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Is The Steel & Iron Ore Industry A Good Career Path?

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Being a part of something that can have an impact on the entire world is kind of a cool thing right? The steel/iron ore industries are a worldwide career path which means there are opportunities just about everywhere.

It is an industry that is undergoing big growth with 20% growth in jobs expected through 2050.

So, that takes us to the question, is steel/iron ore a good career path?

Yes, the steel/iron ore industry is a great career path for you to consider. With many job openings, continued growth, and a variety of job opportunities there is a lot to like about careers in the industry. Read our guide on how many jobs are in the steel/iron ore industry!

What Makes Steel/Iron Ore A Good Career Path?

First, we should talk about how steel and iron ore come together as a career path. You may or may not know that iron ore is what is used to create steel. It is mined from the ground, smelted in a blast furnace, and then carbon is added to turn it into steel.

That is the simple explanation!

Now, think about all the workers that are needed to make that happen. From the miners that dig up the iron ore to the truckers that transport it to the mill for the steel professionals to do their magic.

Great, so now you know there is a ton of job opportunities. But how long will those jobs last?

Well, based on the number of industries that use steel – you can be pretty confident jobs are not going anywhere any time soon. Below is a short list of some of the main steel users:

  • Ships
  • Shipping containers
  • Submarines
  • Homebuilding
  • Commercial buildings
  • Piping
  • Railway tracks
  • Trains
  • Tunnels
  • Wind turbines
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Solar panels
  • Automobiles

You get the point! Steel is a necessity and one that is not going to go away any time soon. That does not mean there is not a chance of a layoff here or there. There could be unforeseen circumstances (think COVID-19) or poor company leadership that can cause layoffs. No jobs are really 100% secure, but the iron ore/steel industry is a pretty solid choice.

iron ore steel industry in mill

Now, let’s talk about some things that make steel and iron ore a great career path for you to get into.

Job Security

You can see all the different industries that need steel, and that is just a small list! It takes a lot of manpower to make the steel needed to create all those different products, and the growth is only going to grow over the next 20-30 years. This makes steel and iron ore a strong career path for longevity.

No Experience or Education

A large portion of the jobs available in the industry would be blue-collar jobs (or skilled trade) with most of them requiring little to no additional education outside of a high school diploma. While you will need to be physically fit and have some skills to get into some jobs, in general, it is a good career path for those who are looking for jobs that are easier to get.

Variety Of Job Opportunities

No matter what type of work you enjoy, chances are good you will find it in the steel industry. Love working with your hands? You can be one of the many types of technicians that are needed, a machinist, or work in material development. For those that want an office environment, there is always a need for marketing and bookkeeping professionals. Then you have truck drivers and miners, there is really something for everyone.

Salaries + Benefits

There is no “average salary” for steel and iron ore workers because there is just such a large variety of jobs in this career path. But many of the jobs can pay a median salary of roughly $60K-$75K annually with the top 90% of earners earning $80K or more. These averages are for some of the popular skilled trade jobs in the industry like structural metal fabricators, welders, and truck drivers. Most jobs will also receive good benefits, and sometimes even bonuses.

Making A Difference

I know, sounds lame. But so many threads of people working in the steel industry say they love their jobs and the impact they make. Think about it, you are keeping people moving, building their homes, creating machines for healthcare, and so much more. You are using your hands and other skills to build amazing things for our world to be a better place! At the end of the day, that is an important part of what you do.

Of course, with the good comes the bad.

Not every job is perfect! There are some things that make working in the steel industry a challenge including:

  • Danger. The job can be dangerous and injuries do happen. Finding a company that prioritizes safety is definitely something to consider!
  • Long hours. Many who work for steel companies do say they work long hours, sometimes including weekends or on-call situations.
  • Weather. For those working outdoors, the heat and weather elements can be a challenge.

When talking about danger, this little clip comes to mind! This is what is called “rolling steel” – and we can only imagine how hot that steel is. There are just so many terrifying things going on here.

Entry-Level Skilled Trade Careers

This is where this career path shines! The number of opportunities for entry-level workers with no skills or experience is very high.

But, this does not mean they are easy and will not require hard work. These jobs may not pay as well in the beginning, and you may do a variety of other tasks as well. Cleaning, removal of garbage, and those types of tasks should not be considered “beneath you”.

Getting into the industry on the ground floor means you will be working with a higher-level worker and learning as you go. The only way to get to where you want to be with a job and salary is through hard work, ambition, interest, and a positive attitude.

Below are some of the more common entry-level iron ore/steel industry careers:

  • Material Handler. A material handler might be responsible for loading and unloading metals, packaging finished coils, unloading scrap metals, and more. It is the perfect starter job when you are not sure where you want to be.
  • Scaler Operator. Weighing coils and preparing stock to ship is just a part of this job. You might also be responsible for the flow of inventory.
  • Blaster or Explosive Worker. Loosening the rock and dirt that allows miners access to the iron ore used to make steel is pretty important. Median salaries are estimated at around $53K annually.
  • Truck Driver. That iron ore won’t get to the steel mill by itself! Truck drivers will usually require a CDL license and will deliver the iron ore to the steel mill so it can be transformed into steel. Median salaries for truck drivers with a CDL are $48K annually.
  • Metal Machine Operator. It takes a lot of machines to process metal to the sizes and shapes a customer may need. Machines commonly used in metal steel mills include cutters, slitters, oscillators, shearers, and so much more. Most can be learned with on-the-job training and salaries can range based on location and skills. These jobs can lead to higher-level positions within the mill or plant.
  • Heavy Equipment Operators. From where the iron ore is mined to the mill where it will be processed into steel, heavy equipment operators will play a large part. Heavy equipment operators may drive a bulldozer, excavator, or conveyor just to name a few.
  • Miner. Working onsite at the location where the iron ore is being retrieved, miners will assist with the loading and digging of the iron ore that has been retrieved. A miner may also operate an underground haul truck, and do basic maintenance as needed. According to ZipRecruiter, jobs in the iron ore mining field can see averages of about $65K per year.
  • Wireline Operator. Wireline operators are the workers that work with the cables that are used on trucks or drilling platforms. Attaching needed tools, running the rigs, and fixing broken parts are key parts of the job. According to Comparably, the average salary is estimated at about $42,525, but there is an opportunity to make much more with skill and experience.
  • Diamond Driller. Diamond drilling workers use diamond drills to explore the underground contents to look for iron ore deposits. They will dig smaller holes to look for excavation opportunities. Salaries as per Comparably average about $37K annually.

Requirements To Work In The Steel/Iron Ore Industry

As noted, there is not a ton of requirements to get into this industry and there are plenty of entry-level jobs to consider. Below is a simple rundown of requirements that “might” come up for various positions.

  • High school diploma or GED. While there may be a slight chance of getting a lower-level job without one of these – it is highly recommended you acquire one before you start your job hunt. Most jobs will require at least this level of education before employing you.
  • Training. Unless you have years of experience in one of the jobs, you will need to go through a training period. This should usually be paid training and will entail you working beneath a more experienced worker for a period of time. The training period will be strongly dependent on the job you hope to do.
  • Associate’s degree or certification. While not required, many jobs will benefit from additional training or certifications. Welders, ironworkers, steel inspectors, etc. would be jobs that may require certifications. Gaining more education can only help your growth and opportunities and of course, bring higher wages. So if the job you want has an opportunity to get certified, we say do it!
  • Bachelor’s degree. Careers in engineering, metallurgy, geology, accounting, or marketing will typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree. Most engineering careers will require a Master’s or PhD. as well.
  • Physical strength. Many of the jobs on-site at the iron ore mining location and in the steel mills or factories will require a lot of physical labor. Those working in these jobs will need to be physically fit and in good health.

worldsteel association

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.