eg: Memorial Scholarship
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How to Become a Pipefitter / Steamfitter

Work in a factory, as an employee, or for yourself: Piping trades are in high demand as Canada continues to build, build, build.

How to Become a Pipefitter or Steamfitter

Perhaps less popular than "electrician," "plumber," or "carpenter," pipefitters / steamfitters are key players in Canada's plan to build more affordable housing for our growing population.

Pipefitting / steamfitting can make for a solid career in the skilled trades. If you're thinking about building a career with your hands and your wits, here's how to become a pipefitter / steamfitter.

What does a pipefitter / steamfitter do?

A pipefitter / steamfitter (sometimes stylized as "pipe fitter," "steam fitter," etc. — the job is the same; the name varies!) is the person in charge of the pipes used in plumbing and sprinkler systems, heating and cooling systems, chemical or fuel systems — basically, if it travels through a pipe, a pipefitter / steamfitter probably had a hand in it. Pipefitters set up, repair, test, and monitor piping systems of all kinds.

These tradespeople are usually employed at factories, plants, and other places like this, or may work as contractors in construction. Pipefitters / steamfitters may work for an employer, or be self-employed.

Step 1: Get some experience, which may mean a plumbing techniques course

If you grew up with a socket wrench in hand, and you know your vent stacks from your sweat connections, you can probably skip straight to step 2. For the rest of us, who might know which tap to turn on for hot water, and not much else, schools across the country offer programs in plumbing techniques to whip your skills into shape.

Plumbing techniques, sometimes called pre-plumbing, pre-apprenticeship plumbing, or plumbing fundamentals, is a program for beginners, and those who aren't super confident in their practical plumbing skills, to learn the basic tools and techniques that piping tradespeople use every day.

Even if you don't aspire to become a plumber, as a pipefitter / steamfitter, you'll still use many of the same fundamentals, so getting experience through a program like this is a good idea. You'll also meet instructors with plenty of industry experience, and be surrounded by other eager learners. Networking is important in the skilled trades, too!

Ontario even makes pre-apprenticeship training free, with tools covered, and a work placement!

Step 2: Become an apprentice

Easier said than done, of course, but apprenticeship is extremely important as a pipefitter. You'll spend most of your time working alongside a journeyperson — someone who's trained as an apprentice themselves, and is now working full-time in the trade.

As an apprentice, you'll be paid for the work you do: according to, pipe fitting apprentices earn an average of around $50,000 per year, which equates to roughly $24.33 per hour. This doesn't quite reach the median income in Canada, but remember, you're still learning your craft!

Most of your time as an apprentice will be spent on job sites, working with your journeyperson, assisting them with day-to-day tasks and picking up the skills and know-how you need to succeed on your own.

You'll also need to do some in-class "technical" training to complete your apprenticeship. In most provinces, this consists of four "blocks," and you'll generally complete one block per year. (Ontario only requires three blocks.) Each block is usually 8 weeks in length, and takes place in a college classroom. To enroll, you must be a registered apprentice!

Here's one example of a program from NAIT in Edmonton, Alberta. While it does have a cost associated, it's fairly low, and you may be eligible for financial supports.

How to find a professional steamfitter / pipefitter to take you on as an apprentice

If you're not personally acquainted with a journeyperson pipefitter who will take you on as an apprentice, you'll have to do some digging. Start with Canada's Job Bank, which has a special tag for Apprenticeships. You can also try your province or territory's apprenticeship website; here's the Canada-wide list. These sites often have listings and advice to help you find an apprenticeship placement.

Other job boards, like Zip Recruiter or Indeed may have listings as well. Finally, you can try, a Canadian site for pairing apprentices with journeypersons. It's powered by a not-for-profit, and built specifically for apprentices.

Journeypersons can have one or two apprentices, dependent on province. In Ontario, it's one apprentice to one journeyperson. In Saskatchewan, it's reversed: two journeypeople work together to train one apprentice.

Getting your in-class and on-the-job training hours logged

To officially complete your apprenticeship, you need to log a lot of hours, both in-class and in-the-field — but as mentioned, most of your time will be on job sites, not in the classroom. You'll log your hours in an official apprenticeship document that you'll receive when you sign on as an apprentice.

The exact number of hours required varies by province and territory.

Classroom / technical training hours

The in-class portion is sometimes called "technical" training. Most provinces require around 900 hours of in-class training, over three or four years, but others have a much higher requirement: as much as 1,575 in Manitoba, and 1,680 in Quebec. Ontario's on the lower end, with only 720 hours required. You can expect anywhere between 24 and 45 weeks of training, depending on your province!

In-class training blocks end with a written exam in most provinces. A practical (that is, hands-on) exam isn't required anywhere in Canada.

On-the-job training hours

The bulk of your training takes place on the job, on work sites, learning at the side of your journeyperson. Again, requirements vary by province, from as little as 6,150 hours in Newfoundland and Labrador, to 8,280 hours in Ontario. You can expect to work as an apprentice for four or five years, earning these hours.

When you've gathered all the hours your province or territory requires, you'll get a Certificate of Apprenticeship from your employer, and you can look ahead to certification.

Step 3: Pass your certification exam, if required

Most provinces and territories require certification — meaning that only certified professionals are able to work in the field. Getting certified means taking an exam, but it's optional in the following places:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

The certification exam, like the in-class technical training, is a written test: there's no practical component to it. You can find study guides online — for example, here's one from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Still, if you've come this far, you should be in good shape to write your exam!

After you're certified, you're free to work as a steamfitter / pipefitter in your province or territory. Now that you're a journeyperson, you can even start training the next generation of apprentices.

However, if you want to work across provincial borders, you'll want to earn your Red Seal — the "final exam" of the skilled trades.

Step 4: Earning your Red Seal (optional)

Getting your Red Seal is not mandatory to work in your trade, once your training / certification is complete. Earning your Red Seal just gives you more flexibility and freedom on where you work, as you'll be considered a qualified tradesperson all across Canada — not just the place you trained in.

You can register to write your Red Seal exam via your local apprenticeship authority. You'll write an exam of 130 questions, drawn from the various "major work activities" that you'll be quite familiar with by this point. Here are a few examples:

  • Installing and maintaining low and high pressure steam and condensate systems
  • Repairing renewable energy systems
  • Layout, fabrication, and installation of piping systems

The test is multiple choice, and you'll be an expert regardless. Even so, you can take an online self-assessment first to see how well you might do on the test. You can check out the official Red Seal Preparation Guide (PDF) for some pointers on what to expect.

Once you have your Red Seal, you can work as a steamfitter / pipefitter anywhere across Canada.

All right! You've made it, and you're a fully-qualified steamfitter / pipefitter, either in your province, or across Canada. You're earning a solid wage — the average income is around $84,000 per year, with $100,000+ not unheard of! The more experience you gain, the better compensated you'll be working as a steamfitter / pipefitter.

Congrats on pursuing this skilled trade: Canada needs more people like you ready to build the future.

Start exploring programs for steamfitters / pipefitters

Modified on May 09, 2024

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