What is a Boilermaker?
Boilermakers are skilled tradespeople who fabricate, install, maintain, and repair boilers, tanks, and other large vessels that hold liquids and gases. This may sound simple, but the job is quite complex and requires a significant amount of training and experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data the median pay for boilermakers was about $64,290 per year, and the field was projected to grow -5% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, the actual wages and job growth can vary based on factors like experience, skills, and geographical location.
In this blog post, we’ll go through a step-by-step guide on how to become a boilermaker, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of choosing this career path.
Steps to Becoming a Boilermaker
1. High School Diploma or Equivalent
Your journey begins with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Courses in math, science, and vocational-technical subjects like welding and machine shop are particularly useful.
2. Vocational Training or Apprenticeship
After high school, prospective boilermakers usually begin a 4-year apprenticeship program that combines paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Apprenticeship programs are often sponsored by unions and businesses. Courses in blueprint reading, safety practices, and instruction in welding, mathematics, applied physics and chemistry are part of the training. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade, to weld and bolt sections together, and to set large vessels in place.
Though it is not mandatory, becoming certified can improve your job prospects. Various organizations like the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) offer certifications for boilermakers.
4. Continue Learning and Improving Skills
Boilermaking is a career that requires continuous learning and skill improvement, given the ongoing technological advancements in the field. Stay abreast of the latest techniques and tools in the industry.
1. High Earning Potential
Boilermakers generally earn a good wage. The top 10% of earners in the field, often those with more experience and certifications, can earn over $87,160, according to the BLS.
2. Varied Work
Boilermakers often work on various projects in different locations. This makes the job less monotonous and more challenging.
3. Job Security
Given the specialized skills required, boilermakers often have job security, especially in industries where there is constant need for maintenance and repair of large vessels.
1. Physically Demanding
The job can be physically strenuous, involving lifting heavy objects, climbing, bending, and working in uncomfortable positions.
2. Potential for Injury
Boilermakers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, according to the BLS. They often work in confined spaces, use dangerous tools, and are exposed to harmful substances.
3. Travel and Irregular Hours
Boilermakers often travel to worksites and stay away from home for extended periods. They may also work overtime and in varying weather conditions.
4. Declining Industry
Due to the efforts of multiple government agencies to reduce energy usage the need for boilermakers has been greatly reduced and will most likely continue to shrink over the next 20 years.
Advancing Your Career as a Boilermaker
After gaining experience as a boilermaker, there are opportunities for career advancement. You could become a supervisor or inspector, or move into a role involving project management. Furthering your education can also open up opportunities in design and engineering related to boiler production and maintenance.
Here are additional tips to help you succeed in your boilermaker career:
1. Enhance Your Physical Fitness
Due to the physical nature of the work, maintaining good physical health and fitness can be a significant advantage. Regular exercise can improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility, all of which are important for this job.
2. Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills
Boilermakers often face complex issues that require innovative solutions. Strengthening your problem-solving skills can make you more effective and efficient at your job.
3. Develop Good Communication Skills
Effective communication is crucial, especially when working as part of a team. Clear communication can also prevent misunderstandings that might lead to accidents.
4. Safety First
The importance of safety in this field cannot be overstated. Always adhere to safety procedures, use protective gear, and ensure your coworkers are doing the same. Participating in ongoing safety training is also beneficial.
5. Stay Current with Industry Trends
The industry is continuously evolving, with new tools, techniques, and safety measures being introduced. Stay updated by attending seminars, webinars, workshops, and conferences, and by subscribing to industry journals.
Becoming a boilermaker is a fulfilling and rewarding career choice that provides opportunities to work on various projects and offers good earning potential. It requires physical stamina, safety consciousness, dedication, and a willingness to continuously learn and improve. If these attributes resonate with you, a career as a boilermaker could be a perfect fit!