Pipefitter vs. Plumber: What Are the Differences?

Currently, the average student debt in the US stands at just under $40,000 per 4-year degree. Unsurprisingly, more and more people are looking into entering the trades, as they offer high salaries and allow you to start earning right away. However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding some trades, especially plumbers and pipefitters.

Well, maybe you’re looking into a career yourself, you know somebody entering a trade, or you’re looking to hire someone to fix your systems. No matter what you’re looking for, let’s settle the score between pipefitter vs. plumber once and for all!


What Is A Plumber?

We’ve all known a plumber in our lifetimes, as there are nearly half a million of them in the US. It’s one of the most popular trades to enter considering the demand for skilled plumbers around the world, decent salaries, and the ability to become independent.

Now, that’s not to suggest that the job is easy. Generally speaking, most plumbers have responsibilities including:

  • Assembling, installing, maintaining, and repairing water supply, gas, and drain systems
  • Unclogging or servicing pipes and drains
  • Fixing or replacing water fixtures (residential or industrial)

The list goes on. One day, a plumber may have to fix a few leaky faucets, and the next, they may have to dig up a system in someone’s backyard to even diagnose the problem.

While the job itself isn’t glamorous, plumbing is one of the best career paths for those without a college degree, with many earning over $75,000 at some point in their careers.

To complete these daily tasks, plumbers must undergo a 5-year apprenticeship that’s often preceded by some type of vocational training. From there, they need to become licensed as a master plumber to work on their own.


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What Is A Pipefitter?

A pipefitter is, in a nutshell, a highly specialized plumber. Pipefitters are some of the highest-paid tradespeople, with many workers’ salaries exceeding $100,000 later in their career.

Pipefitters are essentially a combination of plumbers, welders, HVAC technicians, and even engineers. Both plumbers and pipefitters can be found on various construction sites, but you will rarely find pipefitters working in a residential building.

Also, they tend to work with a variety of systems that aren’t covered by typical plumbers. A typical day will include:

  • Manufacturing, installing, repairing, or maintaining high-pressure pipe systems
  • Installing or servicing commercial and industrial HVAC systems
  • Installing or servicing fuel delivery systems
  • Installing or servicing hydraulic systems

Beyond that, pipefitters tend to work in completely different scenarios from plumbers. Most of their job takes place in industrial settings as they work with more heavy-duty and high-pressure systems.

Essentially, if you’re running a steel plant and you need high-pressure fuel delivery to heat up the metal, then calling an average plumber may not fulfill your needs.

Generally, pipefitters will also need to undergo a five-year apprenticeship, and they require at least 200 hours of ASME code instruction from an accredited school before acquiring licensure.


Pipefitter vs. Plumber: What Are the Differences?


Pipefitter Vs. Plumber: Key Differences

Already, we can tell that there are some differences between the two professions, although their work is very similar. We understand the confusion between the two, so here are some of the key differences to help you understand how these two jobs differ.

  • Types of Clients

We won’t suggest that a pipefitter will never work in a residential building, and plumbers work in industrial settings all the time. However, on average, a pipefitter will be working with much larger fixtures and high-pressure systems, as this is their specialty.

Unless you have an unusual setup in your home, you should generally call a plumber for any of your water or gas pipe needs.

  • Skills

Plumbers and pipefitters must master many of the same skills. They need to learn how these systems work, develop a strong understanding of math and physics, and learn how to read blueprints.

Of course, they also need to learn how to work with similar tools, systems, and more.

However, because of the complexity of the systems, as well as the nature of the high-pressure materials they work with, pipefitters will require additional skills like welding and basic HVAC skills.

  • Independence

As we mentioned, pipefitters usually work in an industrial setting, which usually requires a crew of skilled pipefitters, apprentices, and laborers. However, a plumber can typically handle residential homes on their own.

For that reason, plumbers are more likely to work as independent contractors within their careers. Many choose to work for an employer, but opportunities for independence are greater for a plumber.

  • Pay

On the other hand, pipefitters have strong unions spread throughout the country, and many are able to negotiate generous salary raises for each year of tenure. That’s on top of overtime pay, benefits, and more.

Consequently, the average pipefitter will earn more than the average plumber, but an independent plumber can set their own rates.

If you’re hiring either one of them, you can generally expect to have to pay a pipefitter more, even with comparable salaries. The systems and materials they work with are far more expensive on average.

Either way, if you’re looking for a pipefitter or plumber near me, then check out Z PLUMBERZ of North Fulton & Gwinnett for the best services in the area.


Pipefitter vs. Plumber: What Are the Differences?


Hire One Today

Now that you know the key differences between a pipefitter vs. plumber, you know who you need to call. Don’t worry, we won’t overwhelm you by talking about HVACs and steamfitters just yet.

Choose wisely, get the help you need, and keep reading our blog for more information!

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