Become a Pipe Fitter: Education and Career Roadmap
Find out how to become a pipe fitter. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in pipe fitting.
Do I Want to Be a Pipe Fitter?
Pipe fitters fix and install piping for heating and cooling systems and for various other purposes. Some pipe fitters specialize in certain pipe systems or building and construction projects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pipe fitters, plumbers and steamfitters incur more injuries and suffer from a higher rate of illnesses than the national average of all occupations. Overtime, including night and weekend work, is sometimes required.
Individuals can train for this career by attaining a construction certificate, diploma, or associate degree in pipe fitting. Time spent as an apprentice pipe fitter is typically necessary prior to licensure. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a pipe fitter, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Degree Level||Technical school|
|Licensure||Some states require pipe fitters to be licensed|
|Experience||4- to 5-year apprenticeship|
|Key Skills||Customer service, communication, managerial, problem-solving|
|Additional Requirements||Physical strength|
Step 1: Learn About Pipe Fitting
The first step to becoming a pipe fitter is ascertaining that this role is suited to a person's talents and career goals. The best way for someone to determine whether or not a career as a pipe fitter will be appropriate is to research the field thoroughly. Interested individuals may wish to shadow a professional pipe fitter for the day or visit piping or plumbing companies in their local area. Professional pipe fitters can guide those who are considering this position about the educational path they must complete.
- Learn about the dangers. It is important to keep in mind that pipe fitting can be a dangerous occupation. Pipe fitters often lift heavy material and work in closed-in spaces. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers and pipe fitters have an above average risk of on-the-job injury and illness.
Step 2: Complete a Pipe Fitting Training Program
Several types of postsecondary education programs are available to aspiring pipe fitters. Some community colleges and technical schools offer pipe fitting construction certificate programs. These programs typically last under a year and include courses in blueprint reading, math, and welding. Much of the program is comprised of hands-on piping work. A pipe fitting or welding diploma program typically takes a year to complete. Welding students do learn about laying and joining pipes, but they specifically hone their welding skills - a critical component to working in the pipe fitting industry. Courses in either diploma program may cover pipe welding, piping math, gas piping, and electric piping.
- Consider earning a degree. Pipe fitting instruction is frequently included in plumbing degree programs. Those who wish to become pipe fitters can receive the bulk of their education while participating in a plumbing degree program because the two trades are so intertwined. These 2-year programs may result in either an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science.
- Take computer courses. Pipe fitting apprentices must know how to use computers. While training, aspiring pipe fitters should also focus on learning about basic computer programs.
Step 3: Pursue a Pipe Fitter Apprenticeship
No matter their educational background, most pipe fitters undergo apprenticeship training. Apprenticeships typically last 4-5 years and consist of on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed pipe fitter. Apprentices must meet specific requirements before beginning to train. For example, they must be at least 18 years old and pass a drug test.
Step 4: Become a Licensed Pipe Fitter
Most states require pipe fitters to be licensed, but licensing doesn't take place until after an apprenticeship has been completed. Upon completing an apprenticeship, those seeking pipe fitting careers become eligible for licensure. The BLS notes that a handful of states require pipe fitters to hold some type of license. Some states require only high-pressure pipe fitters to be licensed, while other states require licensure of all pipe fitters. States may have a several-tiered licensing structure, with licenses available at the apprentice, journeyman, and master levels.
Step 5: Build a Professional Pipe Fitting Career
After attaining a license, pipe fitters must start building their professional reputation. Many pipe fitters are self-employed and work out of their homes or independent offices. This option requires new professionals to begin advertising their skills and building a clientele. Others may work for pipe fitting and plumbing business or for federal, state, and local governments.
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