Career In Focus: Steamfitter
Steamfitters are an important part of the construction of any house or building. Responsible for virtually every aspect of a structure’s piping system, they are vital in creating, installing, and maintaining what goes on behind the scenes, between the walls, and underneath the floorboards.
What Steamfitters Do
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, steamfitters work on the construction of buildings, homes, and other structures. They lay out, assemble, fabricate, install, problem solve, maintain, and repair the structure’s piping system. They work on all kinds of pipes, including those that carry water, steam, chemicals, compressed air, liquids, gases, or fuel. Steamfitters are essential in keeping the heating, cooling, food processing, and refrigeration systems of a building working effectively.
A steamfitter must be well versed in reading blueprints, drawings, specifications, and isometric sketches; fabricating and installing equipment; rigging, setting, and supporting piping of valves and fittings; measuring, cutting, bending, and joining pipes; welding, brazing, cementing, soldering, and mechanical joining of pipes; preparing construction sites for installation (this might include preparing walls, floors, ceilings, and rooftops); and testing for problems regarding pressure, electronics, and digital and programmable controls.
Steamfitters spend their days performing a physically demanding job. They lift and carry heavy materials, climb ladders, and work on their knees often. Some steamfitters may travel to a variety of places each day.
Where Steamfitters Work
Per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, steamfitters work in all kinds of buildings, including factories, homes, businesses, and construction sites. Steamfitters are needed wherever there are pipes or septic systems.
Steamfitters may occasionally work in weather conditions that are extreme. They are often required to work in areas that are very confined, such as crawl spaces.
The Skills Needed to Become a Steamfitter
To be a successful steamfitter, it helps to have a unique set of skills, including those that are mathematical and those that are related to dexterity. Overall, steamfitters should be good with customers (including listening to their concerns and working with them to solve problems); good at analyzing data and breaking down facts; well-coordinated and able to keep their arms and hands still; adept at critical thinking and troubleshooting; able to use logic effectively; dependable and responsible; able to take initiative and accept criticism; able to work in a sometimes stressful environment; and good with time management. Additionally, steamfitters should have their own transportation (or some ability to get between different job sites) and be physically able to lift over 50 pounds.
Some steamfitters secure their jobs through an apprenticeship. This usually involves working under a seasoned steamfitter for a set amount of time and learning on the job. Others attend classes through a technical college and earn a certificate or degree such as those offered at Tulsa Welding School. Most states in the United States require steamfitters to be licensed.
The Job Outlook
Over the next few years, the demand for steamfitters is expected to grow drastically with the passage of stricter water efficiency standards, new construction of buildings and homes, and new construction of power plants. By 2020, the job outlook for steamfitters is projected to grow 26 percent, much higher than the national average for all occupations.