How to Become a Pipefitter: The Complete Career Guide

What Do Pipefitters Do?

If you’ve looked at careers in plumbing, you quickly discover plumbers have to work with all kinds of messes. Rarely do they have the pleasure of installing new, clean plumbing. 

A career in pipefitting is a great choice if the messy side of plumbing has deterred you. 

Pipefitters are also known as steamfitters. They install and fix pipes for HVAC systems and any other place that pipes need to be.

Pipefitters are not plumbers. They do not care for the clogged lines. They install and sometimes even fabricate the pipes you need to cool and heat your house and business. 

Pipefitters receive training that teaches them to work with and create pipes that must withstand high pressures. The training pipefitters receive teaches them to work in precarious situations. They must be able to grind, weld, cut, and bend the pipe to fit any situation. 

Pipefitters also plan out the pipe installation by drawing blueprints. They know which pipes to use where and what size of pipes to use. 

Pipefitters can work independently or for power stations, refineries, offshore installations, or factories. 

What Skills Do Pipefitters Need? 

You might be wondering, would I make a good pipefitter? If you like fixing things, you have a good start. But you need more than just the desire to fix a pipe. 

Pipefitters need the patience to work with customers as well as communication skills. You need physical strength to haul and install pipes and creativity to solve complex problems. 

Your training will teach you to draft and read blueprints for new jobs and existing structures. You should also have the ability to use power tools and a working knowledge of CMMS, Microsoft Word, and Excel. 

What Education Do Pipefitters Have?

You can receive a pipefitter education at technical schools with pipefitter schooling programs. 

While some pipefitters get by with a highs school diploma and on-the-job experience, formal education will land you a better job. 

Training at a school with a pipefitting program means you’ll receive the essential math skills necessary for the job. You’ll learn how to read blueprints and weld. Your pipefitting program should have classes on piping math along with teaching you skills such as welding pipe, installing gas piping, and installing electric piping. 

After finishing school, you’ll move onto your formal training and eventually seek a license from your state

What Training Does a Pipefitter Need?

School is just one part of the road to become a pipefitter. Pipefitters typically undergo an apprenticeship. 

Pipefitter apprenticeship requires dedication by the apprentice and his or her mentor. A good pipefitter apprenticeship will last four to five years. While each state has its own requirements, a good program will take several years to train a pipefitter before they’re ready to go out on their own.  

Pipefitter apprentices work full time while they learn their trade on the job. They do not receive a full wage as their employer would, and they work around 1,700 to 2,000 hours a year. 

Once they’ve finished their apprenticeship, a pipefitter receives his license. You can then take your journeyman pipefitter exam. If you pass this exam, you can practice pipefitting without any supervision and are now a journeyman pipefitter. 

You can practice pipefitting as a journeyman for three to five years and then take your master pipefitter exam. 

What Tools Does a Pipefitter Need? 

Pipefitters need these 12 essential tools. 

  1. A quality control welder’s gauge: This tool helps the pipefitter ensure the welds in the pipe will hold. 
  2. Pipefitter’s square: A square for pipes that makes sure you align pipes properly. 
  3. Fitter Grips: These connectors lock two pipes together as you’re welding them. 
  4. Two Hole Pin Pipe Fitting Tool: A tool that helps a pipefitter ensure two bolt holes are lined up at the same height. 
  5. Pipe wraps: Pipefitters use these wraps to mark their pipes before they cut them. 
  6. Magnetic Centering Heads: A pipefitter will use this clever magnetic tool to find the centerline at any angle of the pipe and then mark both inside and outside the pipe. 
  7. Flange Aligners: Pipefitters use flange aligners to align joints before they weld the joints together. 
  8. Magnetic flange aligners: These flange aligners also align joints before the pipefitter welds them. However, they hold the joints together with strong magnets. 
  9. Magnetic pocket level: This is a leveler tool for pipefitters that they can fit in their pockets. The level bubbles show the fitter if pipes are level before they begin welding. 
  10. Mitre market pipe layout tool: This tool attaches magnetically to a pipe and then helps the pipefitter mark where he will cut the pipe. 
  11. Master marker pipe layout tool: This is the same as the miter market except it will fit bigger pipes. 
  12. Multi-hole imager: This tool shows the pipefitter where to cut holes. 

These pipefitter tools will make you ready for any basic pipefitting job you have to tackle. 

How Much Do Pipefitters Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics pipefitters earned $55,160 a year or approximately $26.52 an hour in 2019. 

What’s the Job Prospects and Future of Pipe Fitting?

If you’re looking at pipefitter jobs, you should have a positive outlook. In 2018, there were 500,300 pipefitter jobs in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 14 percent growth rate in this job between 2018 and 2028.

What Types of Pipefitters Are There?

The world of pipefitting refers to pipefitters as just that, pipefitters. However, there are pipefitters who have specializations that make them right for specific jobs. Pipefitters have expertise in each of the following areas: 

  • Steam
  • Water
  • Gasses like ammonia or propane

Pipefitters receive an education that prepares them for any type of pipe fitting. They can fall into an area of expertise depending on the jobs they land or who they apprentice with when they finish school. 

Pipe Masters

Pipefitters are not plumbers. But like plumbers, as you can see, they’re an essential part of our world. 

If you’re a plumber looking for some new jobs, contact us. We can hook you up with local jobs and keep you in business.