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Career profile Pipelayer

Also known as Pipelayer, Tailman, Waste Water Worker


Also known as Pipelayer, Tailman, Waste Water Worker

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Enterprising
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$28,760 - $69,090 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operation and Control
  • Active Listening
  • Operations Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical
  • Mathematics
Core tasks
  • Install or use instruments such as lasers, grade rods, or transit levels.
  • Cut pipes to required lengths.
  • Connect pipe pieces and seal joints, using welding equipment, cement, or glue.
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What does a Pipelayer do?

Pipelayers lay pipe for storm or sanitation sewers, drains, and water mains.

In addition, Pipelayers perform any combination of the following tasks: grade trenches or culverts, position pipe, or seal joints.

What kind of tasks does a Pipelayer perform regularly?

Pipelayers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Install or use instruments such as lasers, grade rods, or transit levels.
  • Cut pipes to required lengths.
  • Connect pipe pieces and seal joints, using welding equipment, cement, or glue.
  • Cover pipes with earth or other materials.
  • Install or repair sanitary or stormwater sewer structures or pipe systems.
  • Align and position pipes to prepare them for welding or sealing.
  • Check slopes for conformance to requirements, using levels or lasers.
  • Lay out pipe routes, following written instructions or blueprints and coordinating layouts with supervisors.
  • Operate mechanized equipment, such as pickup trucks, rollers, tandem dump trucks, front-end loaders, or backhoes.
  • Grade or level trench bases, using tamping machines or hand tools.
  • Dig trenches to desired or required depths, by hand or using trenching tools.
  • Tap and drill holes into pipes to introduce auxiliary lines or devices.
  • Locate existing pipes needing repair or replacement, using magnetic or radio indicators.
  • Train or supervise others in laying pipe.

The above responsibilities are specific to Pipelayers. More generally, Pipelayers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Handling and Moving Objects
Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.

What is a Pipelayer salary?

The median salary for a Pipelayer is $40,480, and the average salary is $45,060. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Pipelayer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Pipelayers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Pipelayers earn less than $28,760 per year, 25% earn less than $34,140, 75% earn less than $52,450, and 90% earn less than $69,090.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Pipelayers is expected to change by -1.7%, and there should be roughly 3,500 open positions for Pipelayers every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$28,760 - $69,090
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Pipelayers?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Pipelayer are usually higher in their Realistic interests.

Pipelayers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Pipelayer tend to value Support, Relationships, and Independence.

Most importantly, Pipelayers strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Pipelayers moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Pipelayers moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Pipelayers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, dependability, and initiative.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Pipelayers, ranked by importance:

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.

What education and training do Pipelayers need?

Working as a Pipelayer usually requires a high school diploma.

Pipelayers need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Pipelayers

  • 26.4% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 42.1% completed high school or secondary school
  • 21.2% completed some college coursework
  • 5.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 3.9% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 0.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Pipelayers

Pipelayers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as building and construction, mechanical, or mathematics knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Pipelayers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Building and Construction
Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.

Important Abilities needed by Pipelayers

Pipelayers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Pipelayers need abilities such as oral comprehension, arm-hand steadiness, and control precision in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Pipelayers, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Arm-Hand Steadiness
The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Pipelayers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Pipelayers frequently use skills like operation and control, active listening, and operations monitoring to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Pipelayers, ranked by their relative importance.

Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.