Pipefitters work from blueprints to determine the types and placement locations of piping, valves, and fixtures to be installed. Pipefitters assemble, install, and maintain pipes to carry liquids, steam, compressed air, gases, and fluids needed for processing, manufacturing, heating, and cooling. They must be able to change and repair pipe systems and do all types of pipe welding. They measure, cut, bend, and thread pipes, joining sections together as necessary using elbows, t-joints, or other couplings. Pipefitters install and repair high-pressure pipe systems, especially in industrial and commercial establishments. After a pipe system is installed, pipefitters check for leaks by forcing liquid steam or air through it under pressure. Tools used include wrenches, reamers, drills, hammers, chisels, saws, gas torches, gas or electric welding equipment, pipe cutters, benders, and threaders.
Pipework is active and sometimes strenuous. The work is subject to hot and cold temperatures and fumes. Occasionally, pipefitters must operate in cramped or uncomfortable positions or stand for prolonged periods on ladders or scaffolds. The work may be indoors or outdoors in unfinished sections of new buildings.
Aptitude and Interest
Applicants should be able to understand detailed written and verbal instructions. They must enjoy working with their hands and working outdoors. They must be able to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately.
To become a skilled pipefitter, training is essential. It can be acquired informally through “learning-by-working,” company on-the-job training programs, trade or vocational/ technical schools, unilaterally (management or labor) sponsored trainee programs, registered labor-management apprenticeship programs, or a combination of the above. It is generally accepted that more formalized training programs give more comprehensive skill training. Recommended high school courses include English, general math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, general science, physics, and mechanical drawing.