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Assembler and Fabricator Job Description, Career as an Assembler and Fabricator, Salary, Employment

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

Education and Training None

Salary Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Assemblers and fabricators piece together the different parts of manufactured products such as cars, television sets, and airplanes. They read detailed blueprints to learn how to assemble a product. They then use hand tools or machines to complete the project. Assemblers and fabricators work in all kinds of manufacturing plants. In 2004 transportation equipment manufacturing employed more assemblers and fabricators than any other manufacturing industry. Computer and electronic product manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing, and electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturing also employed large numbers of assemblers and fabricators.

The nature of assembly work has changed, moving away from the assembly line and toward a team approach. The majority of assemblers and fabricators are "team assemblers," assigned to teams that produce entire products or product components. Team assemblers rotate through the different tasks required to produce a product.

Some assemblers and fabricators work on an assembly line where parts move past their work station on a conveyor belt. They do their work on the part or the product as it passes their workstation. For example, an assembly line worker in an automobile factory may be responsible for placing a nut on a bolt. The next worker on the line may then tighten the nut. There may be many workers along one assembly line.

Floor assemblers work with large machinery and heavy equipment. They often use power tools such as soldering irons or power drills. They usually install or fasten parts with bolts, screws, or rivets. Floor assemblers put together large products such as cranes, airplanes, and industrial machinery.

Assemblers and fabricators piece together the different parts of manufactured products such as cars, televisions, and airplanes. (© Peter Yates/Corbis.)

Bench assemblers perform more exact work than floor assemblers. They usually keep a specific part or product at their work area until they have finished with it. Bench assemblers often make subassemblies such as steering columns for automobiles or electronic circuits for stereo sets. Sometimes bench assemblers put together an entire product, such as a rifle or a hearing aid. Bench assemblers often test a product after they have put it together.

Precision assemblers do the most skilled assembly work, often under little supervision. They work on difficult subassemblies or may take care of the final assembly of complex products such as missiles. Some of these precision assemblers work with the engineers and technicians who experiment with new products.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no set education requirements for assemblers and fabricators. However, most employers prefer to hire high school graduates for advanced jobs. Entry-level positions require the ability to work quickly and accurately. Training is given on the job and may last from a few days to one month. Some employers prefer to hire people who have taken machine shop or electronics courses or have equivalent training in the military. To get some jobs, applicants may have to pass a vision test, either with or without glasses, and have the ability to see colors.

Getting the Job

Applicants can apply directly to factories for a job as an assembler. Factories often list their job openings on signs outside the plant. State employment offices and classified newspaper advertisements also list job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

With experience, assemblers and fabricators can move into jobs that involve more skill and greater responsibility. Some become product repairers who fix products that do not pass inspection. Others advance to positions as supervisors or inspectors. Assemblers and fabricators may also obtain further education or specialized training to advance to skilled positions such as technician or machinist.

Job openings for assemblers and fabricators are expected to grow very slowly through 2014, mostly because more manufactured goods are being assembled outside the United States. In addition, some assemblers' jobs may be taken over by robots as manufacturing becomes more automated. Where job growth does occur, it is expected to be in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts manufacturing, furniture manufacturing, and food processing industries. Assemblers and fabricators may also find work in the employment services sector, as manufacturing establishments come to rely more on a temporary workforce that provides more flexibility in meeting fluctuations in the economy.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary with each job. Overall, working conditions are improving, and most factories are clean, well lit, and well ventilated. However, some assemblers work in noisy, dirty areas or come in contact with potentially dangerous chemicals. Other workers, such as bench assembly workers in the electronics industry, have very clean and quiet work areas. Workers on an assembly line may be under pressure to work quickly. Many assembly jobs are monotonous and involve doing the same task over and over again. Assemblers and fabricators must be able to work well with their hands. In general, they work forty hours per week, although overtime is fairly common. Many factories have two or three shifts.

Where to Go for More Information

Electronic Industries Association
2500 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 907-7500

International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers–Communications Workers of America
1126 Sixteenth St., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 513-6300

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
Solidarity House
8000 E. Jefferson Ave.
Detroit, MI 48214
(313) 926-5000

Earnings and Benefits

Wages vary depending on the assembler's education, skill, the location, the industry, the plant's pay scale, and the level of complexity of the machinery. In 2004 team assemblers earned a median hourly earning of $11.42. Among assemblers and fabricators who were not classified as team assemblers, electrical and electronic equipment assemblers earned a median of $11.68 per hour, aircraft assemblers earned a median of $17.79 per hour, engine and other machine assemblers earned a median of $16.73 per hour, electromechanical equipment assemblers earned a median of $12.71 per hour, and fiberglass laminators and fabricators earned a median of $12.18 per hour. Many assemblers belong to labor unions. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production