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What does a Steamfitter do?

Harriette Halepis
Harriette Halepis

Steamfitters largely fall into the same category as pipefitters and sprinkler system installers. Their main job is to maintain, repair, assemble, and even create pipe and piping systems. Since piping systems are used in many industrial and private buildings alike, the job is a demanding one. There are many tasks that a steamfitter must be able to perform in order to secure a steady job, including reading and interpreting pipe specifications, creating wall openings for piping, measuring pipe width and length, understanding different types of pipes, and effectively using pipe testing equipment.

The job environment is a tough one. Pipes may be located indoors or outdoors, though they are almost always located in small spaces. As a result, steamfitters must be willing to scale tall walls, crawl into tight areas, and spend most of the day standing. In addition, those seeking this type of job position should be able to carry heavy objects on a daily basis.

Steamfitters may use a level to make sure that a pipe is properly positioned.
Steamfitters may use a level to make sure that a pipe is properly positioned.

While most steamfitters work 40-hour weeks, those who are responsible for the maintenance of piping are expected to be on call at all times. Frequently, one will be contacted during weekend and evening hours to fix broken pipes. Most people within this trade are hired as full-time employees, though some individuals may work on a contract basis.

Employers that hire steamfitters include power companies, motor vehicle companies, developers, steel producers, construction firms, various maintenance outfits, and some metal companies. Essentially, any manufacturer or private building owner will require the assistance of a steamfitter.

Since the role is largely technical, an apprenticeship is often required before a full-time position can be obtained. In some countries, special certification requirements must also be met. Education-wise, a high school diploma is usually necessary in order to work in this field, though this is not always the case. In some areas of the world, on-the-job experience is more important than formal education.

Jobs within this field can be found by directly contacting potential employers, and certain trade-based job sites may also include piping positions. There is little room for promotion, though promotions of the managerial sense may occur. Any person hoping to work with pipes must have basic match skills, an aptitude for communication, and a sense of intuition that can be relied upon. Often, those successful within this trade build long-term employer relationships.

Discussion Comments


My brother makes $30 a hour as a first year apprentice.


I made $96k last year -- union.


Can anybody tell me how much you can expect to make as a steamfitter? I've been looking at changing industries, and think that this might be a good fit for me, but I don't want to burn my bridges if it's not really a profitable career.

Also, what kind of training or certification do you need to have?

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    • Steamfitters may use a level to make sure that a pipe is properly positioned.
      By: Roman Milert
      Steamfitters may use a level to make sure that a pipe is properly positioned.