Plumber vs Pipefitter: Which One is Best For You?


plumber vs pipefitter
Plumber vs pipefitter

Welcome to the world of plumbing and pipefitting, where your career can take you in different directions based on your skills and interests. Choosing the right path in these trades is essential for a fulfilling and prosperous future. In this blog, we’ll discuss the confusional concept in youth‘s minds regarding plumber vs. pipefitter, which shapes their careers.

Plumber vs pipefitter

Plumbers and pipefitters both deal with pipes, but they have different roles. Plumbers work with smaller pipes in homes and businesses, focusing on water supply and drainage systems. They install sinks, toilets, and handle gas lines. In contrast, pipefitters deal with larger pipes in industrial and commercial settings. They work on complex systems for transporting substances like water, gases, and chemicals. Pipefitters use tools like welding machines and must know how to handle high-pressure systems. Both may need licenses, but plumbers have stricter regulations due to their direct impact on public health and safety.

Responsibilities of a Plumber vs Pipefitter

Plumbers play a crucial role in our daily lives. They install, maintain, and repair water supply systems, fixtures, and appliances. Whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet or installing a brand-new bathroom, plumbers are the experts we turn to.

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2020, the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters was $55,160. Plumbers often work in residential, commercial, or industrial settings, ensuring water flows efficiently and safely.

Pipefitters, on the other hand, are experts in piping systems that transport liquids and gases. They work with high-pressure systems in various industries, such as manufacturing and construction. Pipefitters assemble, install, and maintain the pipes used in these systems.

Education and Training

To become a plumber, you need to complete a formal training program, such as an apprenticeship. Some plumbers attend vocational schools to learn the trade. On the other hand, pipefitters may undergo similar apprenticeships or attend technical schools.

plumber vs pipefitter which is best

Plumbers often complete an apprenticeship that lasts about 4–5 years and includes both classroom instruction and on-the-job training. This education equips them with the skills required to handle a wide range of plumbing issues.

Pipefitters typically undergo a 4-5 year apprenticeship as well. During their training, they learn how to work with high-pressure systems and understand complex blueprints.

Salary for plumber vs pipefitter

Plumbers and pipefitters can earn a comfortable living, but the earning potential varies depending on location, experience, and specialization. In the United States, plumbers and pipefitters earned median annual wages of $55,160 and $56,330, respectively, as of May 2020.

plumber vs pipefitter

Plumbers may find higher wages in metropolitan areas due to the demand for their services in densely populated regions. Pipefitters working in the petroleum industry may see an increase in pay due to the specialized nature of their work. Pipefitters typically work in industrial settings, including power plants, factories, and refineries, where precise pipe assembly is critical.

Workplace Environment for plumbers and pipefitters

The work environments for plumbers and pipefitters differ significantly. Plumbers commonly work in residential homes, commercial buildings, and even industrial facilities. They must be comfortable working in various settings, from fixing a sink in a cozy home to repairing pipes in a large factory.

Pipefitters, on the other hand, typically work in industrial settings, such as power plants and manufacturing facilities. These environments may require them to wear protective gear, given the higher pressure systems they deal with.

In Texas, you might require an extra 30-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) course.

Tools for plumbers and pipefitters

plumber vs pipefitter

Plumbing and pipefitting involve working with pipes; the tools used in each trade differ significantly due to the varying materials, sizes, and demands of the systems they work on. Plumbing tools are designed for residential and small-scale commercial applications, while pipefitting tools are tailored to handle larger pipes and high-pressure industrial systems.

Here’s a detailed comparison of the tools used in each trade:

Plumbing Tools

Pipe Wrench: Plumbers use pipe wrenches to tighten and loosen pipes and fittings. These wrenches have serrated jaws that provide a firm grip on pipes.

Plumbers’ Tape: Also known as Teflon tape, it’s used to seal threaded connections to prevent leaks in water and gas pipes.

Pipe Cutter: Plumbers employ pipe cutters to cleanly and precisely cut pipes, such as copper, PVC, or PEX.

Plunger: Commonly known as a plumber’s best friend, it’s used to clear clogs in drains, toilets, and pipes.

Adjustable Wrench: This versatile tool helps tighten and loosen various nuts and bolts in plumbing fixtures.

Hacksaw: Plumbers use hacksaws for cutting pipes when a pipe cutter isn’t suitable or available.

Pipe Reamer/Deburring Tool: This tool removes sharp edges and burrs from cut pipes to ensure a smooth fit.

Pipefitting Tools

Pipefitters’ Wrench: Pipefitters use heavy-duty pipe wrenches with longer handles and more substantial jaws to work on larger pipes and high-pressure systems.

Pipe Threader: For threading pipes, especially when working with steel pipes, pipefitters use a pipe threader to create a secure connection.

Welding Equipment: Pipefitters often employ welding machines and equipment to join pipes together using various welding techniques, such as stick welding or TIG welding.

Pipe Beveler: This tool is used to create a beveled edge on pipes, which is necessary for welding and achieving strong, leak-free joints.

Flange Spreaders: Pipefitters use flange spreaders to separate and align flanges before bolting them together in high-pressure systems.

Pipe Bender: Pipe benders are used to shape pipes into curves or angles, which is common in industrial and HVAC pipefitting.

Thread Sealant and Cutting Oil: Pipefitters use specialized thread sealants and cutting oils designed for high-pressure systems and steel pipes.

Soldering Equipment (for certain applications): In addition to welding, pipefitters may use soldering equipment for specific situations, such as when working with copper pipes.

Skills for Plumber vs Pipefitter

plumber vs pipefitter which is good

Plumbers and pipefitters need distinct sets of skills to excel in their roles.

Plumbing Skills

  • Problem-solving: Plumbers must diagnose and solve a wide range of plumbing issues, from clogged drains to faulty water heaters.
  • Attention to detail: Precision is essential in plumbing to ensure proper connections and prevent leaks.
  • Customer service: Plumbers often work directly with clients, necessitating excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Pipefitting Skills

  • Blueprint reading: Pipefitters must interpret complex blueprints to assemble piping systems accurately.
  • Precision welding: The ability to weld pipes with precision is a critical skill for pipefitters.
  • Mechanical aptitude: Understanding the mechanics of piping systems is essential for this trade.

Physical hard work in plumbing and pipefitting

Pipefitting tends to involve more physically demanding work than plumbing. Pipefitters often work with larger, heavier pipes in industrial settings and may need to lift, position, and manipulate substantial components. Additionally, tasks like welding and using heavy-duty tools are physically demanding.

Plumbing, while also requiring physical effort, typically involves smaller pipes and fixtures, with a focus on installation and repair in residential and commercial buildings. Both professions require physical stamina, but the nature of the work in pipefitting is generally more strenuous due to the larger scale of the systems and materials involved.

Similarities between pipefitters and plumbers

Pipefitters and plumbers share pipe knowledge, joining techniques, tools, safety practices, blueprint reading, and adaptability in their pipe-related professions.

Learn more, Electrician vs plumber

Job demand

Despite the differences, there are some shared elements between these professions. Both plumbing and pipefitting offer stable job prospects, with a growth rate of 4% expected for both fields from 2029 to 2030, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Licensing Requirements

Becoming a licensed plumber typically requires completing an apprenticeship, which can vary in length by state. After completing the apprenticeship, plumbers must pass an exam to obtain their license.

Pipefitters follow a similar path, completing an apprenticeship program and passing an exam to earn their license. Specific requirements and regulations vary by location.

Making an Informed Choice

Choosing between becoming a plumber or a pipefitter is a significant decision. Here are some steps to help you make an informed choice.

Identify your interests and abilities

Start by evaluating your interests and skills. If you enjoy working with your hands, solving problems, and interacting with people, plumbing may be a good fit. If you prefer precision work and industrial settings, pipefitting might be more appealing.

Determine your needs

Consider factors like lifestyle, work preferences, and career goals. Plumbers often have a more diverse range of projects, while pipefitters may find more specialized opportunities in the industrial sector.

Research both career options

Learn as much as you can about both professions. Speak with professionals in each field to gain insights into their daily challenges and rewards.

Compare and contrast the jobs

List the pros and cons of each profession to determine which aligns better with your aspirations.

Seek advice from others

Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from experienced plumbers and pipefitters. Their firsthand knowledge can provide invaluable insights.

Transition in careers

Plumbers can transition into pipefitting roles, and vice versa, as there are similarities in skills and knowledge related to pipe systems. Both trades involve working with pipes, and experienced plumbers may adapt their skills to industrial or commercial pipefitting. Similarly, pipefitters can retrain or expand their expertise to handle residential plumbing. However, additional training and certifications may be required to excel in the new role due to differences in pipe materials, sizes, and specific job requirements in plumbing and pipefitting.


In conclusion, plumbers and pipefitters are distinct yet rewarding professions. By understanding the differences and considering your interests and goals, you can make an informed decision about which path to pursue. Both careers offer financial stability, job security, and the opportunity to excel in your chosen trade. Remember that the right choice is the one that aligns with your passion and skill set, ensuring a fulfilling and prosperous future.