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I’m a glazier, which means I work with glass. I install any kind of architectural glass window system (glass used as a building material, such as for external walls) and sometimes glass doors. I work on commercial projects now, but I’ve worked on residential projects in the past. Residential work for glaziers is mostly glass shower doors and windows.
I usually work with at least one other person. On small jobs, I work by myself; on large projects, there may be as many as 20 glaziers.
I usually arrive at the jobsite at 7 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The type of work that we do on a particular day depends on what stage the project is in. Most of the work is outside.
I’m usually onsite for a few weeks, but it depends on the job. There have been times I’ve worked for just a few hours; once, I was at a jobsite for 8 months.
My work is mostly local, but glaziers in larger companies may have to travel outside their local area or out of state.
I had a friend who was in the trade, and he recommended that I apply for an apprenticeship. I wanted to work outdoors, and I liked the idea of working at different jobsites and not being in the same environment.
I always liked working with my hands and learning new skills. This trade also offered an opportunity to make a decent living.
I completed a 3-year apprenticeship through a local union. Every other weekend, we got technical training from instructors with long-term experience in the trade. We learned how to use the tools required for glaziers and trained for the specific projects we might work on, such as storefront windows, curtain wall windows, and glass doors.
I worked full time for a contractor during my apprenticeship, which gave me a chance to receive on-the-job training and gain experience.
You need to be a good communicator. We have to communicate with our crane operators to make sure large pieces of glass are moved correctly, without hurting anyone or damaging the glass or the building we’re working on.
You also have to be detail oriented. Our measurements must be exact for the glass pieces to fit correctly and to look good.
Get used to heights. Sometimes we have to work 20 stories up to install glass windows on large commercial projects.
You also should learn some basic construction skills before starting, such as how to accurately use a tape measure and level.
Finally, I would say you need to follow directions, especially for safety training. The work can be dangerous, and we have to identify hazards where we’re working and follow our safety training.
I would say the most challenging part of the job is dealing with last-minute changes. You can have everything prepared for a specific job—have done all the work to measure and fabricate the framing of the pieces of glass—and then something changes. When that happens, we have to refabricate the framing for the glass and order a new size of glass to meet the new specifications.
Also, the work itself can be challenging. Some of the glass pieces are pretty large, and they seem to get bigger every year. Lifting these large, heavy pieces is physically demanding.
I like working with and seeing new glass technology. Some of the glass that we work with has fiber optic connectivity. By flipping a switch, someone can change the glass from clear to opaque.
But the best part of my job is seeing the completed work. The buildings that we work on look great after the glass is put in. I can drive by with friends and family and show them what I helped to build.
Ryan Farrell, "Glazier," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020.