Pipefitters specialize in the installation and repair of high- and low-pressure piping systems, working in the commercial industry. Their work directly affects a building's ability to heat, cool and generate electricity. Where those buildings' foundations meet the ground has significant impact on a pipefitter's salary, which varies from state to state. In some cases, pipefitters can make almost double the national median wage for the profession by simply crossing state lines.
Pipefitters, together with plumbers and steamfitters, numbered approximately 358,790, earning median salaries of $46,660, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' May 2010 Occupational Employment and Wages report. The range for nationwide pipefitter salaries hit a high of $79,920 in the 90th percentile and fell to $27,580 in the 10th percentile.
Highest State Salaries
No pattern emerged from the BLS survey of the states with the highest salaries for the pipefitting industry. Alaska topped the list, with a significantly higher-than-median mean wage of $73,380. Annual mean wages for pipefitters in Illinois were $66,200, while employers in New Jersey paid pipefitters $63,650. In Wisconsin, pipefitter salaries were $62,550. Nevada's pipefitters placed fifth, earning $61,240.
Thinking Outside the Building
The building equipment contractor industry was the largest employer of pipefitters and did pay a higher-than-median salary of $50,690, but that salary didn't make it into the BLS top five. Paying the highest salaries to pipefitters was the support activities for mining category, with annual mean wages of $67,820 in the profession. Employers at foundries paid $65,820, while the motor vehicle parts manufacturing industry paid $64,870. Pipefitters in the electric power generation industries and spectator sports industries earned higher-than-average salaries of $63,560 and $62,380 respectively.
Where the Work Is
Only one state placing in the BLS top-five highest paying states also earned a spot on the top-five list of largest per-capita employers -- Illinois, which took fifth place. California employed the most pipefitters and paid an above-average $56,330. Texas, which was the second largest employer in the profession, paid a below-average $42,460. The third largest state for pipefitter employment, New York, offered salaries of $60,160. In fourth place was Florida, where pipefitters received annual mean wages of $39,310.