A boilermaker is a person who works on a boiler but also may be involved in diverse work such as the construction of a bridge and in the construction of equipment used for mining. A boilermaker is an expert concerning the fabrication of metal. The metal that is fabricate can be used in a variety of industries and the skill set is one that is in demand. A boilermaker will repair and maintain the boiler on a ship or in a building.
A benefit of a career as a boilermaker is the demand for the professional skills required. The salary is also a strong attraction as the typical boilermaker earns approximately $52,000.00 a year.
The salary for a boilermaker will depend on the level of expertise involved in the position at issue. The above listed description illustrates that boilermakers have a fairly wide range of expertise. The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program states that salary ranges for a boilermaker will range depending on a variety of factors including geographic location. The lowest ten percent of boilermakers make less than $32,500 a year. The top ten percent make over $76,200 a year. The middle fifty percent earn between $41,200 and $61,300 a year.*
It is also important to note that many boilermakers are members of unions. The membership in a union will bring with it other related employment benefits in terms of health care coverage, paid vacation time and other negotiated benefits like legal representation for employment contracts.
Industries that utilize the services of boilermakers include Petroleum and Coal, Other Specialty Trade Contractors, Commercial and Industrial Machinery and Equipment, Non Residential Building Construction and local government. The top paying industry is the Petroleum and Coal industry where the average boilermaker makes over $63,000 a year. The lowest paying industry is the local government which pays on average $58,500 a year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Boilermakers perform a wide range of duties including constructing, assembling, maintaining and repairing boilers, closed vats and other large vessels containing liquids and gases. Boilermakers also are involved with the building and repair of air pollution equipment, blast furnaces, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks as well as smoke stacks. It is the responsibility of a boilermaker to install refractory brick and other heat resistant materials in fireboxes and pressure vessels.
The job outlook is excellent for boilermakers. Projected growth is above the national average for a given career field. Growth in the field is expected to be fourteen percent (14%) between the years 2006 and 2014. There were over 20,200 boilermakers employed in 2008. The potential for growth is impressive considering the recent economic times.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Boilermakers are generally required to have a high school diploma at a minimum. The typical training route followed is entering a welding certificate program or formal apprenticeship. A high school diploma or a GED is required before a person can enroll in either of these programs. The duties of a boilermaker will mandate the ability to read highly technical metal diagrams and blueprints. The performance of the job will require the performance of highly technical skills while adhering to employer mandated safety standards.
Boilermakers will engage in apprenticeship programs to gain welding and metal fabrication experience. The apprenticeship program is required for entry into the field as a professional boilermaker. The ability to first obtain a welding certificate is seen as an opportunity to obtain a good apprenticeship position. The welding certificate prepares the boilermaker to perform various welding and metal fabrication techniques while simultaneously learning the crucial safety methods for properly handling welding tool and materials. The certificate program consists of anywhere from one to three semesters of course material. Course material will include:
- Welding Technology Overview
- Welding techniques like Oxy-fuel, shielded metal arc and safety practices related to welding
- Reading of Blueprints
- Metallurgy (Turning metal into tools and toys)
The apprenticeship programs prepare the boilermaker with the equivalent of four years of experience which consists of approximately six thousand hours of paid work activity and 144 hours of additional classroom time. A boilermaker with four to seven years of experience has the best chance of finding an open position. The apprenticeship program counts as four years of experience.
The welding certificate and passing of the apprenticeship program are two significant milestones for a boilermaker to achieve. There are not currently any licensing requirements for the boilermaker position. There is a voluntary certification that can be obtained from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) available to experienced boilermakers that requires the passing of a two hour test. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) also provides training to boilermakers. There are a variety of training seminars provided to boilermakers that can be located through the various apprenticeship programs. Training is provided by the employer onsite for safety and regulations.
Many boilermakers are members of unions. The most common unions for boilermakers are:
- The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
- International Association of Machinists
- United Automobile Workers
- United Steelworkers of America.