Ironworkers

by Kate Williams

What Ironworkers Do

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_127YEnNZw

Work Environment

Ironworkers perform physically demanding and dangerous work, often at great heights. Workers must wear safety equipment to reduce the risk of falls or other injuries.

How to Become an Ironworker

Most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for reinforcing iron and rebar workers was $49,100 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for structural iron and steel workers was $55,040 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. The construction of large projects, such as high-rise buildings, is expected to drive employment growth, as will the need to rehabilitate, maintain, and replace an increasing number of older roads and bridges.

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

Duties

Ironworkers typically do the following:

  • Read and follow blueprints, sketches, and other instructions
  • Unload and stack prefabricated iron and steel so that it can be lifted with slings
  • Signal crane operators who lift and position structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Use shears, rod-bending machines, torches, handtools, and welding equipment to cut, bend, and weld the structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Align structural and reinforcing iron and steel vertically and horizontally, using tag lines, plumb bobs, lasers, and levels
  • Connect iron and steel with bolts, wire, or welds
  • Install metal decking used in building construction

Structural and reinforcing iron and steel are important components of buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors. Most of the work involves erecting new structures, but some ironworkers also help in the demolition, decommissioning, and rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges.

Structural iron and steel workers erect, place, and join steel girders, columns, and other pieces to form structural frameworks. They also may assemble precut metal buildings and the cranes and derricks that move materials and equipment around the construction site. Some ironworkers install precast walls or work with wood or composite materials.

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers position and secure steel bars or mesh in concrete forms for purposes of reinforcement. Those who work with reinforcing steel (rebar) are sometimes called rod busters, in reference to rods of rebar.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters manufacture metal products in shops that are usually located away from construction sites.

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers held about 18,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of reinforcing iron and rebar workers were as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 71%
Nonresidential building construction 8
Heavy and civil engineering construction 7
Other specialty trade contractors 5
Manufacturing 4

Structural iron and steel workers held about 77,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of structural iron and steel workers were as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 46%
Nonresidential building construction 23
Building equipment contractors 7
Heavy and civil engineering construction 7
Manufacturing 6

Ironworkers usually work outside in many types of weather. Some work at great heights. Their tasks are physically demanding, as they spend much of their time moving and stooping to carry, bend, cut, and connect iron or steel at a steady pace so projects stay on schedule.

Injuries and Illnesses

The work of ironworkers can be dangerous. Common injuries include cuts, sprains, overexertion, and falls; from great heights, falls can be deadly. To reduce these risks, ironworkers must wear safety equipment such as harnesses, hard hats, boots, gloves, and safety glasses.

Work Schedules

Most ironworkers work full time. They may have to travel to jobsites.

Structural ironworkers who work at great heights do not work when conditions are wet, icy, or extremely windy. Reinforcing ironworkers may be limited by precipitation.

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

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

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

Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,330

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $36,000

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build structures.

See How to Become One $46,500

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

For information about apprenticeships or job opportunities as an ironworker, contact local structural and reinforcing iron and steel construction contractors, 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 ironworker and apprenticeship information, visit

International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers

For more information about ironworkers, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors of America

National Center for Construction Education and Research

For more information about certification, visit

National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators

American Welding Society

O*NET

Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers

Structural Iron and Steel Workers


Suggested citation:

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


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