How To Become A Boilermaker

Boilermaker jobs are not the easiest of careers, but they can be fulfilling and offer better than normal wages.
Career Overview*
  • Median Salary:$65,360 annually / hourly
  • Career Outlook: 1% decline through 2030
  • Certifications: Recommended
  • Education/Training Duration:

What Does A Boilermaker Do?

Boilermakers fabricate boilers, storage tanks, vessels, towers, heat exchangers, and other heavy-metal structures. They read blueprints and technical manuals to determine the requirements of a certain project and ensure the final output meets specifications and standards. 

It’s normal for boilermakers to be on-call in case there’s an emergency with a boiler system. Their responsibilities can also involve assembling pre-made machines instead of building them from scratch, with some components requiring metalwork to install. Some boilermakers find work in water or air treatment plants to improve their efficiency or reduce pollution.

Common boilermaker duties and responsibilities include:

  • Selecting and preparing metal components
  • Cutting marked metal sections using hand tools, metal cutting machines, and flame cutting torches
  • Shaping pipework and metal components 
  • Aligning parts through measuring instruments and hand tools
  • Joining metal sections through bolting, riveting, and various welding techniques
  • Finishing machines by cleaning, filing, polishing, and bathing in acidic solutions
  • Cleaning and smoothing welds by filing, chiseling, and grinding
  • Signaling a crane operator

As you might have guessed, boilermakers need to have a keen eye and be skilled with their technical work. You will typically work as part of a team but may also have to complete tasks independently when the need arises. 

How To Become A Boilermaker

To become a certified boilermaker, you need to enter an apprenticeship program. Most employers and institutions that offer this opportunity require at least a high school education or any equivalent. After finishing your boilermaker apprenticeship, you can further improve your prospects by continuing your education and focusing on a specialty. 

If you want more details on how to become a boilermaker, here’s a step-by-step breakdown. 

Basic Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or GED

Internship or Apprenticeship

Once you meet the basic requirements, you can learn the trade and begin technical training through an apprenticeship. This qualification usually takes four years to complete, and it will equip you with essential skills like:

  • Installation techniques
  • Blueprint reading
  • Safety protocols 
  • Metal spinning and polishing
  • Electroplating
  • Metal fabrication
  • Welding

These programs also include paid on-the-job training, so you get to start earning much earlier than other career paths. The starting salary is only a fraction of a full-fledged boilermaker’s wages, but you should expect regular pay raises as you progress through the apprenticeship. When you finish your program, you become a journeyman boilermaker and may perform tasks without supervision. 

Testing or Certification

Boilermakers already demonstrate their proficiency by completing an apprenticeship, so they don’t need to apply for special licenses or certifications. However, they can acquire voluntary certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).

You can get this certification by taking a two-hour exam that covers metal fabrication and preparation, valve installation, piping systems, metal cutting methods, rigging, and boilermaker safety. Your name will also appear on the NCCER National Registry, which records education and training information for construction professionals. 

While this test is entirely optional, employers will always prefer boilermakers who are committed to acquiring more knowledge and improving skills related to their field. It’s an excellent opportunity to gain an edge against the competition and qualify for a higher position. 

Recommended Skills For Boilermakers

Apart from getting the proper education and practical experience to become a boilermaker, acquiring or nurturing these qualities is essential to jumpstarting your career:

Leadership Skills

A boilermaker often takes charge during a project, organizing and directing other workers. As such, they need to be able to motivate and lead others while performing their duties. 

Creativity

Boilermakers benefit from having access to multiple materials, tools, and equipment when working on a project. They should be able to think outside of the box and use materials in a way that is different from their initial purpose.

Physical Strength

Boilermaking is a physically demanding career, so you must be able to lift and carry heavy materials and work in difficult conditions.

Critical Thinking

A boilermaker needs excellent problem-solving skills to quickly identify potential risks and determine the best course of action to minimize them

Attention To Detail

A boilermaker needs to pay close attention to small details that could influence the safety and durability of a given project. 

Communication Skills

Boilermakers often work in teams, communicating with other professionals such as welders and steel fabricators during a job.

Pros & Cons Of Being A Boilermaker

If you’re a reliable worker with the skills we’ve mentioned above—or at least willing to gain them—then a career in boiler making may be a solid fit for you. However, you should know both the pros and cons of this type of job:

PROS

  • Boilermakers can earn six figures or more per year, depending on their level of experience and specialization.
  • Boilermakers often get the opportunity to switch between different types of construction projects, giving them variety.
  • The option to travel is open to professional boilermakers as they are needed around the world.

CONS

  • The job involves working with dangerous equipment like welding torches and heavy machinery.
  • Boilermakers frequently experience hazardous working conditions. Exposure to toxic chemicals and dealing with high heat is common in this type of work.
  • Boilermakers typically work long hours during a construction project, especially if deadlines are tight.

How Much Do Boilermakers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for boilermakers in 2020 was $65,360.

The top 10% can earn more than $100,810 and the lowest 10% typically make less than $40,010.

Aside from experience, your specialization and employer also play a big role in your salary.

For example, those who work for general construction companies tend to have lower pay than boilermakers who are self-employed or work in highly specialized industries such as nuclear power plants.

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$65,360
The median annual salary for a boilermaker.

Boilermaker Job Outlook

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1%
decrease in the amount of jobs through 2030.

Growth/Decline Percentage: 1% decrease from 2020 to 2030*
General Outlook: Average

While we’ve seen a small decrease in available jobs, you should keep in mind that this number may be much higher in areas where boilermakers work in nuclear power plants or oil and gas facilities.

Despite the negative employment growth, about 1,300 boilermaker jobs will become available every year from 2020 to 2030. 

Boilermaker Work Environment

how to become a boilermaker

Boilermakers often work in difficult conditions. Below are some of the common situations a boilermaker may find themselves in each day.

  • Working outdoors in extreme temperatures
  • May come in contact or be exposed to hazardous equipment and contaminants
  • Sounds can be extreme in some locations
  • May work in very small areas that can get extremely hot

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about this career. If you have other questions that are not listed here – please email us or leave a comment below and we will be sure to add it!

Do boilermakers make good money?

Yes, salaries for skilled boilermakers are often higher than the national average.

Is Being A Boilermaker A Hard Job?

The role of a boilermaker is one that can be very physically challenging. The work they do is often done in very small spaces and in temperatures that can go to various extremes.

*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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