As with other construction workers, employment of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.
Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters perform three distinct and specialized roles, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They determine the necessary materials for a job, connect pipes, and perform pressure tests to ensure that a pipe system is airtight and watertight. Their tools include drills, saws, welding torches, and wrenches.
Journeyman plumber: Once the requirements of an apprenticeship are fulfilled, plumbers can apply for a journeyman license. Many workers in the plumbing industry are journeymen. Obtaining a journeyman's license requires a fee and the successful passing of an exam. Licenses vary by state, although not all areas require journeymen to be licensed. Instead, the amount of work they are able to perform is limited.