Plumbers Versus Pipefitters: Career Comparison

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Differences between Plumbers and Pipefitters

What we would like to do with this article is to make a comparison between the job of plumbers and pipefitters.

We will both speak about things they have in common, that are pipes, and tradespeople whose job is installing, inspecting, and repairing piping systems, as well as differences that set them apart.

The scale of the work is what makes the main distinction – pipefitters usually work on much bigger pipes found in industrial settings while plumbers often fix bathroom and kitchen pipes.

It is good to know that some of the biggest differences between plumbers and pipefitters are related to the place where they work, the types of pipes they work on, and the skills they need for the job to be successfully done.


When the workplace is in question, plumbers usually work in residential and commercial settings like homes and businesses.

On the other hand,  pipefitters can be found working in factories or shipyards and installing or repairing heavy-duty pipes.

Plumbers workplaces include construction companies, home building companies or they can be self-employed.

Pipefitters work in manufacturing plants, commercial businesses, navy or merchant marines, and the petroleum industry.

What Do Plumbers and Pipefitters Do?

When the kind of work is in question, these two trades have many things in common.

Both of these professionals install, maintain, and repair pipes.

However, the difference is in their job tasks due to the differences in the scale of the systems they work on.

Plumbers duties are the following:

  • Installing, repairing, and maintaining sewage lines, hot water heaters, and water filtration systems
  • Unclogging pipes and drains
  • Fixing or replacing water fixtures
  • Building and repairing bathrooms
  • Installing or fixing dishwashers and laundry machines
  • Working in compliance with local and state building codes

Pipefitters tasks are a little bit different:

  • Installing, repairing, and maintaining pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases
  • Servicing commercial heating and cooling systems
  • Working on fuel and delivery systems
  • Maintaining and repairing commercial water systems and waste disposal systems
  • Welding, cutting, and reshaping pipe sections and components
  • Installing piping to fitted compressors, meters, hydraulic and pneumatic controls, and pumps
  • Verifying whether safety requirements are met or not

Pipefitter Specializations

A pipefitter is a term that includes more specific job titles and specialties that focus on a certain type of pipe.

There are gasfitters who work with pipe systems that deliver gas or oxygen.

Sprinklerfitters are professionals who install and repair sprinkler systems for both commercial enterprises and private residences.

Steamfitters are individuals who install pipes for moving high-pressure steam, water, and other substances.

The Skills Plumbers and Pipefitters Need

Each job requires certain skills that a person must possess so as to be successful and working on pipe systems requires both plumbers and pipefitters to have mechanical and troubleshooting skills and physical strength.

In the majority of cases, they do not work on the same types of pipes or in the same settings, causing plumbers and pipefitters to acquire skills that are unique to their professions.

A good plumber should have the following skills:

  • Communication – as he/she will be planning work schedules, supervising workers, and bidding on jobs, while they will also be responsible for speaking about technical equipment problems with customers so that they can understand the issue.
  • Customer service – as they will be working in people’s homes and businesses with the aim to establish longtime business relationships.
  • Dexterity – having skilled hands can be helpful when working in confined spaces.

On the other hand, there are pipefitter skills:

  • Pipe fabrication and bending – as they may be required to replace sections of pipe systems and this can also be helpful on customized piping jobs.
  • Welding –  Fillet and butt welds are used for small and large pipes.
  • Pipe installation and shoring methods – Rigging equipment so as to install pipe below and above ground and hydraulic and trench shoring systems are used with heavy pipelines.

Similarities between Plumbers and Pipefitters

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both plumber and pipefitter jobs are under the same category since they both work on pipes for a living, and steamfitters are in the same career classification, too.

Job Outlook and Salary for Plumbers and Pipefitters

Plumbers and Pipefitters should not worry about their job prospects, as the BLS predicts job growth which will is expected to be much faster than average for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.

The average job growth rate for all occupations is estimated to be 7%, these three occupations will experience 16% job growth in the future.

Plumbers will be needed to install systems in new buildings and repair pipes in older ones.

Sprinklerfitters will be hired to install fire suppression systems as more states enact changes to building codes to improve safety.

Pipefitters will find work repairing the country’s aging infrastructure.

According to the statistics, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earned an annual average salary for $52,590, but it can vary among the states.

Becoming a Plumber or Pipefitter

So as to become plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, interested individuals must attend trades schools that offer plumbing and pipefitter training.

Enrolling in one of their programs is the first step and they will take classes in pipe system design, proper tool usage, and safety, while those who enter pipefitters and steamfitters training will also typically have to take welding classes.

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