Plumbers and pipefitters are among the highest paid construction occupations, but to work in this field you typically need a license and formal training. Most people begin by attending trade schools, or by completing a plumber apprenticeship for more comprehensive training. Both a union and non-union plumber apprenticeship traditionally involves four or five years of paid on-the-job training plus 144 hours of classroom instruction each year. Courses may include blueprint reading, safety, drafting, applied physics and chemistry, mathematics, plumbing codes and regulations, and more.
During your on-the-job training, you may learn how to:
- Identify grades and types of pipe
- Install different piping systems and plumbing fixtures
- Unloading materials safely
- Work with various types of pipe
- Use various plumber and pipefitter tools
Many states require a plumber to have a license, which generally requires two to five years of experience and passing an exam. Only a few states require a pipefitter to get licensed.
What Careers Can I Get After Completing Plumber Trade School?
Trade school certainly prepares you to become either a plumber or pipefitter. What's the difference? A plumber performs a variety of duties, such as installing plumbing fixtures and appliances (bathtubs, toilets, dishwashers, etc.) and repairing water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
A pipefitter, by contrast, installs and repairs the pipe systems used in manufacturing, in the generation of electricity, and in the heating and cooling of buildings, and they also install the automatic controls often used to regulate those systems.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both plumbers and pipefitters earned a median annual salary of $45,640 in 2008.