The terms pipefitter and plumber often get used interchangeably, but they are different occupations and do different things.
If you want to become a plumber, or a pipefitter, its good to know that these two jobs are separate career paths, so today, we are going to talk about the differences between a pipefitter vs plumber and which job requires which skills.
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What Do Pipefitters & Plumbers Do?
Pipefitters are more focused on fitting specialized pipes to deal with pressurized substances, while plumbers typically handle more common residential services like drains and bathrooms.
Whereas a plumber might fix sink drains, garbage disposals, or toilets, pipefitters typically work in a more specialized, industrial context with potentially hazardous substances.
Skills of a Pipefitter
Reading and understanding blueprints
Pipefitters need to be able to read and interpret building blueprints so they can plan and inspect piping systems. Blueprints intersect with other important systems in the building that need to interact.
Pipefitters need to be experienced and knowledgeable working with several types of tools, such as saws, welding torches, cutters, piping fitters, and more. Pipefitters may need to use multiple tools in the course of a single job.
Mathematical and mechanical knowledge
Pipefitters need to have a thorough understanding of pressure and static mechanics and the mathematics relevant to designing piping systems. This includes physics concepts like hydrostatics, turbulence, and fluid mechanics.
Physical stamina and dexterity
Pipefitters need to be physically fit and capable of moving and orienting heavy objects like valves, pipes, and fixtures. Pipefitters are often on their feet most of the day and must be active and moving the majority of time on the job.
Communication and managerial skills
Pipefitters often work on teams with other construction workers and specialists and must be able to collaborate and work with other people. Pipefitters need to manage projects and have good organizational skills.
Skills of a Plumber
Pipefitter vs. Plumber: Career Comparison
Education and training
Both plumbers and pipefitters must go to vocational school/training and get an apprenticeship in order to work as a professional. You do not have to obtain a college degree to work as either, but you must complete at least 3-5 years of an apprenticeship before you can work unsupervised or open your own company.Enter your text here...
Plumbers work in a range of environments but most commonly work on residential projects like bathrooms, basements, kitchens, etc. Plumbers may also work in commercial buildings like restaurants, malls, hotels, etc. Pipefitters, on the other hand, normally work in construction or industrial contexts, such as in the oil and gas industry. Pipefitters often work with difficult to handle or dangerous materials like oil, gas, acid, or steam.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for plumbers in the US is $50,620, and the median salary for a pipefitter is approximately $54,106. Both pipefitters and plumbers face good future career prospects and potential for future growth. Several plumbers end up opening their own businesses, while experienced pipefitters can move on to highly specialized projects that pay well.
Both plumbers and pipefitters need a state-mandated license to practice. Plumbers and pipefitters must first complete an apprenticeship before becoming a journeyman in their profession. Additionally, both pipefitters and plumbers are required to complete continuing education credits to maintain their licenses.
Points to Consider When Choosing a Trade Career
Pros & Cons of Working as Pipefitter
People also Ask (FAQs)
Does being a pipefitter require a license?
Yes, being a pipefitter requires a license in all 50 states. Licensing requirements are different in every state, so make sure you understand licensing requirements in your state.
How long does it take to become a pipefitter?
It depends on your track, but a normal apprenticeship takes about 4-5 years to complete. However, you can start working as an apprentice in as little as a year.
How much does a first-year apprentice pipefitter make?
A first year apprentice pipefitter can expect to make anywhere between $14-$20 an hour, depending on the area.
What kind of math do pipefitters need to know?
Pipefitters need to know basic mechanics, hydrostatics, algebra, and geometry. They also need to know some concepts from physics and fluid mechanics.
What kinds of math do plumbers need to know?
Plumbers need to have a solid grasp of basic mathematics, including algebra and geometry. They also need to know about hydronics and basic fluid mechanics for plumbing systems.
Pipefitting and plumbing are great careers that offer stability and good pay. If you are interested in either of these lucrative careers, then we highly recommend looking more into their respective career paths.
Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.