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

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

Education and Training High school

Salary Median—$21.68 per hour

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Boilermakers assemble, install, and repair boilers, vats, and other large vessels. Boilers hold liquids and pressurized gases that are used in many industries. Boilers supply steam to drive turbines in ships and electric power plants. They are also used to provide heat and power in buildings. Large vessels such as tanks and vats are used in the processing and storage of many products.

Boilermakers follow blueprints to install large boilers on-site or assemble small boilers in a manufacturing plant. Boilers and other vessels are made in sections from molten iron or steel. Boilermakers align sections using plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles. They make sure the section edges fit properly and bolt or weld them together. They attach other necessary components, such as water tubes, valves, and gauges. Once a boiler has been assembled, boilermakers test it for leaks and weak spots. In most areas, there are state and local laws setting standards that boilers must meet.

Boilermakers regularly inspect and maintain boilers and update components such as burners to increase efficiency. Boilermakers repair boilers that are worn or damaged. They may have to take a boiler apart to fix it. Sometimes they strengthen joints or use pieces of metal to patch weak spots. At other times they must replace a whole section of a boiler. Boilermakers also install special equipment on boilers and tanks to prevent smoke or fumes from polluting the air.

Most boilermakers work in the construction industry for contracting firms or government agencies. They assemble boilers and other vessels at shipyards, electric

Boilermakers assemble and repair boilers and the pipes attached to them. Working conditions may be dangerous since boilermakers sometimes work at great heights and in awkward positions. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

power plants, and factories. Boilermakers also work for the iron and steel industry, railroad companies, oil refineries, chemical plants, and other industrial firms, where they repair and maintain boilers. In addition, boilermakers are employed by factories that make boilers.

Education and Training Requirements

Boilermakers learn the trade either through a formal apprenticeship or through a combination of technical school and employer-provided training. Applicants with welding training or certification have priority in admission to apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship programs typically require four years of on-the-job training with a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction per year. Apprentices learn setup and assembly, welding, layout, and blueprint reading. Employers who train applicants prefer to hire people who are graduates of a high school or vocational school. Courses in mathematics, welding, metalworking, and blueprint reading are useful.

Getting the Job

When apprenticeships become available, the local union chapter advertises the opening by notifying vocational schools and high school vocational programs in the area. Interested persons who want to begin work as helpers can apply directly to companies that make, assemble, or use boilers. Sometimes manufacturing and construction companies list job openings in newspaper want ads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Boilermakers can advance to supervisory positions. These opportunities are mainly available to those who have been through formal apprenticeship programs. A few boilermakers start their own contracting businesses.

The job outlook for boilermakers is good through 2014. Because of the physical demands of the work, unionized boilermakers are eligible to retire earlier than most other workers and are expected to retire in great numbers through 2014. However, the limited number of boilermaker apprenticeships, the trend toward repairing and retrofitting rather than replacing existing boilers, increased automation, and greater use of smaller boilers that require less on-site assembly are anticipated to contribute to fewer jobs. Interested persons with training in welding should have the greatest opportunity in being selected for apprenticeships.

Where to Go for More Information

American Boiler Manufacturers Association
8221 Old Courthouse Rd., Ste. 207
Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 356-7172

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
9000 Machinists Place
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772-2687
(301) 967-4500

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
753 State Ave., Ste. 570
Kansas City, KS 66101
(913) 371-2640

Working Conditions

Boilermaker jobs are physically demanding and can be dangerous. Some boilers are more than ten stories high, and boilermakers may have to work at great heights on a scaffold or rigging. Sometimes they are exposed to wind, heat, or cold and loud noise. At other times they must work in cramped, humid, and poorly ventilated spaces. They use potentially dangerous tools. Workers often wear helmets and safety glasses. They are encouraged to follow safety rules to cut down on the danger involved in their work. Boilermakers should be strong and in good physical condition. They must be able to work well with their hands and use tools well. They generally work forty hours per week, although there can be extended periods of overtime work. In construction, the workweek may vary depending on the weather and the demand for new boilers. Maintenance and repair workers often work night shifts. In some cases, boilermakers have to travel to assemble or repair boilers at a distant site. About half of all boilermakers are unionized.

Earnings and Benefits

The median hourly wage of boilermakers in 2004 was $21.68. Apprentices begin at about half of the journey wage. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

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