Duties and responsibilities
A pipe welder is responsible for assembling and maintaining piping systems. They will inspect materials, maintain tools, perform pre-welding preparation and then weld the components in accordance to blueprints and specifications. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Reading and interpreting blueprints and specifications
- Determining the tools, materials and welding methods required based on the specification
- Assembling, installing and repairing pipe components
- Inspecting materials, equipment, and tools to check for problems and repairs
- Maintaining supplies, equipment, and tools
- Preparing working materials by clamping, cutting or applying chemical solutions to piping
- Examining completed welds to ensure they are free of defects, smooth, and functional
To become a pipe welder, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. You will then need to complete an apprenticeship program, during which you will learn all the skills you need from experienced pipe welders and through instruction.
Skills and relevant work experience
In order to have the best possible employment opportunities, aspiring pipe welders should aim to get as much experience in the construction industry. Pipe welders also need skills such as:
- Physical fitness and stamina, as pipe welders will have to carry heavy materials and will have to kneel down for long periods of time
- Detail orientation, as pipe welders need to ensure that the pipes are welded in accordance to blueprints and instructions
- Communication skills, as pipe welders need to be able to communicate with clients and other construction workers (e.g., plumbers, pipefitters)
- Dexterity, as pipe welders need to be able to fix pipes together correctly and accurately
- Critical thinking, as pipe welders must be able to problem-solve when issues arise in a project
Pipe welders tend to work full time. However, they may routinely work long hours when projects are nearing completion or during economic boom times when the demand for new construction intensifies. Evening, holiday and weekend hours are often necessary, as pipe welders are routinely on-call for emergency repairs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters was $55,160 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,690, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,170. Pipe welders can expect to earn in a similar range to this.
Apprentices tend to earn less than qualified plumbers and plumbers may experience more unemployment during economic downturns.
The employment growth of all plumbers and pipefitters is expected to increase over the coming years, offering many exciting employment opportunities. After completing an apprenticeship program and passing the required exams, pipe welders become ‘journey-level workers’, which means they are qualified to perform tasks independently. After several years of experience, pipe welders may advance to become supervisor, project manager or they may choose to start their own business as an independent contractor.