Boilermakers


Quick Facts: Boilermakers
2017 Median Pay $62,260 per year 
$29.93 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Apprenticeship
Number of Jobs, 2016 17,200
Job Outlook, 2016-26 9% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 1,500

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Boilermakers Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Boilermakers Do

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

Boilermaker-Apprentice.jpg

boilermaker

Duties of Boilermakers

Boilermakers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints to determine locations, positions, and dimensions of boiler parts

  • Install small premade boilers in buildings and manufacturing facilities

  • Lay out prefabricated parts of larger boilers before assembling them

  • Assemble boiler tanks, often using robotic or automatic welders

  • Test and inspect boiler systems for leaks or defects

  • Clean vats with scrapers, wire brushes, and cleaning solvents

  • Replace or repair broken valves, pipes, or joints, using hand and power tools, gas torches, and welding equipment

Boilers, tanks, and vats are used in many buildings, factories, and ships. Boilers heat water or other fluids under extreme pressure to generate electric power and to provide heat. Large tanks and vats are used to process and store chemicals, oil, beer, and hundreds of other products.

Boilers are made out of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Manufacturers are increasingly automating the production of boilers to improve the quality of these vessels. However, boilermakers still use many tools to assemble and maintain boilers. For example, they often use hand and power tools and flame-cutting torches to align, cut, and shape pieces for a boiler. Boilermakers also use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles to align pieces accurately.

During a boiler installation, boilermakers first line up boilerplates and parts, and then use metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so that the parts fit together properly. If the plate sections are very large, boilermakers signal crane operators to lift the parts into place. Boilermakers then join the parts by bolting, welding, and riveting them together.

Boilermakers may help erect and repair air pollution abatement equipment, blast furnaces, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and smokestacks. Boilermakers also install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in fireboxes or pressure vessels. Some install and maintain the huge pipes used in dams to send water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines.

Boilers last a long time—sometimes 50 years or more—and boilermakers must maintain them regularly by repairing and replacing parts. They inspect fittings, feed pumps, safety and check valves, water and pressure gauges, and boiler controls.


Work Environment for Boilermakers

Boilermakers held about 17,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of boilermakers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors: 15%

Utility system construction: 13%

Nonresidential building construction: 12%

Fabricated metal product manufacturing: 12%

Other building equipment contractors: 7%

Boilermakers perform physically demanding work in cramped spaces inside boilers, vats, or tanks that are often dark, damp, noisy, and poorly ventilated. They frequently work outdoors in all types of weather, including extreme heat and cold.

Because dams, boilers, storage tanks, and pressure vessels are large, boilermakers frequently work at great heights. For example, they may be hundreds of feet above the ground when working on a dam.                                                                                                               

Work Schedules

Nearly all boilermakers work full time and may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance. Overtime work also may be necessary to meet construction or production deadlines, especially during the spring and fall seasons, when many power plants receive routine maintenance. In contrast, because most field construction and repair work is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment when a contract is complete. There may also be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer when major maintenance is complete.


How to Become a Boilermaker

Most boilermakers learn their trade through an apprenticeship program.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required.

Training

Boilermakers typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship program. During training, workers learn how to use boilermaker tools and equipment on the job. They also learn about metals and installation techniques, mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

Apprenticeship programs typically last 4 years. When boilermakers finish the apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journey workers, performing tasks under the guidance of experienced workers. A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprentices must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Candidates with certified or documented welding experience may have priority over applicants without experience.

Some boilermakers enter apprenticeships after working as pipefittersmillwrightssheet metal workers, or welders. The core training for these occupations is similar to the training for boilermakers.

Important Qualities

Mechanical skills. Boilermakers use and maintain a large variety of equipment, such as hoists and welding machines.

Physical stamina. Boilermakers must have high endurance because they spend many hours on their feet while lifting heavy boiler components.

Physical strength. Boilermakers need to be strong enough to move heavy vat components into place.

Unafraid of confined spaces. Boilermakers often work inside boilers and vats.

Unafraid of heights. Some boilermakers work at great heights. While installing water storage tanks, for example, workers may need to weld tanks several stories above the ground.


Salaries for Boilermakers

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $62,260 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,700, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,160.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for boilermakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other building equipment contractors: $75,920

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors: $68,170

Utility system construction: $65,530

Nonresidential building construction: $62,490

Fabricated metal product manufacturing: $53,530

Apprentices receive less pay than fully trained boilermakers. They receive pay increases as they learn more skills.

Nearly all boilermakers work full time and may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance. Overtime work also may be necessary to meet construction or production deadlines, especially during the spring and fall seasons, when many power plants receive routine maintenance. In contrast, because most field construction and repair work is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment when a contract is complete. There may also be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer when major maintenance is complete.


Job Outlook for Boilermakers

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Although boilers typically last more than 50 years, the need to replace and maintain parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork, is an ongoing process that will require the work of more boilermakers. Boilermakers also are needed to install new boilers, pressure vessels, air pollution abatement equipment, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and stacks and liners.

Job Prospects 

Jobseekers may face competition for positions as boilermakers. As with many other construction workers, employment of boilermakers is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, during peak periods of building activity some areas may require additional number of these workers.

Employment projections data for Boilermakers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 17,200

Projected Employment, 2026: 18,700

Change, 2016-2026: +9%, +1,500


Careers Related to boilmakers

Assemblers and Fabricators

Assemblers and fabricators assemble finished products and the parts that go into them. They use tools, machines, and their hands to make engines, computers, aircraft, ships, boats, toys, electronic devices, control panels, and more.

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

Insulation Workers

Insulation workers, also called insulators, install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings and their mechanical systems.

Ironworkers

Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or for industrial purposes.

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join or cut metal parts. They also fill holes, indentations, or seams in metal products.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Assemblers and FabricatorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$31,850
Stationary Engineers and Boiler OperatorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$59,890
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and BrazersHigh school diploma or equivalent$40,240
Machinists and Tool and Die Makers$44,110
Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and MillwrightsHigh school diploma or equivalent$50,440
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and SteamfittersHigh school diploma or equivalent$52,590
Sheet Metal WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$47,990
Insulation Workers$39,930
Elevator Installers and RepairersHigh school diploma or equivalent$79,480
IronworkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$51,320

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Boilermakers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm