Career Development

What Does a Pipe Fitter Do?

Find out what a pipe fitter does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a pipe fitter.

Pipe fitters are responsible for installing and maintaining the piping systems that deliver water, gas, sewage, or other liquids and gases to our homes, businesses, and communities. They work with a wide range of materials including steel, copper, plastic, and more.

Pipe fitters typically begin their day by reviewing blueprints or schematics of the piping system they’re working on. This helps them identify where each piece of pipe should be placed and how it will connect to other pieces of equipment. Once this is done, they use specialized tools and equipment to install pipes in walls, floors, ceilings, and other structures.

Pipe Fitter Job Duties

Pipe fitters have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Inspecting work sites for hazards such as tripping hazards or exposure to toxic materials
  • Installing and repairing pipe systems for plumbing, steam, gas, oil, and other piping systems using hand tools and power tools such as drills and saws
  • Reading blueprints, sketches, drawings, or other plans to determine pipe system layouts
  • Cutting and threading pipe ends, using machinery that can be operated manually or by computer-controlled systems
  • Measuring, cutting, and threading pipe to meet specifications, using standard hand tools such as wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers
  • Installing, repairing, or replacing pipes, valves, fittings, and other equipment with pipe fitting tools such as hammers, wrenches, threading equipment, torque meters, and cutting torches
  • Installing and repairing plumbing fixtures such as sinks, faucets, bathtubs, toilets, and showers
  • Cutting and preparing pipes for welding by removing burrs and other imperfections

Pipe Fitter Salary & Outlook

Pipe fitters’ salaries vary depending on their level of experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $49,500 ($23.8/hour)

The employment of pipe fitters is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Employment growth will be driven by the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. However, automation may limit the number of new jobs for pipe fitters over the next decade. Some tasks performed by pipe fitters, such as installing valves and fittings, can be automated.

Related: In-Depth Pipe Fitter Salary Guide

Pipe Fitter Job Requirements

Pipe fitters typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: A high school diploma is not required to become a pipe fitter, but many employers prefer a minimum of an associate’s degree in plumbing or a related field. An associate’s degree in plumbing technology can take about two years to complete and includes courses in mathematics, blueprint reading, plumbing, pipe fitting and installation, and business management.

Training & Experience: Pipe fitters receive on-the-job training from their supervisors or other experienced workers. This training helps the new employee learn the specific procedures and safety standards of the company. The training period may last for a few days or a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the job and the experience of the new employee.

Certifications & Licenses: Some employers may require employees to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general understanding of the field.

Pipe Fitter Skills

Pipe fitters need the following skills in order to be successful:

Machinery repair: Pipe fitters may need to repair machinery used in the construction of pipelines. This can include repairing pumps, compressors, welding machines and other equipment. Having knowledge of how to repair machinery can help you maintain the tools you use in your work and keep them in working order.

Welding: Welding is the process of joining two pieces of metal together. Pipe fitters use welding skills to join pipes together. Welding is a common skill for pipe fitters to have because it allows them to complete their job more efficiently.

Reading blueprints: Pipe fitters use blueprints to determine the dimensions of the piping system they’re working on and to ensure they’re installing the piping correctly. They also use blueprints to determine the location of the piping system’s components and to ensure the piping system is compatible with the rest of the building’s infrastructure.

Problem-solving: Pipe fitters use their problem-solving skills to identify and address issues that arise during installation. They may need to troubleshoot issues with equipment, tools or materials, and they may need to find alternative solutions when certain materials aren’t available.

Communication: Pipe fitters must be able to communicate with their coworkers and clients to understand their needs and explain their work. They must also be able to communicate with their supervisors to receive instructions and to give feedback on their work.

Pipe Fitter Work Environment

Pipe fitters generally work in factories, power plants, commercial buildings, or residential homes. They may also work in outdoor settings, such as construction sites, refineries, and chemical plants. Pipe fitters typically work full time, and some may work overtime or be on call to respond to emergencies. The work can be physically demanding, and pipe fitters must be able to lift heavy pipes and materials and work in awkward positions. They also must be able to work in confined spaces.

Pipe Fitter Trends

Here are three trends influencing how pipe fitters work. Pipe fitters will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Specialized Skills

The pipe fitting industry is seeing a trend towards more specialized skills, as businesses are looking for employees who can specialize in specific areas. This means that pipe fitters will need to be able to develop skills in specific areas, such as plumbing, heating, or refrigeration.

As the pipe fitting industry becomes more specialized, pipe fitters will need to be able to adapt and learn new skills in order to stay competitive. They will also need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of the team, as well as with customers.

More Use of Robotics

The use of robotics in the pipefitting industry is on the rise as companies look for ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Pipefitters who are able to utilize robotics in their work will be better equipped to handle complex tasks and projects. They will also be better prepared to work with other professionals in the industry, such as engineers and designers.

A Greater Focus on Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, as people have become more aware of the impact that their energy usage has on the environment. As a result, many businesses are now focusing on installing energy efficient systems, such as piping, in order to reduce their overall energy consumption.

Pipefitters can capitalize on this trend by becoming certified in energy efficient installation. This will allow them to help businesses install piping that is not only safe and reliable, but also helps to reduce their energy costs.

How to Become a Pipe Fitter

A career as a pipe fitter can be both rewarding and lucrative. It’s important to start off on the right foot by getting certified in your field. This will show potential employers that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job correctly.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques used in the industry. This will help you keep your skills sharp and ensure that you are always able to meet the demands of the job.

Related: How to Write a Pipe Fitter Resume

Advancement Prospects

Pipefitters typically start their careers as apprentices, working under the supervision of experienced journeymen. As they gain experience, they move up to journeyman status, and eventually may become supervisors or project managers. Some pipefitters start their own businesses.

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