Assemblers and Fabricators

What Assemblers and Fabricators Do

Assemblers and fabricators assemble finished products and the parts that go into them.

Work Environment

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants. Some of the work may involve long periods of standing or sitting. Most work full time, and they sometimes work evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Assembler or Fabricator

The education level and qualifications needed to enter these jobs varies with the industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and additional training are needed for more advanced assembly work.

Pay

The median annual wage for assemblers and fabricators was $33,710 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline 11 percent from 2019 to 2029. However, many openings are expected each year because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

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.

Duties

Assemblers and fabricators typically do the following:

  • Read and understand schematics and blueprints
  • Position or align components and parts either manually or with hoists
  • Use hand tools or machines to assemble parts
  • Conduct quality control checks
  • Clean and maintain work area, tools, and other equipment

Assemblers and fabricators have an important role in the manufacturing process. They assemble both finished products and the pieces that go into them. The products encompass a full range of manufactured goods, including aircraft, toys, household appliances, automobiles, computers, and electronic devices.

Changes in technology have transformed the manufacturing and assembly process. Modern manufacturing systems use robots, computers, programmable motion-control devices, and various sensing technologies. These technological changes affect the way in which goods are made and the jobs of those who make them. Advanced assemblers must be able to work with these new technologies and use them to manufacture goods.

The job of an assembler or fabricator requires a range of knowledge and skills. Skilled assemblers putting together complex machines, for example, read detailed schematics that show how to assemble the machine. After determining how parts should connect, they use hand or power tools to trim, shim, cut, and make other adjustments to fit components together. Once the parts are properly aligned, they connect them with bolts and screws, or they weld or solder pieces together.

Quality control is important throughout the assembly process, so assemblers look for faulty components and mistakes in the assembly process. They help fix problems before defective products are made.

Manufacturing techniques are moving away from traditional assembly line systems toward lean manufacturing systems, which use teams of workers to produce entire products or components. Lean manufacturing has changed the nature of the assemblers’ duties.

It has become more common to involve assemblers and fabricators in product development. Designers and engineers consult manufacturing workers during the design stage to improve product reliability and manufacturing efficiency. Some experienced assemblers work with designers and engineers to build prototypes or test products.

Although most assemblers and fabricators are classified as team assemblers, others specialize in producing one type of product or perform the same or similar tasks throughout the assembly process.

The following are examples of types of assemblers and fabricators:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers fit, fasten, and install parts of airplanes, space vehicles, or missiles, such as the wings, fuselage, landing gear, rigging and control equipment, and heating and ventilating systems.

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers wind wire coils of electrical components used in a variety of electric and electronic products, including resistors, transformers, generators, and electric motors.

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build products such as electric motors, computers, electronic control devices, and sensing equipment. Automated systems have been put in place because many electronic parts are too small or fragile for human assembly. Much of the work of electrical and electronic assemblers is done by hand during the small-scale production of electronic devices used in all types of aircraft, military systems, and medical equipment. Production by hand requires these workers to use devices such as soldering irons.

Electromechanical equipment assemblers assemble and modify electromechanical devices such as household appliances, computer tomography scanners, or vending machines. The workers use a variety of tools, such as rulers, rivet guns, and soldering irons.

Engine and machine assemblers construct, assemble, and rebuild engines, turbines, and machines used in automobiles, construction and mining equipment, and power generators.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters cut, align, and fit together structural metal parts and may help weld or rivet the parts together.

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators laminate layers of fiberglass on molds to form boat decks and hulls, bodies for golf carts, automobiles, and other products.

Team assemblers work on an assembly line, but they rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task. The team may decide how the work is assigned and how different tasks are done. Some aspects of lean production, such as rotating tasks and seeking worker input on improving the assembly process, are common to all assembly and fabrication occupations.

Timing device assemblers, adjusters, and calibrators do precision assembling or adjusting of timing devices within very narrow tolerances.

Assemblers and fabricators held about 1.9 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up assemblers and fabricators was distributed as follows:

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 1,389,100
Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers 291,700
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 78,500
Engine and other machine assemblers 45,900
Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers 43,900
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 20,400
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 13,000
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 1,300

The largest employers of assemblers and fabricators were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing 25%
Temporary help services 12
Machinery manufacturing 10
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 9
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 8

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants, and working conditions vary by plant and by industry. Many physically difficult tasks, such as tightening massive bolts or moving heavy parts into position, have been automated or made easier through the use of power tools. Assembly work, however, may still involve long periods of standing, sitting, or working on ladders, such as in the shipbuilding industry.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some assemblers may come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals or fumes, but ventilation systems normally minimize any harmful effects. Other assemblers may come into contact with oil and grease, and their work areas may be noisy. Fiberglass laminators and fabricators are exposed to fiberglass, which may irritate the skin. Therefore, fiberglass workers must wear gloves and long sleeves and must use respirators for safety.

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. (“Miscellaneous” titles represent occupations with a wide range of characteristics that do not fit into any of the other detailed occupations.)

Work Schedules

Most assemblers and fabricators are employed full time. Some assemblers and fabricators work in shifts, which may require evening, weekend, and night work.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of assemblers and fabricators.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights install, maintain, and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery.

High school diploma or equivalent $52,860

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.

See How to Become One $36,990

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join, repair, or cut metal parts and products.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,490

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,400

Boilermakers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $63,100

Ironworkers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $53,650

For more information about assemblers and fabricators, including certification, training, and professional development, visit

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

For information about careers in manufacturing, visit

Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs

For information about certifications in electronics soldering, visit:

Association Connecting Electronics Industries

CareerOneStop

For a career video on structural metal fabricators and fitters, visit

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

O*NET

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers

Assemblers and Fabricators, All Other

Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers

Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers

Electromechanical Equipment Assemblers

Engine and Other Machine Assemblers

Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

Team Assemblers

Timing Device Assemblers and Adjusters


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Assemblers and Fabricators,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/assemblers-and-fabricators.htm (visited ).