Pipe Trade Helper
Career Area: Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair
Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses
- High school diploma or GED
Preferred Education and Credentials
- Driver’s license
- Critical thinking
- Working with tools
- Work area maintenance
- Physical abilities (able to lift up to 50 pounds)
- Teamwork skills
A helper in the pipe trade field assists plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters working on the installation, maintenance, and repair of piping systems, including those that are part of both traditional and newer clean energy HVAC/R systems. Most jobs advertised online in New York State in 2020 for workers in this occupation were for helpers to plumbers.
Pipe workers and pipe trade helpers are responsible for working on specific parts of HVAC/R systems rather than having to install, maintain, and repair HVAC/R systems in their entirety. The role of specialized tradespeople is more common in union jobs than in non-union jobs.
Pipe trade helpers generally work under the supervision of an experienced pipeworker and perform supportive tasks such as maintaining a clean workspace and tools, carrying or holding materials for master plumbers and pipefitters, and preparing equipment. Math skills and being detail-oriented are important to ensure that pipe trade helpers can measure and cut new pipes and cut or drill holes in the wall accurately. Being able to think critically and problem-solve is necessary as pipe trade helpers provide support with troubleshooting and repairing piping systems that are not working correctly. As electricity-based HVAC/R systems become more common, pipe trade helpers will need to understand how the piping systems of air and ground source heat pumps differ from those of fossil fuel-based systems.
Helpers in the pipe trades need to be physically strong enough to carry materials such as pipes, valves, and fixtures that may weigh up to 50 pounds. Climbing stairs and ladders is sometimes necessary, and pipe trade helpers need to be able to do so while carrying equipment. Hand and power tools are used regularly and workers need good hand control to operate the tools precisely and safely.
Good customer service and communication skills are necessary for pipe trade helpers to build and maintain good relationships with clients and coworkers. Helpers may interact with customers and must be able to understand and respond to their needs. Teamwork, listening, and verbal communication skills are also critical since pipe trade helpers learn on-the-job from and work directly with skilled pipeworkers.
Pipe trade helpers are typically employed at worksites on a full-time basis, and may often be on call for emergencies. Overtime shifts and work schedules can include evenings and weekends.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 3,100 plumbers’, pipefitters’, steamfitters’ and pipelayers’ helpers in New York State. They project this occupation to grow by 510 jobs between 2018 and 2028 and describe employment prospects as favorable.
Entering the Field
Pipe trade helpers typically need to have a high school diploma or GED. Prior experience in the field is not necessary, and workers can learn the skills needed to perform the job with a few weeks of on-the-job training. Helpers who want to advance in their careers may eventually choose to apply to an apprenticeship program where they will receive additional hands-on training and classroom instruction as they pursue becoming a journeyperson.
Employers may require pipe trade helpers to have a driver’s license so they can travel from one worksite to another. Other licenses and certifications are not usually required to be a helper, but workers who do choose to advance and become a journeyperson may eventually need to be licensed by local authorities to work as a master tradesperson.
Check local government requirements for more information regarding working in the pipe trades.
In New York State, the median wage for pipe trade helpers is approximately $41,300. Entry-level workers earn about $32,500 and experienced workers earn about $48,300.
Annual Wage (Q1 2021 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region
|New York State||$32,500||$41,300||$48,300|
|Central New York||$29,600||$35,200||$37,300|
|New York City||$32,700||$42,300||$49,600|
|Western New York||$32,800||$42,200||$49,700|
Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 47-3015 (Helpers – Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters); N/A denotes wage data that is not available.
Most people who work as pipe trade helpers in the HVAC/R field are employed by construction contractors, particularly those that focus on building equipment including boilers, plumbing systems, and HVAC systems. These businesses often have names that include “Plumbing,” “Plumbing and Heating,” or “Heating and Air Conditioning.” Government agencies also hire workers in this occupation.
Job openings across New York State in 2020 for pipe trade helpers were most often advertised online with job titles that referenced plumbing and either described the role as a helper or assistant. The most common titles posted online for this occupation were plumber’s helper, plumbing helper, plumber helper, or plumber’s assistant. Those job titles and keywords such as “plumbing,” “HVAC,” “heating,” “pipe installation,” or “pipe repair” can be used when searching job advertisements online to help identify opportunities to work as pipe trade helpers.
(Note that construction jobs are often underrepresented in online job ads. Check with local plumbing and heating businesses and local union or government websites for additional opportunities to gain employment as a helper in the pipe trades.)
The New York State Pipe Trades Association is affiliated with 12 local United Association (UA) chapters whose union members work as plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters – almost all of which have apprenticeship programs that pipe trade helpers who want to become a skilled tradesperson could apply to. Labor market regions throughout New York State have more than one active local chapter. Visit union websites to see which unions are active in various parts of the state and to learn more about the training opportunities they offer.
Workers employed by New York State or local governments may also belong to unions. Check with local communities to see if there are public unions for pipe trade workers.
Central New York
New York City
Western New York
Education and Training Programs
Several schools in southern New York State (listed in the table below) offer certificates and/or associate degrees in the pipe trades even though working in the field does not require a formal education beyond a high school diploma or GED. The hours that students spend in these programs may count towards some apprenticeship programs. Local colleges may also offer training in the pipe trades through adult continuing education or career training departments. Check with schools directly or see which ones partner with ed2go, an online continuing education provider that has coursework teaching fundamental plumbing and pipework.
Pipe trade helpers who want to advance their careers by learning about clean energy HVAC/R systems (including heat pumps) can enroll in training courses specific to those technologies that are offered by manufacturers or distributors.
|New York City|
|Apex Technical School||Plumbing School: Plumbing & Pipefitting | Apex Technical||•||No||No||No||No|
|Berk Trade and Business School||Academics Berk Trade and Business School||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Delhi||School of Applied Technologies||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|