Boilermaker: Job Duties and Requirements for Becoming a Boilermaker

Find out what boilermakers do. See what career preparation to become a boilermaker entails. Get job prospects and earning potential for this career, and discover whether it's the right job for you.

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Career Definition

Boilermakers make and install boilers and other large containers that house gases or liquids such as oil. Job duties include reading blueprints, casting pieces and bending them into shape, and welding or bolting pieces together. Boilermakers also test completed boilers and perform routine maintenance. They often upgrade boilers to meet environmental standards and increase their efficiency. Boilermakers can work for refineries or construction or natural resource companies, or they can find careers as metal fabricators or power or water plant operators.

Become a Boilermaker

Required Education

Most prospective boilermakers earn a high school diploma or GED and then enroll in an apprenticeship training program, such as the Boilermakers National Joint Apprenticeship Program (www.bnap.com). This program takes approximately four years to complete and requires 6,000 hours of work assignments and 576 hours in the classroom, studying such disciplines as welding, drafting, rigging, and boiler technology. Alternately, some boilermakers take courses at a technical school before learning additional skills directly from their employers.

Required Skills

Being a boilermaker is physically demanding and workers must have the necessary strength, coordination, and manual dexterity to complete the job. They also must possess various technical skills, such as the ability to weld, work with a variety of tools, and use rigging. Boilermakers must be prepared to travel to project sites and spend long spans of time away from home.

Career and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicts that boilermakers will enjoy faster-than-average job growth, of 21%, from 2010-2020. This increased demand will result from the need to upgrade boilers to meet new energy and environmental standards, rather than replacing them. The median annual salary for boilermakers was $56,560 in May 2012, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Sheet Metal Worker

Sheet metal workers use specialized machinery and hand tools to create items like metal ducts, drainpipes, signs, and furnace casings according to project specs. Duties may also include installation and maintenance of sheet metal-made pieces. Completion of a 4-5 year apprenticeship is a common way to enter the field. Sheet metal workers can earn voluntary professional certification. The BLS reports that jobs for sheet metal workers are expected to increase 18% from 2010-2020. The agency also reported that sheet metal workers earned median pay of $43,290 in 2012.

Plumber

Plumbers install, maintain, test, and repair pipe systems in residential or commercial settings. These pipes can carry water, steam or air; they may also be designed to carry other kinds of liquids or gases. Depending on the project, plumbers may work independently or as part of a larger team. Aspiring plumbers may complete an apprenticeship program or a technical school program. State licensing is a common requirement. The BLS predicts that jobs for plumbers will increase 26% from 2010-2020. Plumbers earned a median salary of $49,140 in 2012, according to the BLS.

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