Detailed Guide for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters in California
May also be called: Gas Line Installers; Hot Water Heater Installers; and Sprinkling System Installers
What Would I Do?
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters* assemble, install, and repair pipe systems according to plans and plumbing codes. They work with piping systems that move liquid, gas, or semisolid material. Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters also install plumbing for rainwater capture, gray water, or solar panel systems.
Plumbers install sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and other fixtures and connect them to water and sewage systems. They maintain existing plumbing systems by checking for breaks and leaks, and making any necessary repairs. Some repairs may consist of digging down into the soil or removing concrete. Plumbers may also replace existing plumbing fixtures and fittings with energy-efficient equipment, such as faucet flow restrictors or low-flow faucets and toilets. Some journey-level Plumbers may give written estimates for the cost of their work.
Plumbers also follow blueprints so plumbing lines go in the right place. They plan the job by determining the size and type of pipe to be used and lay out the exact route the piping will take. Plumbers may have to cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors of a building. Others may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. To assemble a system, pipe is cut to correct lengths and connected together with fittings. After the pipe is in place, Plumbers install the fixtures and appliances and then connect the system to the outside water or sewer lines. Finally, using pressure gauges, they check the system to ensure that the plumbing works properly. Pipes and connections can be made from a variety of lead-free or low-lead materials, such as copper, plastic, ceramic, cast iron, or steel.
In new construction work, Plumbers must follow the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). They may perform calculations to meet requirements for water efficiency, conservation, and reduction. Plumbers must select the proper plumbing fixtures. Some fixtures include water saving faucets, showerheads, and toilets, and tankless hot water heaters. They may also install programmable irrigation controllers that are sensitive to the weather and moisture content of the soil.
Pipefitters and Steamfitters install, maintain, and repair both high- and low-pressure pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They may also install heating and cooling equipment, and regulating-control systems to reduce water or energy consumption. They also install pipe systems to support alternative energy-fueled systems, such as for geothermal or ethanol power plants.
An emerging occupation related to Plumbers is Solar Thermal Installers and Technicians. To read more about this kind of work, go to the Green Occupational Guides on the California Labor Market Information Web site and select Solar Thermal Installers and Technicians.
Tools and Technology
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters use a variety of tools and technology in the course of their work, including blow torches, hoists, laptop computers, levels, pipe cutters, pipe-threading machines, saws, screwdrivers, smart phones, welders, wrenches, and software, such as computer-aided design (CAD/CADD), project management, spreadsheet, and word processing.
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters will play a crucial role in the green economy through retrofitting and the construction of new green buildings. They will install water-saving appliances and plumbing products to help with conservation efforts.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Assemble pipe sections, tubing and fittings, using couplings, clamps, screws, bolts, cement, plastic solvent, caulking, or soldering, brazing and welding equipment.||Mechanical|
|Attach pipes to walls, structures and fixtures, such as radiators or tanks, using brackets, clamps, tools or welding equipment.||Installation|
|Review blueprints and building codes and specifications to determine work details and procedures.||Building and Construction|
|Inspect, examine, and test installed systems and pipe lines, using pressure gauge, hydrostatic testing, observation, or other methods.||Critical Thinking|
|Calculate costs or savings for water- or energy-efficient appliances or systems.||Mathematics|
|Plan pipe system layout, installation, or repair according to specifications.||Design|
|Measure, cut, thread, and bend pipe to required angle, using hand and power tools or machines such as pipe cutters, pipe-threading machines, and pipe-bending machines.||Arm-Hand Steadiness|
|Repair and maintain plumbing, replacing defective washers, replacing or mending broken pipes, and opening clogged drains.||Repairing|
|Select pipe sizes and types and related materials, such as supports, hangers, and hydraulic cylinders, according to specifications.||Complex Problem Solving|
|Turn valves to shut off steam, water, or other gases or liquids from pipe sections, using valve keys or wrenches.||Manual Dexterity|
|Compile information on governmental incentive programs related to the installation of energy or water saving plumbing systems or devices.||Written Expression|
|Determine sizing requirements for solar hot water heating systems, taking into account factors such as site orientation, load calculations, or storage capacity requirements.||Inductive Reasoning|
|Install, test, or commission solar thermal or solar photovoltaic hot water heating systems.||Quality Control Analysis|
|Perform domestic plumbing audits to identify ways in which customers might reduce consumption of water or energy.||Customer and Personal Service|
|Recommend and install energy or water saving products, such as low-flow faucets or shower heads, water-saving toilets, or high-efficiency or solar-powered hot water heaters.||Judgment and Decision Making|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Mechanical||Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.|
|Installation||Installing equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.|
|Building and Construction||Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
|Mathematics||Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.|
|Design||Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.|
|Arm-Hand Steadiness||The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.|
|Repairing||Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.|
|Complex Problem Solving||Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.|
|Manual Dexterity||The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.|
|Written Expression||The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.|
|Inductive Reasoning||The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).|
|Quality Control Analysis||Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.|
|Customer and Personal Service||Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.|
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters need physical strength and stamina. They frequently lift heavy pipes, stand for long periods, and work in uncomfortable or cramped positions. Most work outdoors in all types of weather. Additionally, Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters risk injury from falls from ladders, cuts from sharp tools, and burns from hot pipes or soldering equipment. However, risks are minimized by following proper safety procedures. Most Plumbers work 35 to 40 hours per week. The workweek for union Plumbers varies with the local union.
Many Plumbers belong to the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbers and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Plumber, Pipefitter, and Steamfitter may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters in California was $55,434 annually, or $26.65 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters typically receive benefits that include health insurance, vacation, and retirement plans. Self-employed Plumbers must provide for their own insurance and retirement. For union members, the benefit packages are negotiated in contracts between employers and unions.
What is the Job Outlook?
Most job openings will be created by the need to replace workers who retire or leave the field for other reasons. During economic downturns, the number of job openings may decline. However, with the increased focus on environmentally sustainable building and remodeling practices, there may be additional opportunities for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters are expected to increase by 28.8 percent, or 11,600 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 1,160 new job openings per year is expected for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, plus an additional 530 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 1,690 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Many employers prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma or the equivalent. Completion of a formal apprenticeship or vocational college program is the usual method of entry into this occupation. Plumbers will also need to be knowledgeable of the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). CALGreen will affect most of the new construction projects, including residential and commercial (non-residential) buildings.
The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company.
Early Career Planning
High school preparation courses in algebra, computer aided drafting, computer technology, English, physics, and shop are helpful.
Training programs for plumbing and construction technology are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Apprentices learn their trade while working on the job. They also attend evening classes for technical instruction. Many apprenticeship programs require the applicant to be 18 years of age, possess a high school diploma or the equivalent, a valid California driver license, and pass a written and mathematics entrance exam. In addition, candidates must also be physically able to complete the duties of the trade. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.
While continuing education is not required for Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, they will need to keep current on updates and changes to CALGreen.
Licensing and Certification
After completing the apprenticeship program, apprentices must pass a code exam given by the union to obtain a plumbing certificate. Journey-level Plumbers wishing to enter self-employment as a plumbing contractor, must pass an exam to obtain a plumbing contractor’s license through the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. The Plumbing licenses must be renewed every two years. Refer to “Other Sources” for additional information. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters can receive voluntary credentialing, such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Professional credentialing is granted to individuals who meet the minimum education and work experience requirements, and who are able to pass an examination. Certification from professional organizations can be useful for promotional reasons. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Building Equipment Contractors ||68.7%|
|Local Government ||3.8%|
|Natural Gas Distribution ||2.1%|
|Other Specialty Trade Contractors ||1.6%|
|Residential Building Construction ||1.3%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers is one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings also provide helpful local job leads. Union members report to their local union hiring hall for job referrals. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters.
- Air Conditioning Contractors
- Pipe Inspection
- Pipe & Leak Locating
- Plumbing Contractors
- Plumbing Contractors, Commercial & Industrial
- Plumbing Drains & Sewer Cleaning
- Plumbing Fixtures Parts & Supplies, Manufacturers
- Plumbing Fixtures Parts & Supplies Retail
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Upon completion of apprenticeship programs, apprentice Plumbers advance to journey-level pay scales and responsibilities. In large firms, a journey-level worker may advance to supervisor or superintendent. Self-employment as a plumbing contractor is also a possibility. Persons with considerable experience in plumbing may become plumbing inspectors.
Below is a list of occupations related to Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters with links to more information.
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||Guide|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Profile|
|Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers||Profile|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||Guide|
- California Building Standards Commission
- California Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board
- California Department of Housing and Community Development
- California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards
- International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
- Irrigation Association
- United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry
- United States Green Building Council
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.