Boilermakers are an important segment of the workforce, as they are responsible for maintaining a wide range of machines and appliances that people depend on.
So, what is a boilermaker?
Boilermakers are tradespeople who assemble, install, and maintain boilers and other large appliances that contain gases or liquids. Boilermakers may also travel to worksites to repair boilers, water heaters, and other equipment. The job involves a lot of welding and fabricating.
Here is what you should know about boilermakers, including their job duties and educational requirements.
What Does a Boilermaker Do?
The name of the profession originated from tradespeople that made boilers during the start of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. However, boilermakers work on a variety of containers, including storage vats and tanks.
Boilers and other large vessels may hold water, oil, or industrial chemicals for heating a facility or generating power. Boilermakers may also work on blast furnaces, rocket boosters, and dams.
The first boilermakers were involved in the shipbuilding industry in the early 19th century. Shipyards started to construct ships from iron instead of wood. The new steamships needed iron boilers, which were made by skilled blacksmiths.
Job Duties of a Boilermaker
The specific job duties of a boilermaker vary depending on the employer. However, most boilermaker positions are likely to include some of the following duties and responsibilities:
-Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics
-Installing premade boilers in industrial facilities
-Fabricating a boiler tank from metal parts
-Assembling a boiler tank using premade parts
-Using specialized equipment to clean boilers and tanks
-Inspecting boiler systems to detect leaks or defects
-Welding boiler parts and pipes
Boilermakers learn how to assemble or fabricate boilers and large vessels from iron, steel, stainless steel, and other metals.
Boilermakers also install, maintain, and repair boilers and tanks at remote worksites. They may travel to factories or ships to work on the boiler systems.
Maintaining and repairing boilers involves thorough inspections. Boilermakers inspect the storage vessels, pipes, joints, and valves to detect and replace faulty parts. They may also
clean the insides of boiler tanks as needed using specialized equipment, such as scrapers and chemical sprays.
How to Become a Boilermaker
Here are the typical steps involved in becoming a boilermaker:
-Graduate high school or earn a GED
-Obtain welding experience
-Apply for a boilermaker apprenticeship
-Obtain a boilermaker certification
After completing these steps, you can start applying for boilermaker jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 1,300 job openings for boilermakers each year in the United States.
Boilermakers Often Have Previous Welding Experience
Many boilermakers have previous welding experience before applying for an apprenticeship. Due to the demand for open positions in boilermaker programs, applicants with previous experience are more likely to be accepted.
There are several ways to obtain welding experience, including applying for entry-level welding jobs or attending a two-year welding program.
For example, you may complete an Associate’s Degree in Welding or complete a welding certification program from a technical school. Both options increase your career prospects in this field.
Boilermakers Need to Complete an Apprenticeship
The most common path to becoming a boilermaker involves the completion of an apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship programs typically last four to five years. However, having previous experience can shorten the time frame.
For example, if you complete a two-year degree program or technical program in welding, your apprenticeship may only last two years.
Apprenticeships are offered through vocational schools and technical colleges around the country. These programs include classroom instruction and hands-on training.
An apprenticeship is typically offered through a school or college but is sponsored by an employer or a trade union. To join an apprenticeship, you often need to apply for an entry-level job.
Boilermakers May Require Certification
Some employers prefer to hire candidates that hold certification from a national body, such as the National Center for Construction Education and Research. The NCCER offers a certification program that requires four years and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.
After the completion of an apprenticeship, you should qualify to take the assessment tests for certification. Part of the apprenticeship involves preparing you for certification.
Where Do Boilermakers Work?
Boilermakers often work in the boiler rooms of factories and ships. Boilermakers may also work on dams and other large structures that include pressure vessels or storage vats.
About 23% of boilermakers work for construction companies involved in the construction of utility systems. Thirteen percent of boilermakers work in nonresidential building construction.
Boilermakers who work in the construction industry may not work full-time. They may work on a contractual basis. During periods with less construction work, contract boilermakers may experience unemployment.
Full-time boilermakers are often employed in the heating, air conditioning, and plumbing industries. Manufacturers and fabricators also frequently employ full-time boilermakers.
How Much Do Boilermakers Earn?
The average annual income for a boilermaker is about $65,360 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The annual income of a boilermaker depends largely on whether they are full-time employees or contractors.
Full-time boilermakers work a minimum of 40 hours per week and may work overtime to meet production deadlines. Boilermakers who work for fabricators and manufacturers earn an average of $57,290 per year.
Contracted boilermakers may experience periods of unemployment but are also likely to earn when on the job. The average income for boilermakers involved in nonresidential building construction, which often includes contract work, is $65,270 per year.
Boilermakers do not need a college education, but they must complete at least four years of training, either through an apprenticeship or a combination of an apprenticeship and a technical program.
Working as a boilermaker is a physically demanding job. Boilermakers must often work in confined spaces, such as large storage containers. The work is also dangerous, requiring specialized training and safety procedures.
Yet, working as a boilermaker also offers several advantages. Boilermakers often enjoy relatively high salaries and steady work.
The skills needed to work as a boilermaker are also transferrable to many other professions. Boilermakers may also seek work as assemblers, fabricators, welders, ironworkers, and machinists.