Sheet Metal Workers

Summary

sheet metal workers image
Workers carefully place sheet metal so that it can be bent evenly.
Quick Facts: Sheet Metal Workers
2015 Median Pay $45,750 per year
$21.99 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 141,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 9,400

What Sheet Metal Workers Do

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

Work Environment

Sheet metal workers often lift heavy materials and stand for long periods of time. Those who install sheet metal must often bend, climb, and squat. Most work full time.

How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker

Sheet metal workers who work in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship, while those who work in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school.

Pay

The median annual wage for sheet metal workers was $45,750 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of sheet metal workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be particularly good for sheet metal workers who complete apprenticeship training or are certified welders.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for sheet metal workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of sheet metal workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Sheet Metal Workers Do About this section

Sheet metal workers
Workers mark metal before drilling holes.

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

Duties

Sheet metal workers typically do the following:

  • Select types of sheet metal according to plans
  • Measure and mark dimensions and reference lines on metal sheets
  • Drill holes in metal for screws, bolts, and rivets
  • Install metal sheets with supportive frameworks
  • Fabricate or alter parts at construction sites
  • Maneuver and anchor large sheet metal parts
  • Fasten seams or joints by welding, bolting, riveting, or soldering

Sheet metal is thin steel, aluminum, or other alloyed metal that is used in both manufacturing and construction. Sheet metal is commonly used to make ducts for heating and air conditioning systems, but it is also used to make products such as rain gutters, outdoor signs, and siding.

In addition to installing sheet metal, some workers install nonmetallic materials such as fiberglass and plastic board. 

The following are examples of types of sheet metal workers:

Fabrication sheet metal workers, sometimes called precision sheet metal workers, make precision sheet metal parts for a variety of industries, from power generation to medical device manufacturing. Most work in shops and factories, operating tools and equipment. In large-scale manufacturing, the work may be highly automated and repetitive. Many fabrication shops have automated machinery, such as computer-controlled saws, lasers, shears, and presses, which measure, cut, bend, and fasten pieces of sheet metal. Workers often use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) systems to make products. Some of these workers may be responsible for limited programming of the computers controlling their equipment. Workers who primarily program computerized equipment are called metal and plastic machine workers.

Installation sheet metal workers install heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts. They also install other sheet metal products, such as metal roofs, siding, and gutters. They typically work on new construction and on renovation projects. Information about workers who install or repair roofing systems can be found in the profile on roofers.

Maintenance sheet metal workers repair and clean ventilation systems so the systems use less energy. Workers remove dust and moisture and fix leaks or breaks in the sheet metal that makes up the ductwork.

Testing and balancing sheet metal specialists ensure that HVAC systems heat and cool rooms properly by adjusting sheet metal ducts to achieve proper airflow. Information on workers who install or repair HVAC systems can be found in the profile on heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

Work Environment About this section

Sheet metal workers
Some sheet metal workers install metal roofs.

Sheet metal workers held about 141,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most sheet metal workers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 42%
Architectural and structural metals manufacturing 14
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 11

Sheet metal fabricators usually work in small shops and manufacturing plants, where they must often lift heavy materials and stand for long periods of time.

Workers who install sheet metal at construction sites must bend, climb, and squat, sometimes in close quarters, in awkward positions, or at great heights. Sheet metal installers who work outdoors are exposed to all types of weather.

Injuries and Illnesses

Sheet metal workers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Common injuries include cuts from sharp metal, burns from soldering or welding, and falls from ladders or scaffolds.

Some sheet metal fabricators work around high-speed machines, which can be dangerous. Because of these hazards, workers must often wear safety glasses and must not wear jewelry or loose-fitting clothing that could easily get caught in a machine. To avoid repetitive strain injuries, sheet metal workers may rotate through different production stations.

Work Schedules

The vast majority of sheet metal workers are employed full time.

How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker About this section

sheet metal workers image
In shops, sheet metal workers operate machines to make cuts.

Sheet metal workers who work in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship, while those who work in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school.

Education

Most sheet metal workers have a high school diploma or equivalent. Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra, geometry, and general vocational education courses including blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding.

Many technical schools have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic welding and sheet metal fabrication knowledge that many workers need to perform their job. 

Some manufacturers have partnerships with local technical schools to develop training programs specific to their factories.

Training

Most construction sheet metal workers learn their trade through 4- or 5-year apprenticeships. Each year, apprentices must have 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and 144 to 320 hours of related technical instruction, depending on the program. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, math, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. Welding may be included as part of the training.

Although most construction workers enter apprenticeships directly after finishing high school, some start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are being 18 years old and having a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans.

After completing an apprenticeship program, sheet metal workers are considered to be journey workers who are qualified to perform tasks on their own.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, sheet metal workers can earn certifications for several of the tasks that they perform. For example, some sheet metal workers can become certified in welding from the American Welding Society. In addition, the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry offers certification in building information modeling (BIM), welding, testing and balancing, and other related activities. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International, offers a certification in precision sheet metal work.

Important Qualities

Computer skills. Sheet metal workers use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) programs and building information modeling (BIM) systems as they design products and cut sheet metal.

Dexterity. Sheet metal workers need good hand-eye coordination and motor control to make precise cuts and bends in metal pieces. 

Math skills. Sheet metal workers must calculate the proper sizes and angles of fabricated sheet metal, as it is important to ensure the alignment and fit of ductwork.

Mechanical skills. Sheet metal workers use saws, lasers, shears, and presses to do their job. As a result, they should have good mechanical skills in order to operate and maintain equipment.

Physical stamina. Sheet metal workers in factories may spend many hours standing at their workstation.

Physical strength. Sheet metal workers must be able to lift and move ductwork that is often heavy and cumbersome. Some jobs require workers to be able to lift 50 pounds.

Pay About this section

Sheet Metal Workers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Sheet metal workers

$45,750

Construction trades workers

$41,020

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for sheet metal workers was $45,750 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 $25,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,230.

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

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors $50,480
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 39,940
Architectural and structural metals manufacturing 38,740

Those who work in manufacturing are more likely to participate in profit sharing, work overtime, and receive output incentives to supplement their basic wages.

The starting pay for apprentices usually is between 40 percent and 50 percent of what fully trained sheet metal workers make. As they learn more skills, their pay increases.

The vast majority of sheet metal workers are employed full time.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, sheet metal workers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014. Although there is no single union, the largest organizer for sheet metal workers is the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART).

Job Outlook About this section

Sheet Metal Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Construction trades workers

10%

Sheet metal workers

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of sheet metal workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth reflects an expected increase in the number of industrial, commercial, and residential structures that will be built over the coming decade. It also reflects the continuing need to install and maintain energy-efficient air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems in existing buildings.

Sheet metal workers in architectural and structural metals manufacturing are expected to experience 11 percent employment growth from 2014 to 2024, as domestic manufacturing expands. 

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities should be very good due to job growth and replacement needs. Job prospects should be particularly good for sheet metal workers who complete apprenticeship training or who are certified welders. Workers with military service experience are viewed favorably during initial hiring.

Some manufacturing companies report having difficulty finding qualified applicants. Workers who program equipment, possess multiple welding certifications, and show commitment to their work will have the best job opportunities.

Employment of construction sheet metal workers, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce shortages of sheet metal workers.

Employment projections data for sheet metal workers, 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

Sheet metal workers

47-2211 141,000 150,500 7 9,400 [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 sheet metal workers.

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
Glaziers

Glaziers

Glaziers install glass in windows, skylights, and other fixtures in storefronts and buildings.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,440
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration and mechanics and installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Postsecondary nondegree award $45,110
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
Metal and plastic machine workers

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.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,080
Roofers

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, bitumen, and metal.

No formal educational credential $36,720

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about apprenticeships or other work opportunities, contact local sheet metal contractors or heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning contractors; a local of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association; a local of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association; 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 sheet metal workers, visit

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART)

NCCER

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

For more information about certification, visit

American Welding Society

International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry

Sheet Metal Institute

O*NET

Sheet Metal Workers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Sheet Metal Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/sheet-metal-workers.htm (visited December 07, 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.