How to Become
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are all in the same field, but steamfitters are plumbers who specialize in the maintenance and installation of steam-based pipelines. They fabricate pipeline materials and troubleshoot problems in the system.
This is a job that provides you with stability and employment security. In this article, we’ll break down how to become a steamfitter in 2021. Although it may seem a rudimentary job, you still have to follow some steps to build a career in this field.
What Is a Steamfitter?
A steamfitter is a professional who fabricates, installs, maintains, and repairs pipe systems. Although they’re considered plumbers, they specialize in pipeline maintenance. They mostly work with pipelines that carry high-pressure water and hazardous materials like acid, steam, and chemicals.
To start building their career, steamfitters usually begin by completing an apprenticeship program. Steamfitters work independently or with commercial, governmental, or industrial companies. Steamfitters usually enjoy several benefits such as paid leave and health insurance.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Steamfitter?
Steamfitters have a variety of different options to start building their careers. The majority undertake career training at a trade school. You can also opt for on-the-job training through an apprenticeship program, or take the traditional college degree route.
Best Steamfitter Education Tracks
In the following list, you will find detailed information about the best steamfitter education tracks, their requirements, and the benefits of following each path. Remember that regardless of the career path you choose, you will need to have a high school diploma.
Many vocational schools offer pipefitting and plumbing technical training programs. A technical school certificate program will help you develop the skills you need to start working as a steamfitter. You will learn about reading blueprints, welding, and installing pipes.
Community colleges also offer associate degrees in plumbing or pipefitting. The most common career path for a steamfitter is an associate degree program or certificate program that usually lasts one to two years.
Steamfitter Apprenticeship Programs
Apprenticeship programs are practice-oriented training programs. You will receive traditional in-classroom education and on-the-job training while being paid.
This type of program provides you with work experience and traditional training, and lasts one to six years. The exact timeframe will depend on where you’re apprenticing and in what industry.
Steamfitter courses are also a great way to learn about this trade. They usually provide a certificate that you can use to validate your steamfitting skills. Most of these programs last three months to a year.
How to Become a Steamfitter: A Step-by-Step Guide
As we mentioned earlier, steamfitting might seem like a rudimentary job due to the manual labor and physical strength it requires. Most steamfitters lift heavy materials on a daily basis. However, it does involve education and training. Below, you will find a list of steps to become a steamfitter.
Earn a high school diploma
The first step to becoming a steamfitter is to get a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) test. Without it, you won’t be able to follow any of the following steps.
Complete an apprenticeship program
Getting hands-on experience through an apprenticeship program gets you ready to practice steamfitting for a living.
Obtain a technical diploma, an associate degree, or certificate
You can take this optional step if you want to work on developing your steamfitting skills. You can earn a technical diploma, certificate, or degree. It will all depend on what works best for you.
Get a certification
This step is a great way to advance your career. You will be able to work independently and without the supervision of another colleague. Besides, many states require you to be licensed to practice steamfitting.
Look for a steamfitter job
You now have the experience and qualifications needed for a steamfitting position, so it’s time to submit your resume.
Key Steamfitter Skills
Besides having physical strength, coordination, problem-solving competencies, and an array of soft skills, steamfitters must have specific hard skills. These skills include blueprint reading, welding, and technical troubleshooting.
Blueprints are technical drawings of engineering designs. They can be used in professions like welding, mechanics, and steamfitting. These detailed plans of the pipeline system help steamfitters identify any type of issue.
Blueprint reading is an essential skill that all steamfitters should have, and most education programs give you appropriate training on this subject.
Welding involves joining two metal parts together to repair issues or improve systems. Steamfitters often use their welding skills to troubleshoot problems in the pipes system. Welding is also used in pipe fabrication, which is another essential steamfitting skill.
The most common types of welding used in steamfitting are arc welding, used for thick and heavy metals, MIG welding, used for stainless steel, and TIG welding, applied to alloy equipment.
Ability to Operate Hydraulic and Pneumatic Equipment
As a steamfitter, you will usually work with heat or cooling systems as well as pressurized liquid petroleum oils. That’s why you need to be able to operate hydraulic and pneumatic equipment.
Steamfitter Salary and Job Outlook
According to 2020 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for steamfitters, plumbers, and pipefitters is $56,330. ZipRecruiter estimates that the average for steamfitters alone is $70,463 per year.
When it comes to the demand for steamfitters, BLS states that the profession is expected to grow four percent from 2019 to 2029. This is around the average national growth rate.
Entry-Level Steamfitter Job Requirements
To work as a steamfitter in an entry-level job, you need to have at least a high school diploma and have completed an apprenticeship program. In an entry-level position, you will have to work under the supervision of other experienced plumbers.
What Does a Steamfitter Do?
Steamfitters have different responsibilities spanning from installing pipe systems to inspecting, repairing, and maintaining them. However, your duties will vary depending on the project you’re working on.
Inspects Pipe Systems
The first thing that steamfitters should do before anything else is to examine the pipe system to evaluate the problem and how to solve it. Without the proper evaluation, you won’t be able to estimate costs.
Installs Pipe Systems
Another essential responsibility you will have is to install pipe systems. To do this, you must get familiar with the local plumbing code. Then you can prepare the site for plumbing construction.
Maintains Pipe Systems
A steamfitter must be able to provide preventive maintenance services. This includes doing regular checkups to detect potential issues that may cause future disruption.
Another regular task that steamfitters do is pipe system repair. Some of the most common pipe problems are frozen pipes, low water pressure, clogged drainage, and leaky pipes.
Sketches Out the Pipe System
Sketching out the pipe system is a crucial step to evaluate its performance. That’s why steamfitters must be familiar with blueprint reading. This way, you can effectively spot issues in the system.
Steamfitters must provide accurate budgets for the projects they’re working on. Usually, the quotes they offer are based on estimated working hours.
To become a steamfitter practitioner, you should have a certification provided by a validating institution. The National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation (NITC) offers industry-recognized credentials.
NITC Journey Level Pipefitter-Steamfitter
To be eligible for the Journey Level Steamfitter certification, you must have around two to five years of experience in the plumbing industry. In addition, you should also pass the NITC exam to validate your understanding of plumbing codes and fundamentals.
STAR Steamfitting-Pipefitting Mastery
Once you have obtained the previous certification, you can start working towards becoming a master steamfitter. This credential allows you to work independently and create your own business as a contractor. To be eligible for this certification, you must have five years of experience working on pipe systems.
How to Prepare for Your Steamfitter Job Interview
To ace your job interview, you must demonstrate you have the experience and the skills needed to be a steamfitter. Talk about your competencies and your previous experience, and answer the technical questions correctly.
Steamfitter Job Interview Practice Questions
- What are your most significant accomplishments in this career to date?
- Tell me about your post-secondary education?
- Have you had any challenges as a steamfitter?
- What are your go-to tools to troubleshoot the most common pipefitting issues?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Steamfitter?
It will depend on the career path you follow. An apprenticeship program usually lasts one to six years. However, most steamfitter programs last around four years. You should then get supervised working experience for around two years to be eligible for a professional steamfitter certification.
Therefore, it takes from four to six years to become a certified steamfitter. You should add a couple of years more if you want to earn a certificate or associate degree.
Should You Become a Steamfitter in 2021?
Steamfitters enjoy job benefits such as paid vacations, health insurance, and overall job security. Most steamfitters have a low risk of unemployment due to the constant demand for these professionals.
However, you should keep in mind that just like other professional trades, a career in steamfitting also requires a lot of preparation and physical effort. You will be undertaking heavy manual labor for hours, so you should be physically fit and strong.
What is the difference between a steamfitter and a pipefitter?
Pipefitters work with high- and low-pressure liquid transportation, while steamfitters only work with liquids under high pressure. They also usually work with gases, which makes it a more dangerous job than pipefitting.
How much do steamfitters earn per hour?
According to Indeed, the average steamfitter makes $24.55 per hour. On the low end, steamfitters with only a couple of years of experience earn an average wage of $22.97 per hour. Steamfitters with over 10 years of experience bag $28.75 per hour.
Is steamfitting a dangerous job?
Just like any other trade that requires physical strength, the steamfitting profession can be hazardous. You’re exposed to potential injury caused by heavy, sharp, and heated objects.
Where do steamfitters earn more?
According to ZipRecruiter, the five cities in the United States where steamfitters earn the most are in California or Alaska.