Not sure about going to college after high school graduation? That’s ok. Because you have plenty of options.
One option is trade school, where you can train for careers in welding and pipefitting. If you live in Houston, Texas, you could be done with a pipefitter training program in less than 10 months.
See more about the pipefitter career path and what pipefitter classes could hold in store for you in this article.
What Does a Pipefitter Do?
Pipefitters play an important role in society, installing and repairing piping systems that transfer water, chemicals, or gases.
Pipefitters are grouped together with plumbers and steamfitters by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but pipefitters usually work on commercial or industrial pipes rather than residential pipes.
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What Education Is Needed to Become a Pipefitter?
Working on industrial pipes requires specialized pipefitter skills. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually all the formal academic education a pipefitter needs to start.
Pipefitting requires specialized technical education, rather than general education. A college degree is not necessary to become a pipefitter.
Pipefitter training at a trade school and through an apprenticeship are two steps pipefitters often take instead of college.
Pipefitter Apprenticeship in Houston, Texas
Where do pipefitters gain their skills, then?
Pipefitting is a very hands-on and mechanical type of job, so tradesmen and women typically sign on for a 4- to 5-year paid apprenticeship. Apprenticeships allow workers to learn on the job while getting paid and gaining experience toward journeyman and master-level status.
Pipefitter Training in Houston, Texas
Aspiring pipefitters may choose to attend a technical training school before entering an apprenticeship. Some apprenticeship programs require that applicants already have a foundational level of pipefitter training, such as in welding.
For example, the Welding Specialist with Pipefitting training program at Tulsa Welding School’s Houston campus is a long vocational education program that prepares students for an entry-level pipefitting apprenticeship. The program can be completed in less than 10 months.
TWS Pipefitter Training Welding Processes
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
- Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG)
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
- High Frequency TIG
- Fluxcore Welding
TWS Pipefitter Training Curriculum
- Welding Fundamentals
- GMAW/FCAW Processes
- Structural Welding
- Basic Pipe Welding
- Introductory Pipefitting
- Advanced Pipefitting
- Welding Capstone
- Introduction to Pipefitting
A pipefitter education typically includes a combination of classroom lecture hours and hands-on lab hours, where students get to practice their skills using the tools and equipment needed on the job.
How Long Does It Take to Be a Pipefitter?
While the specific career trajectory of a pipefitter may vary depending on location and other factors, it is possible to get a general idea of how long it might take to become a professional pipefitter.
It’s important to know that there are different levels of professional advancement within this career, such as apprentice, journeyman and master pipefitter.
Pipefitter Career Path
Here is a general breakdown of the possible career path for a pipefitter:
Step 1: Pipefitting Training
Pipefitting training programs at vocational schools can be completed in less than 10 months and can offer instruction in some of the welding processes needed for pipefitting.
Step 2: Apprenticeship Pipefitting Training
Paid apprenticeships typically last around 2,000 hours, which is around 4-5 years.
Step 3: Journeyman Pipefitter
After completing an apprenticeship and passing a journeyman exam, journey-level workers are qualified to perform their tasks independently.
Step 4: Master Pipefitter
After working for a while as a journeyman pipefitter and passing a master exam, master pipefitters may be eligible for advanced licensing.
Step 5: Advanced Pipefitter Jobs
After achieving master-level status, some pipefitters may advance into higher roles, such as supervisor, project manager or business owner.
While different people may have different career aspirations, most people can probably expect to invest a few years of pipefitting training in order to become a professional pipefitter. Trade associations, unions, and businesses may sponsor some apprenticeships.
How Do You Become a Pipefitter in Texas?
The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners oversees the plumbing and pipefitting industries, including issuing exams and licenses. A license is required to work independently in the state of Texas.
To become a licensed pipefitter in Texas, technical training is required, as well as on-the-job work experience. If you are just starting out in the field, you will need to work your way towards the eligibility requirements for Tradesmen, Journeyman or Master licenses.
Texas Pipefitter Licenses
There are four types of state pipefitter licenses in Texas, each with different requirements:
- Tradesman Plumber Pipefitter License (Limited): 4,000 hours of experience required.
- Journeyman Pipefitter License: 8,000 hours of experience required.
- Master Pipefitter License: 4 years of Journeyman experience required.
- Plumbing Inspector Pipefitter License: Must be currently licensed as Journeyman or Master.
For each of these Texas pipefitting licenses, an application fee and an exam is required. There are also additional endorsements that can be added to each license, such as the Drain Cleaner endorsement for Tradesmen.
Important: You Must Register as a Plumber’s Apprentice in Texas
Entry-level pipefitters working in Houston and throughout the state of Texas also need to be registered, even if they do not yet qualify for a license.
You must register as an apprentice with the state as soon as you begin working as a pipefitter apprentice in order for apprenticeship hours or on-the-job work hours to count toward licensing eligibility.
Any hours worked before you have registered will not count toward your tradesman eligibility.
So if you live in Houston, Texas, make sure to register as a Plumber’s Apprentice with the state as soon as you get your first pipefitting apprenticeship or job!
The only eligibility requirements to register as a Plumber’s Apprentice are to be at least 16 years of age and a citizen of the United States. All it takes to register is sending in a completed application and $15 fee.
Prepare for a Pipefitter Career with TWS in Houston, Texas
If you have questions about the pipefitter career path or technical training, including how to enroll in pipefitting classes, call TWS at 1-855-806-4921. Our team is happy to help you get started preparing for this exciting career with our Pipefitting program!