4 minute read

Rigger Job Description, Career as a Rigger, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Apprenticeship

Salary: Median—$17.27 per hour

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Riggers help operate machines that move heavy objects including steel plates, bundles of steel rods, drilling towers, platforms, and the heavy construction equipment used to build and take down steel structures.

Riggers have many responsibilities. They decide which pulleys, booms, braces, and cables are strong enough for each job. They also must know where to attach the hooks, chains, and cables to lift a load safely. In some cases, riggers build equipment around the object to be moved, such as a tower or boom. While the object is being lifted, riggers use hand signals and other means to direct crane operators and help guide the objects into place.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school education is recommended. Courses in mathematics, plan reading, and shop are especially valuable. English and communication courses are also important, because riggers give directions to others.

Riggers use pulleys, cable, and hooks attached to cranes to lift heavy objects such as steel plates, bundles of steel rods, and drilling towers. (© Earl Dotter. Reproduced by permission.)

After high school, riggers can begin their training by working on the job as riggers' helpers. The trade can usually be learned in several years. However, the best training is offered by formal apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are supervised by union contract or committees. These programs involve both on-the-job training and at least 204 hours of classroom instruction each year. Apprenticeships for riggers last three or four years, depending on local union requirements. Applicants must be at least eighteen years old, have a high school diploma or its equivalent, be in good physical condition, and be alcohol and drug free. Apprentices receive training in blueprint reading, care and safe use of tools, mathematics, welding, and oxyacetylene flame cutting. Riggers who complete apprenticeship programs have a thorough background in their trade.

Getting the Job

The best way to enter an apprenticeship is to contact the appropriate union. Local union offices can be found in the Yellow Pages under "Labor Organizations" or through Internet search engines. If an apprenticeship is not a possibility, prospective riggers can contact construction companies, shipbuilders, trucking and hauling firms, steel mills, chemical companies, oil refineries, and heavy equipment manufacturers, all of which employ riggers. State employment offices, job banks on the Internet, and newspaper classified ads are other sources of job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Riggers advance mainly by receiving increases in pay. Wages frequently depend on the company's location and the worker's skill and experience. Wages also vary with the particular job.

Opportunities depend, to some extent, on the condition of the economy. However, the employment outlook for riggers is generally as good as the average for all jobs through 2014. Employment may decline in specific industries and regions of the country and because of changes in construction methods.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for riggers depend on the specific job. Some riggers work mainly in industrial plants, where it can be noisy and dirty. Others work outdoors on construction sites. They may lose work time because of bad weather. Riggers also work around shipyards and docks, where it can be cold and damp. A forty-hour, five-day workweek is normal. When overtime is necessary, a higher wage is paid.

The demand for riggers varies in different areas. As a result, some riggers, especially those working for contractors, must travel long distances or even move to find employment. Riggers who work for industrial plants and similar organizations usually do not have this problem.

The rigger's work is physically demanding. The workers must be in good physical condition. Good eyesight and the ability to judge distances are important. Riggers must also be able to give and take instructions, solve problems, and work well with others.

Where to Go for More Information

International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers
1750 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 400
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 383-4800

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers
753 State Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101
(913) 371-2640

National Association of Women in Construction
327 S. Adams St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104-1002
(800) 552-3506

United States Department of Labor
Office of Apprenticeship Training, Employer and Labor Services
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 693-3813

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary, depending on the location of the work and the industry in which the rigger works. The median wage for riggers in 2004 was $17.27 an hour. Apprentices normally earn fifty to sixty percent of the qualified craft worker's wage. They receive wage increases as they progress through their training. Nonunion riggers generally earn less than union workers. Union contracts provide health benefits, life insurance, paid vacations, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades