Yes, metal fabrication is an amazing career choice! The job market for metal workers is strong, offers high salaries, and is a secure industry. But, there are a lot of things you should know before you decide to pursue this career path.
We all know that choosing a good career path (or even going through a career change) can be hard and stressful. The wondering if you are going to like the job or if you will be good at it are just some of the many concerns you may have.
These thoughts can be overwhelming.
That is why it is essential to do your research before choosing your job. Consider the salary opportunities, growth potential, educational requirements, physical elements, and so much more.
Any career in the metal industry can offer great opportunities and metal fabrication is an excellent opportunity for individuals who like to work with their hands and are driven by seeing results. It is also a great career choice for those who like a more creative job. If you have a talent for welding and have a high commitment to your work, this job is right for you.
Continue reading to learn about metal fabricating and to find out if it is the right career path for you.
Metal Fabricator Job Description
To begin answering the question of “is metal fabrication a good career path?” you must learn what metal fabrication is.
In short, metal fabrication is a form of welding.
It is the process of cutting, bending, or contorting steel, and other metal components into different shapes and forms. A metal fabricator also assembles metal components to get them to work for their intended use. Metal fabricators work on various metal products that are needed in a variety of different use cases from residential home builders to medical equipment and so much more.
If you love the idea of working with metal, you can also consider a career in the steel/iron ore industry which is a great path to consider.
What Do Metal Fabricators Do?
They are responsible for multiple steps in assembling metal parts while using raw materials. Some other responsibilities include:
- Interpret and read engineering drawings and weld the steel plates to match the drawings.
- Precisely and strategically cut steel plates and establish geometric metal forming techniques.
- Knowledge of computers and how to use them for welding purposes.
- Understand welding and how to fabricate metal objects.
- Shape metal into required shapes for different projects.
- Use tools like soldering irons, dills, or cutters to do sheet metal work.
Metal fabricators can become welders or machinists and know how to work with artistic designs and metal components to create a finished product. They also have the skills to weld and repair broken equipment.
Different metal fabrication jobs can mean different job requirements. Some fabricator jobs require particular physical abilities. You might have to lift heavy metal sheets or have to stand or sit for long increments of time.
What Skills Are Recommended To Become A Metal Fabricator?
To become successful in metal fabricating, you must have a wide range of skills. Some of the most fundamental skills to have are knowing how to read blueprints, understanding the general concept of building metal structures, a good understanding of math, and having in-depth knowledge of the welding process.
The best metal fabricators develop intricate welding skills and can cut and bend metal to form different shapes and objects. Having the ability to visualize the products in three dimensions will aid in creating finished products.
Most also possess excellent communication skills. You will have to communicate with many different teams in order to achieve the correct results. For example, you will have to work with sales and clients, clients and engineering, engineering and management, and engineering and production.
Light Fabrication Versus Heavy Fabrication
There are generally two types of fabrication, light and heavy. The job positions available as a fabricator will typically fall into one of these two categories.
Light fabrication consists of building items such as water tanks, metal chairs, or vehicle bodies. In these types of positions, you may find yourself working in smaller metal fabrication shops.
Heavy metal fabrication is constructing larger structures, such as bridges, cranes, ship structures, and wind towers. These are often on-location jobs and will typically require a lot of outdoor work time which can cause you to face environmental challenges like rain, storms, etc.
No matter which type of fabrication career you decide to go into, being in good health is important. You will be lifting metal, climbing, bending, and doing a lot of manual labor.
What Jobs Are Available For a Metal Fabricator?
Numerous career opportunities are available in the metal fabrication industry. Many entry-level positions will provide training. There is typically plenty of room for job advancement.
Some work opportunities in metal fabrication include:
Machinists: As a machinist, you can use your metal fabrication skills to operate metal cutting machines. You will use your abilities to read engineering drawings and prepare the jobs on the machine. These are commonly called CNC (computerized numerical control) machinists. Training on the use and maintenance of CNC machines and CNC machine tools will be required.
Welder: A metal fabricator can handle various types of welding jobs. In these roles, you would be responsible for combining different metal components. This typically happens using high temperatures or electricity. Welding is a great career option as well and has a lot of the same requirements that we have noted here.
Estimator: To become an estimator, one must generally have much metal fabrication experience. In this role, you are responsible for determining what products each project requires and helping prepare a budget and manufacturing processes for a project.
Sheet Metal: Sheet metal workers are responsible for the manufacturing, reconditioning, and even installation of sheet metal equipment. Sheet metal mechanics or fabrication jobs might have you working on small items like air conditioning systems, drainage pipes, and ventilation ducts, or large items like airplanes.
With all of these opportunities, you may work in small fabrication shops, onsite at a customer, or in an industrial workshop.
There is always the opportunity for you to start your own business in the future as well. Check out our guide on welding projects you can do from home to make money.
Metal Fabrication Industry Opportunities
The metal fabrication industry is one that is always needed and will always have opportunities for those that are willing to work hard.
Metal fabricators are always in high demand for many manufacturing and construction jobs. As a result, skilled fabricators can ask for increased wages. Metal fabricators can start their own businesses, contract themselves to fabrication companies, become specialists in underwater welding, or become fabrication inspectors.
No matter where you live, the demand for metal fabricators and skilled welders is likely to grow and remain at above-average rates throughout the next ten years. However, if you are looking to relocate or are from one of these states, you are in luck, as the following states have the most significant number of metal fabrication jobs in the country.
If you are looking to work at a smaller company, jobs are available at indoor facilities and warehouses. There are also numerous career opportunities at large manufacturing companies and plants. If you are working for a metal fabrication company, and depending on your role, you will typically work roughly 40 hours.
You can also check out our article “is capital goods a good career path” since many metal fabrication careers are in this industry.
Metal Fabrication Salary
Salaries for metal fabrication careers vary widely and how much you make will depend on a few different factors.
As a general welder, you may make a base amount, but as you grow and begin to specialize in certain components you make yourself more valuable. Sheet metal working may make more than a regular welder, while a millwright may make more than both. The outlook for sheet metal working careers is good with continued growth expected over the next few years.
Understanding the needs of your local area will provide insight into the best career in metal fabrication option for you. Look at the industries in your area and see what metal jobs are most in demand.
How to Get Into Metal Fabrication?
Now that you know what skills are necessary to get into this career, the question that remains to decide if metal fabrication is a good choice for you is “how do I become one?”
There are many entry-level jobs for those who wish to enter the field after receiving their GED or high school diploma. Like many occupations, technical and work experience are necessary. As well as different levels of degrees, depending on how high you would like to advance in the metal fabrication business.
For those seeking more specialized roles in the industry, attending a vocational school or welding certificate program at a community college may be the best choice to strengthen the skills needed. While a formal college degree is not required, additional education will only help your career growth.
You can also seek out internships and apprenticeships or even contact a local fabrication business to gain experience.
Education and skill requirements
As mentioned above, one of the great things about becoming a metal fabricator is that many entry-level jobs provide on-the-job training. Finding an entry-level position to gain experience while attending university to develop your skills further is also a great way to get ahead.
However, if you are looking for more specialized positions, further education may be required. Different schools, such as vocational or secondary, can help discuss your options and get you on the right track to the metal fabrication job of your dreams.
Certain college degrees are very beneficial when pursuing a metal fabrication career. Earning an Associate of Applied Science while specializing in technical skills or earning a Bachelor of Science specializing in manufacturing or engineering can be a great way to compete for higher-level jobs.
There is also the option of completing certification programs and receiving technical diplomas. Either way, you have a strong metallurgy and mathematical background. As mentioned before, communication skills and the knowledge to read engineering drawings are a requirement.
Still not sure if this career is right for you? Well, the first stop would be trying your hand at welding, so why not find a hobby welding class near you and give it a spin? Then you can see if working with metal is up your alley!
Is Metal Fabrications a Good Career Path?
If you are good at math, enjoy working with your hands, and want a job where you can continuously achieve new goals, becoming a metal fabricator is the right choice. This career path allows you the opportunity to either create your own business, contract yourself out, or work for a fabrication company.
A metal fabrication career ensures that you will always have work and is an excellent job for anyone to pursue. It allows you the flexibility of different career paths under the metal fabrication umbrella.
So, is metal fabrication a good career path? For many, yes it is, and it could be for you too.
You can visit the American Welding Society website to learn even more about opportunities, education, and more.