Plumber vs. Pipefitter: Which Career Should You Pick?

Are you confused about which type of career path to take? You’re not alone. There are many different options in life. Choosing the correct one can be challenging between being a Plumber or a Pipefitter.

As you can see, both are highly trained professionals with extensive backgrounds in their respective fields. In addition, one works in residential and commercial while the other primarily in industrial settings—repairing piping fixtures or fabricating products from metal piping according to clients’ needs. 

In this post, I will compare the similarities between plumber vs. pipefitter, provide helpful tips, and guide you through this challenging decision-making process!

Plumber vs. Pipefitter: Which Career Should You Pick? 

Pipefitters and plumbers are skilled tradespeople that work with pipes. However, they have some key differences. Pipefitters are more likely to work on large-scale projects, like pipelines, while plumbers focus on residential and commercial plumbing systems. At the same time, both have essential education and training, and wages are somewhat similar!

Let’s examine the duties of plumbers and pipefitters and offer numerous methods you can choose for your career route, so tune in!

1. Basic Understanding of Piping Systems

Both plumbers and pipefitters install, maintain, and repair pipe networks and have a basic knowledge of piping systems. However, because they work with various systems, their responsibilities vary.

Plumbers are skilled in much more than just trash disposal and sink repair. While it makes up a significant portion of what they perform, they also link heating and cooling systems and construct piping systems to remove waste.

Meanwhile, pipefitters work with low-pressure piping systems that move things like gases and chemicals. Because of this, pipefitters frequently handle and weld pipes composed of heavier materials, including galvanized or stainless steel.

As you can see, pipe fittings and plumbing systems are interconnected. Therefore, the only two occupations that deal with these structures are plumbers and pipefitters!

2. Expertise in Engineering Standards

These two trades professionals must be proficient at 

  • reading blueprints, 
  • comprehend fundamental math, 
  • be aware of local building codes, 
  • and adhere to ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) standards.

Both professionals should thoroughly understand materials and the distinctions between pipe systems used in building, power, and process piping.

Plumbers install, repair, and maintain low-pressure pipe systems, fixtures, and fittings. Comparatively, pipefitters’ typical jobs include repairing, setting up, and maintaining high-pressure pipe networks.

Because of this, both plumbers and pipefitters maintain and standardize the scope of work under industrial procedures for different pipes.

3. Salary

Among the highest-paid trade workers in the building sector are plumbers and pipefitters. Since both plumbers and pipefitters make a living by working on pipes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies their careers as belonging to the same occupational group.

Plumbers typically make $25.22 per hour, with annual pay of $56,330. While pipefitters’ hourly wage usually is $26.46, they get $50,160 yearly.

Currently, most pipefitter apprentice earnings fall within the $17.61 per hour bracket. This is the same as $704 each week or $3,053 per month. While apprentice plumbers typically make $2700 per month at $15 per hour.

Union members in this field typically have paid holidays, insurance, hospital cover, and pension plans. The number of days they work each year determines how many vacation days they get.

Overall, the average pay for pipefitters and plumbers in the United States is approximately identical.

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4. Career Outlook

While experienced skilled employees can advance to become supervisors, plumbers and pipefitters are already at the top of their profession.

These two occupations will have job growth of 16% in the future, compared to the average job growth rate for all occupations of 7%. Over the next ten years, there are expected to be, on average, 48,600 new opportunities each year.  

Plumbing professionals will continue to be required to install plumbing systems in new construction and fix pipes in older structures. In comparison, Pipefitters need to update the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Above all, building a reputation, network, and connections within this industry is critical to success. 

5. Education And Training

Education And Training

It’s critical to have appropriate training due to regulations and industry requirements. Students who enroll in trade school would likely go into apprenticeship either during training or after graduation.

In terms of education, aspiring plumbers acquire specialized knowledge of plumbing fittings and supplies, gas systems, pipe installations, and water and drainage systems.

Meanwhile, pipefitters might study electric piping arithmetic, welding, and gas. Even degree programs in plumbing include a few pipefitting courses.

Many residential and commercial plumbers receive their education in trade schools and technical institutes. Similarly, pipefitters and other plumbers may enroll in apprenticeship programs.

6.Licenses & Certification

In most places, plumbers must obtain a license through a statewide license or a license issued by the city where they work.

Typically, they’ll require a master’s license from a state body that oversees plumber professional licensure. In addition, they need a two-year license to practice plumbing. 

In contrast, becoming a certified pipefitter takes at least two years or 4,000 to 6,000 hours of work experience as an apprentice. The next step would be to become an accredited journeyman pipefitter after completing ASME and OSHA 30 courses.

Generally, an aspiring applicant must obtain a separate license in most American states. But both can apply for a license after finishing the training course apprenticeship.

7. Workplace Environment

Although plumbers and pipefitters work on all building sites, most of their work is on diverse projects.

Plumbing contractors frequently work in residential and commercial settings, such as houses and flats. A homeowner may hire them to complete repairs and upkeep after construction, or they might install plumbing and appliances while building.

On the other hand, pipefitters typically operate in factories and other industrial environments. They work on installing and maintaining heavy-duty, high-pressure pipes for the facility’s activities, such as manufacturing or energy generation.

Compared to most construction trades, the risk of injury is lower for plumbers than pipefitters.

8. Tools and Techniques

Plumbers and pipefitters have dissimilar toolbox tools since their systems are so different.

Typical materials used by plumbers include crimpers, hacksaw, and plungers. The plumber must understand which pipe types would function best with the systems they deal with and which are safe in certain circumstances. Additionally, they need cleaning tools. 

Additionally, pipefitters utilize pipes made of a range of materials, such as plastic, copper, and clay. Fitter grips, fitting tools, wraps, and centering heads are a few examples of the standard equipment used by pipefitters.

In this case, they don’t use the same materials when working, and the systems they fix require distinct methods.

9. Skill Set

Plumbing professionals need the ability to work in small places and with delicate components.

However, pipe fitters need excellent pipe bending, threading, grinding skills, and superior welding in small and large pipes.

Additionally, empathy, patience, and communication skills characterize plumbing professionals. In contrast, pipe fitters need more specialized abilities and metallurgical understanding.

Despite similarities, the skill sets required for the jobs of plumbing and pipefitting are pretty different.

To learn more, you can also see our posts on Carpentry, Welding, and Electrician.


The are both great careers in a similar industry with similar wages. As demonstrated, there is much more to compare than just one factor. For example, the skill set needed, materials and tools used, workplace settings, and certifications to be passed. However, with proper training, anyone can work as a plumber or pipefitter.