with clients, providing services such as installing fixtures, repairing leaks, and maintaining plumbing systems. Pipefitters, on the other hand, typically work on larger projects and collaborate with other tradespeople.
  • Plumbers may need to possess additional skills such as soldering, brazing, and working with different types of materials, while pipefitters commonly require welding and fabrication skills.

Do Plumbers and Pipefitters Require a License?

In most jurisdictions, both plumbers and pipefitters are required to hold a license to practice their profession legally. However, the specific requirements may vary depending on the location. Click here to learn more about licensing.

Who Makes More Between Plumbers and Pipefitters?

On average, pipefitters earn slightly more than plumbers. The average pipefitter salary is about $60,000 per year, while the average plumber salary is $55,000 per year.

The earning potential for plumbers and pipefitters can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and specialization. However, both professions offer competitive salaries and opportunities for growth.

Should I Become a Plumber or Pipefitter?

Choosing between a career as a plumber or a pipefitter depends on various factors, including your interests, skills, and future goals. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Work Environment: Plumbers primarily work in residential and commercial buildings, while pipefitters often work in industrial settings. Consider which environment you prefer and feel most comfortable working in.
  • Specialization: Plumbers have a broader scope of work, dealing with various plumbing systems, while pipefitters specialize in high-pressure pipe systems. Think about which area of expertise aligns with your interests and goals.
  • Career Advancement: Both professions offer opportunities for growth and specialization. Research the potential career paths and advancement opportunities available in each field to make an informed decision.
  • Licensing Requirements: Familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements in your area and consider the time and effort required to obtain a license.

Pipefitter vs Plumber FAQ

Can I work as both a plumber and a pipefitter?

While some individuals may possess skills in both plumbing and pipefitting, it is more common for professionals to specialize in one area. However, having knowledge in both fields can be advantageous and open up additional career opportunities.

Are plumbers and pipefitters in high demand?

Yes, both plumbers and pipefitters are in high demand, and the need for skilled professionals in these fields is expected to grow. In fact, there is a shortage of skilled trades. The aging infrastructure, construction projects, and increasing emphasis on sustainability contribute to the demand for these trades.

Can I become a pipefitter without an apprenticeship?

Completing an apprenticeship program is the most common path to becoming a pipefitter. However, some jurisdictions may have alternative pathways, such as trade schools or vocational programs, that can provide the necessary training and education.

What is the career path of a pipefitter?

Upon completing an apprenticeship, pipefitters normally start out as a pipefitter helper or work in an entry level pipefitting job. Within a few years, pipefitters can earn their license and work as a journeyman pipefitter. Then after approximately ten years in the field, pipefitters can earn an advanced license and work as a master pipefitter.


In summary, while plumbers and pipefitters share similarities in working with pipes and fittings, they have distinct roles, responsibilities, and work environments. Both professions offer competitive salaries and opportunities for growth, but the right career choice depends on your interests, skills, and future goals. By considering factors such as work environment, specialization, licensing requirements, and career advancement opportunities, you can make an informed decision about which path to pursue in the plumbing industry.

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Casey Loeber

Casey Loeber is the founder of His mission is to share the best information online about plumbing jobs and help plumbers lead fulfilling careers.

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