what is a pipefitter?

As a pipefitter, you are a specialized tradesperson trained in assembling, organizing and maintaining mechanical piping systems. You work on industrial, high-pressure installations for heating and cooling, steam, ventilation, chemical transmission and fuel systems.

Contrary to popular belief, pipefitters are not plumbers. Even steamfitters, who do a type of plumbing, are responsible for completely different high-pressure piping from other plumbing systems. Plumbers work in the water and sanitation industries; pipefitters use metals like stainless steel and carbon instead of alloy metals and work in various industries. In this role, you shape components to exact specifications for industrial use. You also put together blueprints and review plans.

As a pipefitter, you select the pipes, materials and equipment needed for a project. You use your skills to manipulate the shapes and settings of pipes. You install these systems to avoid obstructions or the disruption of building operations. Sometimes you perform tests, fix glitches or leaks, and eliminate hazards. Your job is to ensure the pipes provide optimal performance in high-pressure environments. If you discover any issues, you make adjustments to ensure the system runs smoothly. As well as installing new systems, you perform repairs and maintenance tasks on existing systems.

Would working as a pipefitter suit your practical skills and interest in tinkering with tools and machines? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a pipefitter role.

pipefitter jobs

average pipefitter salary

According to Job Bank, the average salary of a pipefitter in Canada is $78,612 annually. You earn an hourly rate of $40.31. The earnings fluctuate based on various factors, from work experience to qualifications. At the start of your career, you are likely to take home a salary of $61,415 per year due to minimal experience. As you build your skills and improve your expertise in pipefitting roles, your earnings increase gradually, and you can take home over $86,022 per year.

what factors affect the salary of a pipefitter?

Pipefitter salaries mainly depend on expertise and area of specialization. As you improve your knowledge of pipefitting, you can negotiate a higher salary. Pipefitters also perform different duties and specialize in diverse areas. For instance, steam pipefitters may earn more due to the qualifications required and the duties involved in the role.

The geographical location may also influence your earnings. Provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia pay higher salaries due to the demand for the role. Working in urban settings also increases your earning potential compared to rural settings.

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types of pipefitters

The types of pipefitters depend on the level of experience and industry specialization. Some include:

  • master pipefitters: a master pipefitter is a licensed tradesman who typically supervises apprentice and journeymen pipefitters. As a master pipefitter, you work on new construction projects, overseeing the whole process. You also maintain and inspect existing systems.
  • general pipefitters: as a general pipefitter, you design, fabricate, install and maintain industrial piping systems. You work on systems to meet commercial, manufacturing and industrial specifications.
  • steamfitters: as a steamfitter, you specialize in designing and constructing systems that manage the flow of gases and liquids at high pressure. You also test systems for functionality and perform repairs or routine maintenance tasks.
  • gasfitters: a gasfitter is a technician who uses technical expertise to pipe gas safely. Gas is a volatile element that requires a specialist with experience. Gasfitters are responsible for the delicate balance between equipment, piping and meters.
  • sprinkler fitters: as a sprinkler fitter, you specialize in piping for fire suppression systems. You install, inspect and certify all air, anti-freeze, water, chemical and anti-fire foam solutions.
man working in industrial setting
man working in industrial setting

working as a pipefitter

Pipefitters install new piping systems and perform repairs and maintenance tasks on existing pipes. Let’s check out the specific duties and requirements for becoming a pipefitter.


pipefitter skills and education

The requirements to become a pipefitter include:

  • educational qualifications: to work as a pipefitter in Canada, complete secondary school education and join an apprenticeship program. It takes four to five years and combines steamfitting, pipefitting and sprinkler system installation courses with on-the-job training.
  • professional certification and licensing: to work as a pipefitter in Canada, you require professional certification. Pursue an industry course in pipefitting and steamfitting to gain a trade certification. In some provinces like Nova Scotia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec, a trade certification is necessary from the relevant regulatory body. In Alberta, you require licensing from Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, while the Industry Training Authority of British Columbia gives you the proper licences and certification for the role in British Columbia.

competencies and characteristics of pipefitters

Pipefitting requires you to have a variety of skills and competencies. The most successful pipefitters have the following skills:

  • communication: pipefitters constantly share information. You do critical work and are responsible for knowing what's happening. Pipefitters also deal with managers, labourers and vendors. Communication skills help you interact with everyone appropriately.
  • flexibility: pipefitters handle equipment and adjust to situations on the spot. The ability to adapt on the go is a characteristic that benefits any pipefitter.
  • knowledge of mechanics: as a pipefitter, it is important to stay on top of the latest tech in your industry. You should know how to assemble, repair and manage the materials necessary to implement piping systems. Expect to read blueprints to ensure piping systems are functional and safe. Advanced math is necessary, as precise measurements are important. It is also crucial to know all the industry's toolkits.
  • physical strength and dexterity: pipefitters use tools, materials and equipment that can be heavy. Since you lift and carry these things, it helps to be in relatively good shape.
  • troubleshooting skills: it's important to be confident in developing new piping systems. Delicate operations and emergencies often require quick thinking and careful problem-solving.
  • welding and HVAC experience: a good pipefitter understands how to create safe bonds between metals. You should also know when to step aside and let a pro do the welding. Some pipefitters put together heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) infrastructures for large commercial and industrial HVAC units. In these jobs, you set up gas and water supply lines and see that hot water or steam is distributed safely to all units.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a pipefitter.


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