A career as a steamfitter is worth considering if job stability, growth and high pay are high on a list of considerations. It is among the highest paid construction jobs and the demand for skilled workers is greater than the supply, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' last report in 2008. An aptitude for mathematics, an enjoyment of working in a variety of environments and good physical condition could be a good fit for someone interested in the construction industry.
A steamfitter will be required to join pipes or tubing of various materials: cast or wrought iron, plastics, copper, concrete, glass, brass or bronze. To accomplish this, he would need to be skilled in the techniques of threading, friction or franging joints and/or brazing and welding. The specific types of welding most likely employed are: metal arc, gas tungsten, oxy-fuel gas and gas metal.
A strong proficiency in reading blueprints, isometric and 3D orthographic drawings is required.
A steamfitter may be asked to join pipes that are 10 feet in length or longer. Standing, kneeling, crouching or climbing are activities that she may have to endure for long periods of time. A steamfitter may be asked to work in a variety of locations, including nuclear plants, schools, industrial plants, chemical plants, hospitals, apartment buildings, water waste management centers and manufacturing plants. She would need to be comfortable working in any of the previously mentioned locations, especially those where she will be exposed to toxic fumes.
A manual dexterity allowing her to manipulate tools, such as sharp wheel cutters, reamers, drills, gas cutting torches, benders and plasma arc cutters, is required.
Education and Training
A high school degree or GED and a strong grasp of mathematics, particularly basic algebra and trigonometry is required. In addition, one will need to complete a five-year apprenticeship before becoming fully licensed. During that time, one will learn the skills necessary to operate the equipment required for the job, in addition to further studies in mathematics, the sciences and mechanical drawing.
In order to join a union, a steamfitter will need to check with the requirements of the local union. Generally, residing within the jurisdiction of the union, being in good physical condition, satisfactory completion of a qualifications examination and a criminal background check are the procedures for union membership.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) projected the growth rate of this occupation to be faster than the national average--meaning an increase of 14 percent to 19 percent from 2008 to 2018. Job opportunities are expected to be numerous with demand being driven by maintenance and construction of power plants, water treatment plants, office buildings and factories.
According to the BLS, steamfitters are among the highest paid tradesmen in the construction industry. As of 2008, the median hourly wage was $21.94, as the lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.22 and the highest 10 percent earned greater than $37.93. Apprentices earn roughly 50 percent of a fully certified steamfitter's wage.
- Photo Credit pipes image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com
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