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Construction and Extraction

Helpers- Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Helpers for Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters assist them in performing their duties. They are responsible for supplying or holding materials, cleaning work areas and equipment, helping plumbers perform rough-ins (which is putting in piping in a house before the sheetrock is laid), repairing and replacing fixtures. They often will have to cut or drill holes in walls or floors to accommodate new pipes, measure, cut, thread and assemble new pipe and place the pipe in hangers or supports. Sometimes they are given the tasks of mounting brackets and hangers to hold pipes, selecting the type and size of pipe and transporting materials to the worksite. These helpers learn how to fit valves, couplings, or assemblies to tanks, pumps, or systems. They understand the layout, assembly, and installation of piping, and often locate and repair leaking or broken pipes.

Helpers for plumbers work in commercial and residential areas where they need to install and maintain water and septic systems. Helpers for pipefitters and steamfitters work in industrial and power plants. Helpers for pipelayers work in outdoor and sometimes remote areas laying pipes. A great amount of strength and stamina is required in order to lift heavy pipes, stand for long periods of time, and work in uncomfortable or cramped positions. Helpers may have to work with their bosses in inclement weather and are subject to falls from ladders, cuts from sharp tools, and burns from hot pipes or soldering equipment. Being a helper for pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is often the transitional job while apprenticing, on the way to becoming a fully qualified practitioner of the trade.

Most plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters work more than 40 hour weeks and their helpers likely work similar schedules. As they frequently must lift heavy pipes, stand for long periods, and sometimes work in uncomfortable or cramped positions helper pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters need physical strength and stamina. They may be on call 24 hours a day in case of an emergency.


How to Obtain:

Generally a High School Diploma or equivalent is not required. Most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters get their training in jointly administered apprenticeships or in technical schools and community colleges. Pipelayers typically receive their training on the job.

Apprenticeship programs generally provide the most comprehensive training available for these jobs. Such programs are, for the most part, administered jointly by union locals and their affiliated companies or by non-union contractor organizations. Organizations that sponsor apprenticeships include the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada; local employers of either the Mechanical Contractors Association of America or the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.

Apprenticeships – both union and nonunion – consist of 4 or 5 years of paid on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of related classroom instruction per year. Classroom subjects include:

Although most plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are trained through apprenticeships, some still learn their skills informally on the job or by taking classes on their own.

Most states require a license in plumbing, in New York licensure is done by cities rather than a state wide licensing process. Journeyman plumbers must register with their city's Department of Buildings or Department of Public Works. In some cities to register an applicant must have:

Additionally, in order to become a Licensed Master Plumber cities often require that the applicant, aside from passing the Master Plumber Examination, have at least one of the following:

After the examination the applicant must submit documentation to prove claimed experience. Often the requirements are the listings of previous jobs and statements from previous employers about job duties. Licensing requirements for different cities can often be found through the Department of Buildings, Public Works or the city's building code.

More Information on Licensing, Certification and Apprenticeship Programs:

New York registration and Licensing for plumbers:

Average Costs:

Apprenticeship programs generally do not charge the apprentice for classroom instruction, provided the apprentice maintains employment with a contractor affiliated with the apprenticeship program, throughout the apprenticeship period of 3 to 4 years.

The cost of licensing varies by state and locality, and generally ranges from around $40 to a few hundred dollars.

The Master Plumber application or examination fee varies by state. For example the NY examination fee is $210 while the NJ application fee is $100.


Help-Carpenters assist experienced carpenters by performing duties of lesser skill. Duties include using, supplying, or holding materials or tools, and cleaning work area and equipment. They also position and hold timbers, lumber, and paneling in place for fastening or cutting, erect scaffolding, shoring, and braces, select tools and transport equipment to the work site, fasten timbers or lumber, hold plumb bobs, sighting rods, or other equipment that is used for establishing a reference point, align, straighten, plumb, and square forms for installation, cut timbers, lumbar, or paneling to specified dimensions, drill holes in timbers or lumbar, smooth and sand surfaces and edges, and perform tie spacing layout and measure, mark, drill or cut. The carpenter helper position is often the transitional job while apprenticing, on the way to becoming a carpenter.

Carpentry is physically demanding and often requires long periods of standing, climbing, bending, and kneeling. They commonly use loud machinery to cut wood and other materials. Upper body strength is needed to lift heavy materials and precision is essential when measuring and sawing wood. Carpenters and their helpers are at risk of injury when working with sharp tools, power equipment, and materials, and there is a high incidence of slipping and falling. They may have to work in inclement weather if the supervising carpenter works outdoors. Most carpenters work 40 hour weeks so their helpers may work similar hours.


How to Obtain:

Generally a High School Diploma is not required. Many individuals learn on the job as helpers or laborers. Another option is to join an apprenticeship program, which typically lasts between 3 and 4 years. Apprenticeships can usually be located through local unions, contractors, or professional associations. In addition to on-the-job training, as helpers or laborers, apprenticeships will require classroom instruction, in areas such as:

Training or apprenticeship opportunities are available through several organizations. The Residential Construction Academy (RCA) is a Home Builders Institute (HBI) initiative that aims to bridge the critical skills gap that exists within the residential construction industry. Another option is The United Brotherhood of Carpenters which provides information about finding training centers in localities. They can assist people interested in locating apprenticeships, or pursuing specialized certification.

More Information on Apprenticeships:

Average Costs:

Apprenticeship programs generally do not charge the apprentice for classroom instruction, provided the apprentice maintains employment with a contractor affiliated with the apprenticeship program, throughout the apprenticeship period of 3 to 4 years.