Steamfitters are highly-skilled construction workers who install and repair piping systems that carry steam, hot water, heating, cooling, lubricating or sprinkling equipment. They also have the ability to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles such as when pipes break, or if construction is running behind schedule.
Most pipe fitters learn their trade through a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program sponsored by unions, trade associations, and businesses. During their training, apprentices typically work full time and receive paid on-the-job training as well as technical instruction. This training includes safety, local pipefitting codes and regulations, blueprint reading, and other essential skills needed for their careers as professional pipe fitters.
Once employed, steamfitters provide preventative maintenance services that include checking pipes for potential problems such as leaks and clogs. They also sketch out piping systems to identify issues and determine the best way to fix them. They may work in a variety of environments including commercial and industrial buildings, power plants, manufacturing facilities and natural gas companies.
Some states require pipefitters to be licensed which can often be achieved through a combination of passing an exam, showing work experience or both. As with all construction jobs, the salary for a steamfitter can vary depending on the industry in which they work. For example, those who work for communications equipment manufacturers have the highest annual salaries, followed by electric power generation and motor vehicle manufacturing. Those who work for natural gas companies and building equipment contractors earn the lowest annual salaries.