Ironworkers


Quick Facts: Ironworkers
2017 Median Pay $51,320 per year 
$24.67 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 90,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 11,400

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Ironworkers Career, Salary and Education Information

What Ironworkers Do

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

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ironworkers

Duties of ironworkers

Although most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. Courses in math, as well as training in vocational subjects such as blueprint reading and welding, can be particularly useful.

Training

Most ironworkers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Nearly all apprenticeship programs teach both reinforcing and structural ironworking. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and lay rebar; and construct metal frameworks. In technical training, they are taught mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18

  • High school diploma or equivalent

  • Physical ability to perform the work

  • Pass substance abuse screeningAfter completing an apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journeymen who perform tasks without direct supervision.

Some employers provide on-the-job training which can vary in length. Training includes learning how to use the tools of the trade and learning proper safety techniques.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker’s usefulness on the jobsite. Several organizations provide certifications for different aspects of ironworkers’ jobs. For example, the American Welding Society offers welding certification, and several organizations offer rigging certifications, including the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Important Qualities

Balance. Ironworkers often walk on narrow beams, so a good sense of balance is important to keep them from falling while doing their job.

Depth perception. Ironworkers must be able to judge the distance between objects and themselves in order to work safely. Ironworkers often signal crane operators who move beams and bundles of rebar.

Hand-eye coordination. Ironworkers must be able to tie rebar together quickly and precisely. An experienced worker can tie rebar together in seconds and move on to the next spot; a beginner may take much longer.

Physical stamina. Ironworkers must have physical endurance because they spend many hours each day performing physically demanding tasks, such as moving rebar.

Physical strength. Ironworkers must be strong enough to guide heavy beams into place and tighten bolts.

Unafraid of heights. Ironworkers must not be afraid to work at great heights. For example, as they erect skyscrapers, workers must walk on narrow beams—sometimes over 50 stories high—while connecting girders.


Work Environment for Ironworkers

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers held about 20,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of reinforcing iron and rebar workers were as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: 64%

Nonresidential building construction: 15%

Heavy and civil engineering construction: 6%

Manufacturing: 6%

Other specialty trade contractors: 3%

 

Structural iron and steel workers held about 70,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of structural iron and steel workers were as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: 49%

Nonresidential building construction: 20%

Heavy and civil engineering construction: 7%

Manufacturing: 6%

Building equipment contractors: 5%

Structural ironworkers usually work outside in most types of weather, and some work at great heights. In doing so, they perform physically demanding and dangerous work. Workers must wear safety devices, such as harnesses, to reduce the risk of falls. Reinforcing ironworkers must be able to carry, bend, cut, and connect rebar at a steady pace to keep projects on schedule. The work is physically demanding, and they spend much of their time moving, bending, and stooping.

Work Schedules for ironworkers

The majority of ironworkers work full time. They may have to travel regionally to job sites. Structural ironworkers who work at great heights do not work during wet, icy, or extremely windy conditions. Reinforcing ironworkers may be limited by any kind of precipitation.


How to Become an Ironworker

Although most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. Courses in math, as well as training in vocational subjects such as blueprint reading and welding, can be particularly useful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker’s usefulness on the jobsite. Several organizations provide certifications for different aspects of ironworkers’ jobs. For example, the American Welding Society offers welding certification, and several organizations offer rigging certifications, including the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Training

Most ironworkers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Nearly all apprenticeship programs teach both reinforcing and structural ironworking. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and lay rebar; and construct metal frameworks. In technical training, they are taught mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

Important Qualities 

Balance. Ironworkers often walk on narrow beams, so a good sense of balance is important to keep them from falling while doing their job.

Depth perception. Ironworkers must be able to judge the distance between objects and themselves in order to work safely. Ironworkers often signal crane operators who move beams and bundles of rebar.

Hand-eye coordination. Ironworkers must be able to tie rebar together quickly and precisely. An experienced worker can tie rebar together in seconds and move on to the next spot; a beginner may take much longer.

Physical stamina. Ironworkers must have physical endurance because they spend many hours each day performing physically demanding tasks, such as moving rebar.

Physical strength. Ironworkers must be strong enough to guide heavy beams into place and tighten bolts.

Unafraid of heights. Ironworkers must not be afraid to work at great heights. For example, as they erect skyscrapers, workers must walk on narrow beams—sometimes over 50 stories high—while connecting girders.


salaries for Ironworkers 

The median annual wage for reinforcing iron and rebar workers was $46,850 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 $30,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,070.

The median annual wage for structural iron and steel workers was $52,610 in May 2017. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,310.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for reinforcing iron and rebar workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction: $61,010

Nonresidential building construction: $58,490

Other specialty trade contractors: $49,720

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: $44,900

Manufacturing: $36,190

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for structural iron and steel workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Building equipment contractors: $55,490

Heavy and civil engineering construction: $54,600

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: $53,850

Nonresidential building construction: $51,200

Manufacturing: $47,150

The starting pay for apprentices is usually about 50 percent of what journeymen ironworkers make. They receive pay increases as they learn to do more.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, ironworkers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2016. Although there is no single union that covers all ironworkers, the largest organizer of these workers is the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers.


Job Outlook for ironworkers

Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Steel and reinforced concrete are an important part of commercial and industrial buildings. Future construction of these structures is expected to require ironworkers. The need to rehabilitate, maintain, or replace an increasing number of older highways and bridges is also expected to lead to some employment growth.

Job Prospects for iroworkers

Employment opportunities for job seekers are expected to be good. Those who are certified in welding, rigging, and crane signaling should have the best job opportunities. As with many other construction workers, employment of ironworkers 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, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Employment projections data for Ironworkers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 90,300

Projected Employment, 2026: 101,700

Change, 2016-2026: +13%, +11,400


Careers Related to ironworkers

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.

Boilermakers

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

Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.

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
BoilermakersHigh school diploma or equivalent$62,260
CarpentersHigh school diploma or equivalent$45,170
Construction Laborers and Helpers$33,450
Masonry Workers$42,900
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and BrazersHigh school diploma or equivalent$40,240

Citation:

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