Pipefitters and sprinkler fitters are among the workers involved in building and running piping systems, such as water or heat systems. Read more about the job duties of pipefitters and sprinkler fitters. Find out how you can train to enter this field through an apprenticeship.
Piping systems can be found in most any type of building and serve a variety of purposes, from heating and cooling to transporting water, gases and other materials. As a pipefitter, you'd probably work in an industrial setting, and be involved in piping system design, assembly, testing and installation, as well as maintenance and repairs. Steamfitting and plumbing are two specialized areas of pipefitting. Another specialty is sprinkler fitter, which consists of installing piping systems in residential, commercial and industrial buildings for fire protection.
If you're employed in one of these jobs, you can expect to be on your feet for long periods of time, and to work in awkward positions. There are also physical risks, including burns, chemical exposures and falls. In general, sprinkler fitters work indoors, but if you're a pipefitter, you'll need to be prepared to work outside in bad weather at times.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters, including sprinkler fitters, were expected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022, which is faster than average when compared to all occupations (www.bls.gov). In May 2013, these professionals earned an average annual salary of $53,820. Many of them were union members, per the BLS.
A common way to enter the field of pipefitting and sprinkler fitting is through an apprenticeship program, where you'd learn in labs, classes, and through paid work on the job; you must be 18 years old to apply. As an apprentice, you'd study metallurgy, piping and duct design, load calculation, hoisting and welding, as well as control systems and industry codes. You'd also learn about the materials that flow through pipes, such as gas, water, air, oil and ammonia, and how to safely contain and transport them. Apprenticeship programs may be taught through technical and community colleges. There are also academic programs through which you could earn an associate's degree.
Plumbers must be licensed in all states. Licensure is required for pipefitters in a few states as well. In most cases, you can obtain a license after completing a training program, gaining work experience and taking a state-approved exam.