Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more
- Education Required
- A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter. Trade schools offer courses on pipe system design, safety, and tool use. They also offer welding courses that are considered necessary by some pipefitter and steamfitter apprenticeship training programs.
- Training Required
- Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters learn their trade through a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship. Apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training, as well as some classroom instruction, each year. In the classroom, apprentices learn safety, local plumbing codes and regulations, and blueprint reading. They also study mathematics, applied physics, and chemistry. Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. Although most workers enter apprenticeships directly, some start out as helpers. The Home Builders Institute offers a pre-apprenticeship training program in plumbing and other trades.
- Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 16% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
- Most states and localities require plumbers to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary, most states and localities require workers to have 2 to 5 years of experience and to pass an exam that shows their knowledge of the trade and of local plumbing codes before they are permitted to work independently. In addition, most employers require plumbers to have a drivers license.
- Median pay: How much do Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters make?
- $51,450 Annual Salary
- $24.74 per hour
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.
What do Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters do?
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:
- Prepare cost estimates for clients
- Read blueprints and follow state and local building codes
- Determine the material and equipment needed for a job
- Install pipes and fixtures
- Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
- Troubleshoot malfunctioning systems
- Repair and replace worn parts
The movement of liquids and gases through pipes is critical to modern life. In homes, water is needed for both drinking and sanitation. In factories, chemicals are moved to aid in product manufacturing. In power plants, steam is moved to drive turbines that generate electricity. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair these pipe systems.
Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters perform three distinct and specialized roles, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They determine the necessary materials for a job, connect pipes, and perform pressure tests to ensure that a pipe system is airtight and watertight. Their tools include drills, saws, welding torches, and wrenches.
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination.
In addition to performing installation and repair work, journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters frequently direct apprentices and helpers.
Master plumbers on construction jobs may be involved with developing blueprints that show the placement of all the pipes and fixtures. Their input helps ensure that a structures plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires. Many diagrams are now created digitally with the use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), which allows a buildings physical systems to be planned and coordinated across occupations.
The following are examples of types of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters:
Careers for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
- Apprentice pipefitters
- Apprentice plumbers
- Fire sprinkler installers
- Gas main fitters
- Gas plumbers
- Hydraulic plumbers
- Industrial gas fitters
- Marine pipefitters
- Marine steamfitters
- Master plumbers
- Pipefitter apprentices
- Plumber apprentices
- Solar thermal installers
- Sprinkler fitters
- Water pump installers