How To Become A Boilermaker

Are you considering a career as a boilermaker? In this article we will explore what it takes to become one and what you can expect when you do.

boilermaker at work

A boilermaker constructs, restores, and fixes structural elements like boilers and tanks. Welding is a large part of what they do on a daily basis. Find out what the typical career path to become a boilermaker is and what you can expect in terms of salary, benefits, and job outlook.

Steps 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. 

Below is a step-by-step breakdown on the path to be a boilermaker.

  1. Must be at least 18 years of age
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. Look for an apprenticeship – or consider a trade school with a boilermaker program
  4. Obtain certification from NCCER after you gain enough experience. This is optional but some jobs will require it and it can help improve career opportunities.


A boilermaker apprenticeship can last up to four years and will help you learn the following skills.

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

When you complete the apprentice program you will be considered a journey-level worker.

Many apprenticeship 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 what a full-fledged boilermaker’s earns, but you can receive pay raises as you progress through the program.

Certifications and Licensing

Certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) is recommended upon completion of an apprenticeship.

The certification requires 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. 

Some states also require licensing to work as a boilermaker. Your employer should be able to assist you with this, or you can check your local state website for information.

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. 

Boilermaker Work Environment

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

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:


  • 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.


  • Some work will be in very small spaces.
  • Dangerous job that includes working at heights, below the surface and with tools that can emit dust and debris.
  • On-call work is common due to issues or emergencies that arise.

How Much Do Boilermakers Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for boilermakers in 2023 was $71,140.

The top 10% can earn more than $102,120 and the lowest 10% typically make less than $49,510.

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.

Boilermaker Job Outlook

The job outlook for boilermakers is expected to decline 4% through 2032. This is in part to the decline in the use of coal for power. Despite the negative employment growth, about 1,100 boilermaker jobs will become available every year through 2032.