Summary

boilermakers image
Boilermakers often work at great heights.
Quick Facts: Boilermakers
2015 Median Pay $60,120 per year
$28.90 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Apprenticeship
Number of Jobs, 2014 17,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 9% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,500

What Boilermakers Do

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

Work Environment

Boilermakers perform physically demanding and dangerous work. Many boilermakers must travel to worksites and live away from home for long periods.

How to Become a Boilermaker

Most boilermakers learn their trade through an apprenticeship program. Candidates are more likely to be accepted into training programs if they already have welding experience and certification.

Pay

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $60,120 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Workers with welding experience and general mechanical aptitude will have the best job opportunities.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for boilermakers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of boilermakers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about boilermakers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Boilermakers Do About this section

Boilermakers
Boilermakers install and maintain boiler systems.

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

Duties

Boilermakers typically do the following:

  • Use blueprints to determine locations, positions, or dimensions of parts
  • Install small premade boilers into buildings and manufacturing facilities
  • Lay out prefabricated parts of larger boilers before assembling them
  • Assemble boiler tanks, often using robotic or automatic welders
  • Test and inspect boiler systems for leaks or defects
  • Clean vats, using 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 out of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Manufacturers are increasingly automating the production of boilers to improve the quality of these vessels. However, boilermakers still use many tools to assemble or repair boilers. For example, they often use hand and power tools or flame-cutting torches to align, cut, and shape pieces for a boiler. Boilermakers also may use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles to align pieces accurately.

If the plate sections are very large, cranes lift the parts into place. Once boilermakers have the parts lined up, they use metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so that the parts fit together properly. They then join the parts by bolting, welding, or riveting them together.

In addition to installing and maintaining boilers and other vessels, boilermakers 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.

Because boilers last a long time—sometimes 50 years or more—boilermakers must maintain them regularly by upgrading parts. As a result, they frequently inspect fittings, feed pumps, safety and check valves, water and pressure gauges, and boiler controls.

Work Environment About this section

Boilermakers
Boilermakers must wear protective gear to reduce injuries.

Boilermakers held about 17,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most boilermakers were as follows:

Building equipment contractors 30%
Utility system construction 12
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 11

Boilermakers perform physically demanding and dangerous work. They often 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. When working on a dam, for example, they may be hundreds of feet above the ground.

Boilermakers also work in cramped quarters inside boilers, vats, or tanks that are often dark, damp, noisy, and poorly ventilated.

Injuries and Illnesses

Although boilermakers often use dangerous equipment, they have lower rates of injuries and illnesses than many other construction occupations. Still, common injuries include burns from acetylene torches, cuts from power grinders, muscle strains from lifting heavy parts and tools, and bruises or broken bones from falling off ladders or large vessels.

To reduce the chance of injuries, boilermakers often wear hardhats, harnesses, protective clothing, earplugs, and safety glasses. In addition, when working inside enclosed spaces, boilermakers frequently wear a respirator.

Work Schedules

Nearly all boilermakers work full time and may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance. Overtime work also may be necessary to meet construction or production deadlines, especially during the spring and fall seasons, when many power plants receive routine maintenance. In contrast, because most field construction and repair work is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment when a contract is complete. There may be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer, when major maintenance is complete.

Many boilermakers must travel to worksites and live away from home for long periods.

How to Become a Boilermaker About this section

Boilermakers
Many boilermakers choose to earn a welding certificate.

Most boilermakers learn their trade through an apprenticeship program. Candidates are more likely to be accepted into training programs if they already have welding experience and certification.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. High school courses in math and welding are considered useful.

Training

Most boilermakers learn their trade through a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship. Each year, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. During technical training, apprentices learn about metals and installation techniques, as well as basic mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid. On the job, apprentices learn how to signal crane operators and use the tools and equipment of the trade. Those who already have welding experience complete training sooner than those without it.

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

In addition to satisfying these qualifications, candidates with certified or documented welding experience usually have priority over applicants without experience. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans.

When they finish the apprenticeship program, boilermakers are considered to be journey workers, performing tasks under the guidance of experienced workers. 

Some boilermakers enter the trade through training in similar occupations, such as pipefitters, millwrights, sheet metal workers, or welders. Much of the core training of those occupations is similar to that of boilermakers.

Important Qualities

Mechanical skills. Boilermakers use and maintain a large variety of equipment, such as hoists and welding machines.

Physical stamina. Boilermakers must have high endurance because they spend many hours on their feet while lifting heavy boiler components.

Physical strength. Boilermakers must be strong enough to move heavy vat components into place.

Unafraid of confined spaces. Boilermakers often work inside boilers and vats, so they cannot be claustrophobic.

Unafraid of heights. Some boilermakers must work at great heights. While installing water storage tanks, for example, workers may need to weld tanks several stories above the ground.

Pay About this section

Boilermakers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Boilermakers

$60,120

Construction trades workers

$41,020

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $60,120 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,290.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for boilermakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Building equipment contractors $65,040
Utility system construction 62,190
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 48,680

Apprentices usually start at about 60 percent of the rate paid to fully trained boilermakers. They receive pay increases as they learn to do more tasks.

Nearly all boilermakers work full time and may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance. Overtime work also may be necessary to meet construction or production deadlines, especially during the spring and fall seasons, when many power plants receive routine maintenance. In contrast, because most field construction and repair work is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment when a contract is complete. There may be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer, when major maintenance is complete.

Many boilermakers must travel to worksites and live away from home for long periods.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, boilermakers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014. Although there is no single union that covers all boilermakers, the largest organizer of these workers is the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers.

Job Outlook About this section

Boilermakers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Construction trades workers

10%

Boilermakers

9%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

While boilers typically last more than 50 years, the need to replace parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork, is an ongoing process that will require the work of boilermakers.

The installation of new boilers and pressure vessels, air pollution abatement equipment, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, electrostatic precipitators, and stacks and liners will spur some demand for boilermakers, although to a lesser extent than repairs and upgrades will.

Additionally, the demand for boilermakers is linked to the cost of coal relative to that of natural gas. Coal-fired power plants require more boilermakers for installation and maintenance. As a result, if natural-gas prices continue to remain low relative to the cost of coal, fewer boilermakers will be needed.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be favorable because the work of a boilermaker remains difficult and physically demanding, leading some qualified applicants to seek other types of work. Although employment growth will generate some job openings, the majority of positions will stem from the need to replace the large number of boilermakers expected to retire in the coming decade.

People who have welding training or a welding certificate should have the best opportunities to be selected for boilermaker apprenticeship programs. In addition, workers with military service experience are viewed favorably during initial selection.

As with many other construction workers, employment of boilermakers is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Nonetheless, maintenance and repair of boilers must continue even during economic downturns, so boilermaker mechanics in manufacturing and other industries generally have more stable employment than those in construction.

The spring and fall seasons are the busiest times for boilermakers.

Employment projections data for boilermakers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Boilermakers

47-2011 17,400 19,000 9 1,500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Assemblers and fabricators

Assemblers and Fabricators

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.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,080
Stationary engineers and boiler operators

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or for industrial purposes.

High school diploma or equivalent $58,530
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join or cut metal parts. They also fill holes, indentations, or seams of metal products.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,150
Machinists and tool and die makers

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,110
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,410
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,620
Sheet metal workers

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,750
Insulation workers

Insulation Workers

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings to help control and maintain the temperatures in buildings.

See How to Become One $38,630

Contacts for More Information About this section

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 ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeship and training, visit

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

NCCER

For information about welding certification, visit

American Welding Society

O*NET

Boilermakers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Boilermakers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm (visited July 26, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.