Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
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Assemble, install, alter, and repair pipelines or pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. May install heating and cooling equipment and mechanical control systems. Includes sprinkler fitters.
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Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Prepare cost estimates for clients
  • Read blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the materials and equipment needed for a job
  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot malfunctioning systems
  • Maintain and repair plumbing sysems

Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters have distinct responsibilities, they often have similar duties. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, gas, and other fluids and substances. They determine the necessary materials for a job, connect pipes, and test pressure to ensure that a pipe system is airtight and watertight. Their tools include drills, saws, welding torches, press fitting tools, and drain cleaning tools.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters may use different materials and construction techniques, depending on the project. For example, residential water systems use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers install. Industrial plant water systems, in contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install.

Journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters frequently direct apprentices and helpers.

Master plumbers on construction jobs may help develop blueprints that show the placement of pipes and fixtures. Their input ensures that a structure’s plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires. Many diagrams are created digitally with Building Information Modeling (BIM), which allows workers in several occupations to collaborate in planning a building’s physical systems.

Some of the specific tasks performed by these workers are as follows:

Plumbers install and repair water, gas, and other piping systems in homes, businesses, and factories. They install plumbing fixtures, such as bathtubs and toilets, and appliances, such as dishwashers and water heaters. They clean drains, remove obstructions, and repair or replace broken pipes and fixtures. Plumbers also help maintain septic systems—large, underground holding tanks that collect waste from houses that are not connected to a sewer system.

Pipefitters and steamfitters, sometimes simply called fitters, install and maintain pipes that may carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. Fitters install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Steamfitters specialize in systems that are designed for the flow of liquids or gases at high pressure. Other fitters may specialize as gasfitters or sprinklerfitters.

Median salary: $56,330 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $42,330 and $75,370.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • High Places (85%)
  • Time Pressure (83%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health (71%)
  • Hazardous Conditions (54%)
  • Hazardous Equipment (51%)
  • Consequence of Error (49%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Communication skills
Plumbers must be able to direct workers, bid on jobs, and plan work schedules. Plumbers also talk to customers regularly.
Plumbers must be able to maneuver parts and tools precisely, often in tight spaces.
Mechanical skills
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters choose from a variety of tools to assemble, maintain, and repair pipe systems.
Physical strength
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters must be able to lift and move heavy tools and materials.
Troubleshooting skills
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters find, diagnose, and repair problems. They also help with setting up and testing new plumbing and piping systems.
Injury and Illness
About 158 plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, making this job more dangerous than 90% of other careers. The most common specific illnesses or injuries are detailed following.
Chemical burns and corrosions
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.
Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Education and training recommended for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter. Vocational-technical schools offer courses in pipe system design, safety, and tool use. They also offer welding courses that are required by some pipefitter and steamfitter apprenticeship training programs.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Most states and some localities require plumbers to be licensed. Although licensing requirements vary, states and localities often require workers to have 2 to 5 years of experience and to pass an exam that shows their knowledge of the trade before allowing plumbers to work independently.

Plumbers may also obtain optional certification, such as in plumbing design, to broaden career opportunities. In addition, most employers require plumbers to have a driver’s license.

Some states require pipefitters and steamfitters to be licensed; they may also require a special license to work on gas lines. Licensing typically requires an exam or work experience or both. Contact your state’s licensing board for more information.

Education level of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
Only 5% of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
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Programs recommended by the Department of Education
The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.
Number of degrees awarded in 2018
Education level of awarded degrees
Gender of graduates
Race/origin of graduates
Where are the jobs
State-by-state employment numbers
Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio
We use two methods to compare salaries across states:
  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Location-adjusted median salary for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters (ACS)
6% of Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 6% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 71% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$45K$45K$51K$56K$37K$43K$51K$48K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters and gender
With 1% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 98% of careers.
Gender of Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Men (99%)
Women (1%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, with the median salary for men 9% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.
Race/origin of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
White (81% )
Black (7% )
Other (7% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
Asian (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$35K$36K$38K$41K$43K$44K$47K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAmerican IndianOtherHispanicBlackAsianMultiracialWhite
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.