Pipe Tradesperson

Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair

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    Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses

    • High school diploma or GED
    • Plumbers License, if required by local government

    Preferred Education and Credentials

    • Driver’s license


    • Critical thinking
    • Troubleshooting
    • Problem-solving
    • Mechanical aptitude to weld, solder, and work with hand tools
    • Physical abilities (able to lift up to 50 pounds)
    • Knowledge of building codes
    • Comfort working with blueprints and schematics
    • Math and geometry
    • Teamwork skills
    • Communication


    The pipe trades include plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters who install, maintain, and repair piping systems, including those that are part of traditional as well as newer clean energy HVAC/R systems. The tasks performed by the different pipe tradespeople can be similar, but the materials and scale of systems differ. Plumbers tend to work on low-pressure systems involving the flow of water in smaller-scale buildings, while pipefitters are needed to work on larger commercial or industrial systems where water, chemicals, or gases flow through pipes at higher pressures. Steamfitters specifically work on high-pressure systems.

    Pipe workers are one of several types of specialized tradespeople who work on HVAC/R systems. HVAC/R systems may be installed, maintained, and repaired by technicians trained to work on the system in its entirety, or by several specialized tradespeople who are responsible for specific parts of the system. The role of specialized tradespeople is more common in union jobs than in non-union jobs.

    Workers in the pipe trades need to accurately read and interpret blueprints and schematic diagrams, and may be responsible for developing these at more senior levels. They need to become familiar with the piping systems used in modern electricity-based HVAC/R technologies such as air and ground source heat pumps, which differ from those used fossil fuel-based HVAC/R systems. In particular, ground source heat pumps require the installation of piping systems underground.

    Strong math and geometry skills and an attention to detail are necessary to ensure parts are measured and systems are assembled correctly during installation of new pipes or repair work, and that pipe systems are functioning properly when they are regularly checked and tested. Pipe workers must have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills to independently identify and troubleshoot mechanical failures, having the ability to determine the appropriate materials, equipment, and design to fix damaged units. Knowledge of building codes is necessary and important.

    Working as a plumber, pipefitter, or steamfitter is a physical job requiring strength (being able to lift up to 50 pounds), the ability to climb ladders, and the flexibility to work in tight spaces. Workers should have good hand control to manage tools precisely. Job duties may include welding and soldering so workers must take appropriate safety precautions. 

    Pipe workers may directly interact with clients when working at a jobsite or informing customers of cost estimates, so good verbal communication and customer service skills are needed to maintain positive relationships. Teamwork is important as skilled plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters may also train apprentices or helpers. 

    Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters 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.

    Job Outlook

    According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 26,700 plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in New York State and opportunities for employment are expected to be very favorable through 2030 – they project this occupation to grow by 6,460 jobs between 2020 and 2030.

    Entering the Field

    Workers need to have a high school diploma or GED to work in the pipe trades and generally start out by attending an apprenticeship program which may last four to five years. Apprentices receive classroom instruction and on-the-job training, after which they may independently perform tasks. Many enter the apprenticeship directly and others choose to apply after they work as pipefitter and plumber helpers. 

    Some local governments require plumbers to be licensed. In New York City, for example, a journeyman plumber must register with the city’s Department of Buildings and a license is required to work as a master plumber. A driver’s license may be needed to get from one worksite to another.

    Check local government requirements for more information regarding working in the pipe trades.


    In New York State, the median wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is approximately $79,300. Entry-level workers earn about $48,700 and experienced workers earn about $104,900.

    Annual Wage (Q1 2023 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region

    New York State$48,700 $79,300 $104,900
    Capital Region$44,100 $63,400 $88,000
    Central New York$43,200 $62,200 $83,200
    Finger Lakes$41,600 $62,300 $81,800
    Hudson Valley$53,000 $81,500 $115,200
    Long Island$52,700 $82,000 $113,100
    Mohawk Valley$41,600 $60,700 $83,600
    New York City$50,500 $81,200 $110,000
    North Country$44,400 $64,500 $89,000
    Southern Tier$45,000 $77,600 $87,200
    Western New York$44,000 $64,900 $86,400

    Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 47-2152 (Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters)


    Construction contractors are the largest employer of pipe workers, while government agencies and large institutions, such as colleges and universities, may also employ plumbers. 

    The top 3 employers with the most online job advertisements in each region in 2022 are listed below. (Note that construction jobs are often underrepresented in online job ads. Check local union or government websites for additional opportunities to gain employment in the pipe trades.)

    Capital Region

    • Service Experts, LLC
    • Trinity Health
    • Alkegen

    Central New York

    • Service Experts, LLC
    • Eaton Corporation
    • State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University

    Finger Lakes

    • State University of New York at Brockport (SUNY Brockport)
    • Eastman Kodak
    • Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning

    Hudson Valley

    • Aqueduct Services Plumbing
    • Cassidy Plumbing & Heating
    • State of New York (Department of Corrections and Community Supervision)

    Long Island

    • Northwell Health
    • Gold Star Plumbing
    • State of New York (Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation)

    Mohawk Valley (All ads posted in 2022 were from a single employer.)

    • State of New York (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities)

    New York City

    • Department of Veterans Affairs
    • Yeshiva University
    • Controlled Combustion Incorporated

    North Country (All ads posted in 2022 were from two employers.)

    • State University of New York at Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh)
    • State University of New York at Potsdam (SUNY Potsdam)

    Southern Tier

    • Cornell University
    • Arctic Bear Heating, Air, Plumbing & Water Treatment
    • BC Plumbing, Heating, Electric

    Western New York

    • H.W. Bryk & Sons
    • Petschke Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning
    • State University of New York at Buffalo (UB)

    Source: Lightcast™. 2022.

    Labor Unions

    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. 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.

    Capital Region

    Central New York

    Finger Lakes

    Hudson Valley

    Long Island

    Mohawk Valley

    New York City

    North Country

    Southern Tier

    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.

    Pipeworkers who want to learn a specific new technology – whether that be heat pumps or other clean energy mechanical systems – can enroll in training courses specific to those technologies that are offered by manufacturers or distributors.

    Educational InstitutionDepartmentCertificateAssociateBachelorMasterPhD
    New York City
    Apex Technical SchoolPlumbing School: Plumbing & Pipefitting YesNoNoNoNo
    Berk Trade and Business SchoolAcademicsYesNoNoNoNo
    Southern Tier
    SUNY at DelhiSchool of Applied Technologies and ArchitectureNoYesNoNoNo

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