If you’ve ever thought about becoming a pipefitter, there’s no better time than now. Because of the recent oil and gas boom (and an employment gap in manufacturing), salaries for tradesmen have never been higher, and this is especially true for pipefitters.
Pipefitters, along with plumbers and electricians, are among the highest paid of all the tradesmen. In fact, a pipefitter is a plumber with specialized training. But good job opportunities and great pay do not necessarily mean that becoming a pipefitter is the right career choice for you. See if you have what it takes to become a pipefitter.
Is a pipefitter the right career choice for you?
First of all, you need to know exactly what pipefitters do. Yes, pipefitters are a specialized form of plumbers. Pipefitters install piping for both heating and cooling systems, but within that area of expertise there are subcategories as well. A pipefitter will be trained in certain areas of commercial, residential, and industrial pipefitting. Be aware that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pipefitters, along with steamfitters and commercial plumbers, incur one of the highest rates of injuries in the trades.
Requirements of the job
Before you can become a pipefitter, there is training involved, along with certification. You will have to work alongside a licensed pipefitter as an apprentice for a predetermined period of time, and some class courses will be required as well. A high school diploma or GED id required and you will need math skills.
Sound good so far? If yes, then you may want to ask yourself: why a pipefitter? Most people follow the path that is laid down before them, meaning for example they may have been working in general construction alongside a pipefitter and liked what they saw. While not technically on-the-job training, they have at least been exposed to the requirements of the job.
If this is you, then you know better than anyone else what the future has in store for you. But if you’re someone who has been working behind a desk all your life, if you’ve been working in retail inside a comfortably air-conditioned shop and you only heard about the great pay available for pipefitters, you may want to think twice. Being a pipefitter means long hours working outside (sometimes in extreme conditions), and a much needed physical endurance.
Getting on with a pipefitting training program
If becoming a pipefitter sounds good to you, then let’s get started. First, you’ll need to get in touch with or go down to your local community college or technical/vocational school. Find out where pipefitting training is offered in your area. Courses usually last for about one year and can include: blueprint reading, math, and welding.
While having to spend some time in the classroom, these are the types of courses where you can get hands-on experience as well. You may learn how to lay and even join pipes together. Such courses may cover pipe welding, piping math, gas piping, and electric piping as well.