The infrastructure of the systems that make ships, airplanes and commercial, residential and industrial buildings properly function includes many different types of pipes and fittings. These systems transport liquids, steam, gases, water, air and water throughout structures to support plumbing, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration functions. The person who installs and maintains the pipes in these systems is called a fitter or pipe fitter.
A fitter has to have expert skills in using a wide variety of hand tools including pipe benders, pipe threaders, hammers, drills, chisels, reamers and different types of wrenches. She must be able to safely operate welding torches and soldering equipment. Skills in brazing, caulking and gluing are necessary to be a fitter. Blueprint and schematic reading and interpretation skills are required.
If a fitter works in industrial and manufacturing environments, he normally works with very large pipes; for commercial and residential jobs, the pipes are typically smaller. In both cases, the fitter first studies the blueprints and schematics of the piping systems to be installed, repaired or maintained. He then chooses tools appropriate for the task and performs it. At the conclusion of each job, he is expected to test the fittings to make sure they are secure, functional and do not leak under the most extreme pressure.
Depending on the nature of the job, a fitter may be required to work in relatively clean environments to maintain pipes or be exposed to mud, dirt, moisture and debris if she is repairing or installing pipes. If the project at hand is located outside, she must work in all types of weather. Hours are typically 40 hours a week with some overtime required in cases of emergencies that involve burst or damaged pipes that require immediate attention. Some companies provide fitters with uniforms and others are required to wear durable work clothes of their choice.
Many fitters get their training at vocational or trade schools while others enroll in apprenticeship programs with companies that teach them the trade over a four- or five-year period that combines on-the-job training with classroom education. Training guidelines vary by jurisdiction and are often influenced by educational requirements of local trade unions. Both of these training options prefer that applicants have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Salary and Advancement Opportunities
If a fitter is a union member, he can advance through different salary and job title levels based on skill development and seniority. Private companies may offer promotions to supervisory positions based on demonstrated leadership abilities. Based on information provided at salary.com, the annual median salary in 2008 for a fitter in the United States was $42,471.
- Photo Credit pipe fitting image by Joann Cooper from Fotolia.com
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