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Industrial Pipe Fitter: Career Info & Requirements

Industrial pipe fitters install and maintain industrial piping systems that carry gases, steam and chemicals to supply power, heating and refrigeration systems for commercial structures. Read on to learn more about job duties, training options, employment outlook and potential earnings for industrial pipe fitters. Also, check out some related occupations.

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Career Definition of an Industrial Pipe Fitter

Industrial pipe fitters analyze blueprints to determine the kind of pipes required and the most efficient method of installation. Using bending machines, flame cutters and welding devices, pipe fitters cut, bend and join pipes that allow for the safe, smooth flow of high pressure substances. Industrial pipe fitters may work in industrial, power or wastewater treatment plants, or they may work in large commercial structures. Opportunities for specialization may include fire sprinkler systems.

Education Trade or technical school program, apprenticeship
Job Skills Good physical condition, ability to work in cramped positions and bad weather
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $50,620 for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 12% growth for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Industrial pipe fitters are highly skilled tradespeople who have received formal training through an apprenticeship program or at a technical or trade school. Formal apprenticeships typically last five years and are sponsored by local unions, such as the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry (www.ua.org) or the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (www.mcaa.org). Admissions procedures are highly competitive, and graduates may go on to enjoy the benefits of union membership and secure employment.

Some students pursue 2-year, pipe-fitting programs at trade or technical schools and then apply for an accelerated apprenticeship. Both apprenticeships and secondary programs cover topics in blueprint reading, mathematics, applied physics, safety and local codes. During on-the-job training, apprentices also learn how to identify and install pipe grades and systems.

Required Skills

The job of an industrial pipe fitter is a physically demanding one. Those hoping to enter the profession must possess physical strength and stamina, be able to work in uncomfortable or cramped positions and withstand inclement weather.

Employment and Earnings Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that plumbers, pipe fitters and steamfitters are expected to see a 12%, or faster-than-average, increase in employment nationwide from 2014 to 2024. Qualified workers are expected to remain in demand as new buildings are constructed. The median annual salary of a plumber, pipe fitter or steam fitter was $50,620 in 2015.

Alternate Career Options

Professionals with trade or technical skills in industrial pipefitting could consider similar occupations that utilize related skills.

Boilermakers

Boilermakers can also acquire their skills through an apprenticeship program; prior certification and experience as a welder may help with the admissions process. Once employed, their responsibilities can include installing or laying out pre-made or ready-to assemble parts of boilers for buildings or industrial facilities. Between 2014 and 2024, boilermakers will see a 9%, or faster-than-average, increase in job openings, as reported by the BLS. In 2015, a boilermaker earned a median annual salary of $60,120.

Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers (HVCAR)

Training options for HVCAR mechanics and installers can be found through apprenticeships or certificate and associate degree programs at community colleges and trade schools. The programs can take six months to two years to complete and teach future technicians how to enhance air quality and temperature conditions in commercial or residential buildings. According to the BLS, openings for HVCAR mechanics and installers will increase by 14%, or much faster-than-average, nationwide from 2014-2024. In 2015, HVCAR technicians were paid a median annual salary of $45,110.

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