Boilermakers

by Kate Williams

What Boilermakers Do

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhIzzMQth2c

Work Environment

Boilermakers do physically demanding work. They may travel to worksites and be away from home for extended periods.

How to Become a Boilermaker

Boilermakers typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship program.

Pay

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $63,100 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

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

Duties

Boilermakers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints to determine locations, positions, and dimensions of boiler parts
  • Install small, premade boilers in buildings and manufacturing facilities
  • Lay out prefabricated parts of large boilers before assembling them
  • Assemble boiler tanks, often using robotic or automatic welders
  • Test and inspect boiler systems for leaks or defects
  • Clean vats with scrapers, wire brushes, and cleaning solvents
  • Replace or repair broken valves, pipes, or joints, using hand and power tools, gas torches, and welding equipment

Boilers, tanks, and vats are used in many buildings, factories, and ships. Boilers heat water or other fluids under extreme pressure to generate electric power and to provide heat. Large tanks and vats are used to process and store chemicals, oil, beer, and hundreds of other products.

Boilers are made of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Most manufacturers have automated the production of boilers for improved quality. However, boilermakers still assemble and maintain boilers manually. For example, they often use hand and power tools and flame-cutting torches to align, cut, and shape pieces for a boiler. Boilermakers also use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles to align pieces.

During a boiler installation, boilermakers align boilerplates and boiler parts, using metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so that the parts fit together properly. If the plate sections are very large, boilermakers signal crane operators to lift the plates into place. Boilermakers then join the plates and parts by bolting, welding, and riveting them together.

Boilermakers may help erect and repair air pollution abatement equipment, blast furnaces, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and smokestacks. Boilermakers also install refractory brick and other heat-resistant materials in fireboxes or pressure vessels. Some install and maintain the huge pipes used in dams to send water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines.

During regular maintenance, boilermakers inspect systems and their components, including safety and check valves, water and pressure gauges, and boiler controls. They also clean boilers and boiler furnaces and repair and replace parts, as needed.

Boilermakers held about 15,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of boilermakers were as follows:

Utility system construction 23%
Nonresidential building construction 16
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 11
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 8
Other building equipment contractors 5

Boilermakers do physically demanding work in cramped spaces inside boilers, vats, or tanks that are often dark, damp, noisy, and poorly ventilated. They frequently work outdoors in all types of weather, including extreme heat and cold.

Because dams, boilers, storage tanks, and pressure vessels are large, boilermakers frequently work at great heights. For example, they may be hundreds of feet above the ground when working on a dam.                                                                                                               

Injuries and Illnesses

The work that boilermakers do can be dangerous. Workers must follow specific safety procedures to avoid injuries and illnesses and must be mindful of potential dangers to themselves and their coworkers. To reduce the risk of injury, boilermakers wear hardhats, earplugs, safety glasses, and other protective equipment. When working in enclosed spaces, boilermakers often wear a respirator.

Work Schedules

Most boilermakers work full time, and work schedules may vary. Boilermakers may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance or repair, or when necessary to meet construction or production deadlines. In contrast, because most field construction and repair is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment upon completion of a contract.

Boilermakers may travel to worksites and be away from home for extended periods.

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

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

Assemblers and fabricators

Assemblers and Fabricators

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

High school diploma or equivalent $33,710

Stationary engineers and boiler operators

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment.

High school diploma or equivalent $62,150

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

Machinists and tool and die makers

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

See How to Become One $45,750

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

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $55,160

Sheet Metal Workers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $50,400

Insulation workers

Insulation Workers

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

See How to Become One $44,180

Elevator installers and repairers

Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers

Elevator and escalator installers and repairers install, maintain, and fix elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

High school diploma or equivalent $84,990

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 information about apprenticeships or job opportunities as a boilermaker, contact local boiler construction contractors; a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers; a local joint union–management apprenticeship committee; or the nearest office of your state employment service or apprenticeship agency. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online, or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about apprenticeship and training, visit

Boilermakers National Apprenticeship Program

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers

For more information about certification, visit

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

For information about welding certification, visit

American Welding Society

For information about opportunities for former military service members, visit:

Helmet to Hard Hats

O*NET

Boilermakers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Boilermakers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm (visited ).


You may also like