The number of different pipefitter careers is quite broad, as this is a skilled trade central to many large construction and renovation projects. A pipefitter is someone who can fabricate, build, install, and repair liquid transportation systems. A pipefitter is quite different from a plumber, although they both work with pipes and liquid systems.
In order to become a pipefitter, there are two training paths available: community college or apprenticeship. The community college diploma program typically includes a work term or job placement opportunity. A two- or three-year program teaches students all the skills required to become a pipefitter. Through an apprenticeship, candidates learn their skills on the job, while attending part-time courses in the evenings. This path is slightly longer, but provides full-time paid employment while learning a skilled trade.
There are four categories of pipefitter careers: tradesperson, supervisor, entrepreneur, and teaching. All four options require successful completion of the pipefitter training program and maintenance of a state issued license. It is important to note that the pipefitter's license is valid for life and is not subject to recertification or renewal exams.
Most pipefitter careers start with a position as a skilled tradesperson. In this role, he or she is responsible for actually fabricating pipes and installing them. This type of work is manually intensive and requires considerable physical effort. The standard work week is 40 hours, with weekends and overtime required if a project is behind schedule.
At a supervisory level, he or she is responsible for a team of pipefitters and apprentices. These pipefitter careers require organizational and planning skills. The supervisor is expected to manage the team, schedule work, parts, and access to the various systems and areas required to complete the project. Many people promoted into a supervisory position are surprised at the volume of paperwork and meetings associated with this role.
After several years of experience, many people decide to start their own firm, providing pipefitting services and expertise. The best way to make this transition is to develop a reputation in the community for quality work and excellent service. Talk with local purchasing agents and construction developers to learn what is required to obtain their business.
Many skilled tradespeople turn to teaching after a long career in the field. A combination of academic qualifications, presentation skills, and working experience are the basic requirements for this type of role. These positions have reduced working hours and offer an opportunity for master tradespersons to contribute their experience to the next generation of pipefitters.