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Career in Fire Protection - Is it for you?

Updated on September 21, 2010
Sprinkler Head BEFORE installation
Sprinkler Head BEFORE installation

Fire Protection as a Career? Start here!

Looking for a career change?  Have you ever considered Fire Protection?  At this time it seems to still be an area where there is need of workers.  Just what is Fire Protection?  You’ve seen them, you maybe just didn’t know what it was.  Go into your local Sears store and look up.  You will see these little heads poking down at you.  Those are Sprinkler Heads or Automatic Fire Sprinklers.

They have to be put up there and someone has to design where they go, these are the possible careers for which you may be interested.  We’ll start with the ‘pipe fitter’ first, they are the ones who work in the field to put the pipes where they belong.

Pipe Fitter

To get a job as a pipe fitter is not as difficult as you might think.  It used to be a difficult job, needing brute strength to put up the pipes.  With technology being as it is, changes have been made in the making of pipes.  So they are much lighter in weight than they used to be.  The pipes that are used at this time are called ‘Thin wall Pipe’, it is much lighter and has a higher density of steel with a lower rust rate, causing less deterioration. 

It is not a career which you must have experience, though if you have knowledge of pipes it can be helpful.  You will receive on the job training.

Steps to be a pipe fitter

1. First you must locate a local Fire Protection Company within your area, and put in an application for Pipe Fitter.

2. You must have a willingness to learn, and to work hard. A lot of the Fire Protection Companies have need to be on Government and Union sites, so keeping a professional attitude is appropriate.

3. You may be put in the warehouse at first, where you will learn first hand the different types of pipes that are involved. You will off load the shipments of pipe received, then load the trucks of the installers (pipe fitter). There will be a list of what is needed, you will not be left in the cold on this. If the company is in serious need of pipe fitters, you may be taken out in the field right away, depending on your knowledge.

4. You will start as an Apprentice, your pay will be lower to start but raise gradually as you learn and improve. There are two different types of Pipe Fitters Union and Non-Union. To become a Union Pipe Fitter it will take 5 years of service before becoming a Journeyman, which will require study time via University of Pennsylvania, on the job training course, Correspondence Course.

5. There are books you may be required to study. A knowledge of reading blueprints is crucial, if you do not know how, you will learn.

That about covers what it takes to start being a pipe fitter, the income of this particular career will easily go above and beyond $50,000 per year.

Fire Protection Designer

A Fire Protection Designer is someone who can eventually become a Fire Protection Engineer, in an entry level setting.  You will need to know basic CAD - Computer Assisted Drawings, this will be taught at your local community college.  Once this is learned you may be able to get a job and do on the job training in designing where the Automatic Fire Sprinklers go.  You will be working with your local municipalities for codes and compliances, or in other words your local Fire Marshal and the clients’ Insurance Company.   A Professional attitude is a must.

Fire Protection Engineer

The next career within the Fire Protection area is a Fire Protection Engineer. This one is a little more complicated and does require college. Essentially the job of the Fire Protection Engineer is someone who designs where the sprinkler heads go. If drafting is something that you find interesting then this may be the career for you.

You will not be required to design the building, that will have already been done. What you will need to do is be able to read the blueprint and decide where the pipes will go along with the Automatic Fire Sprinklers or Sprinkler Heads. Most larger buildings along with Government offices are now incorporating Alarm systems as well. If you by chance happen to have an Electrician degree this will come in handy, in designing the alarm system.

The pay for either of these careers varies depending on location and Company that employs you.  There may also be bonuses available within your Company, due to growth and sales.  As a Designer you are more than likely going to be Non-Union which means you can negotiate your wages.

There are a few colleges that are offering degrees in Fire Protection Engineering.  You will need to look within your area to see if it is offered close by.  This is not a degree that you will want to try getting online.  With technology as it is, the changes that come are fast and furious.  Computer knowledge is required for this degree, but will be taught within the classes offered.  For more information check out the NFPA site.

Why will companies continue to use Fire Protection?  It is an investment for them.  The initial cost of installing a Fire Protection system at first may be a little daunting, but the system pays for itself within the first 5 years of installation, due to the savings on Insurance alone.  Fire is the most damaging to any business, and insurance companies encourage the use of Sprinkler Systems.

Good Luck with your New Career Choice!!


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