Summary

boilermakers image
Boilermakers assemble and install containers that hold liquids and gases.
Quick Facts: Boilermakers
2016 Median Pay $62,060 per year
$29.84 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, 2016 17,200
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 1,400

What Boilermakers Do

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

Work Environment

Boilermakers perform physically demanding work. They may travel to worksites and be away from home for extended periods.

How to Become a Boilermaker

Boilermakers typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship program.

Pay

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $62,060 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The need to install, replace, and maintain boiler parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork, is an ongoing process that will require the work of boilermakers.

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

Duties

Boilermakers typically do the following:

  • Read blueprints to determine locations, positions, and dimensions of boiler parts
  • Install small premade boilers in 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 with 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 and maintain boilers. For example, they often use hand and power tools and flame-cutting torches to align, cut, and shape pieces for a boiler. Boilermakers also use plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles to align pieces accurately.

During a boiler installation, boilermakers first line up boilerplates and parts, and then use metalworking machinery and other tools to remove irregular edges so that the parts fit together properly. If the plate sections are very large, boilermakers signal crane operators to lift the parts into place. Boilermakers then join the parts by bolting, welding, and riveting them together.

Boilermakers may 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.

Boilers last a long time—sometimes 50 years or more—and boilermakers must maintain them regularly by repairing and replacing parts. They 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 17,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of boilermakers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 15%
Utility system construction 13
Nonresidential building construction 12
Other building equipment contractors 7
Boiler, tank, and shipping container manufacturing 6

Boilermakers perform physically demanding work in cramped spaces inside boilers, vats, or tanks that are often dark, damp, noisy, and poorly ventilated. They frequently 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. For example, they may be hundreds of feet above the ground when working on a dam.                                                                                                               

Injuries and Illnesses

Boilermakers have lower rates of injuries and illnesses than many other construction occupations. To reduce the chance of injuries, boilermakers wear hardhats, protective clothing, earplugs, safety glasses, and other safety equipment. When working in enclosed spaces, boilermakers often 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 also be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer when major maintenance is complete.

Boilermakers may travel to worksites and be away from home for extended periods.

How to Become a Boilermaker About this section

Boilermakers
Candidates have a better chance to be accepted into training programs if they have welding experience.

Most boilermakers learn their trade through an apprenticeship program.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required.

Training

Boilermakers typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship program. During training, workers learn how to use boilermaker tools and equipment on the job. They also learn about metals and installation techniques, mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

Apprenticeship programs typically last 4 years. When boilermakers finish the apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journey workers, performing tasks under the guidance of experienced workers. A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprentices must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. Candidates with certified or documented welding experience may have priority over applicants without experience.

Some boilermakers enter apprenticeships after working as pipefitters, millwrights, sheet metal workers, or welders. The core training for these occupations is similar to the training for 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 need to be strong enough to move heavy vat components into place.

Unafraid of confined spaces. Boilermakers often work inside boilers and vats.

Unafraid of heights. Some boilermakers 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 2016

Boilermakers

$62,060

Construction trades workers

$42,310

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $62,060 in May 2016. 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 $37,690, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,800.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for boilermakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other building equipment contractors $67,150
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 66,930
Nonresidential building construction 66,780
Utility system construction 65,680
Boiler, tank, and shipping container manufacturing 54,180

Apprentices receive less pay than fully trained boilermakers. They receive pay increases as they learn more skills.

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 also be periods of unemployment during the winter and summer when major maintenance is complete.

Boilermakers may travel to worksites and be away from home for extended periods.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, boilermakers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2016. 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 2016-26

Construction trades workers

11%

Boilermakers

8%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Although boilers typically last more than 50 years, the need to replace and maintain parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork, is an ongoing process that will require the work of more boilermakers. Boilermakers also are needed to install new boilers, pressure vessels, air pollution abatement equipment, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, and stacks and liners.

Job Prospects

Jobseekers may face competition for positions as boilermakers. 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, during peak periods of building activity some areas may require additional number of these workers.

Employment projections data for boilermakers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Boilermakers

47-2011 17,200 18,600 8 1,400 employment projections excel document 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 2016 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 $30,930
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 $59,400
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 in metal products.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,390
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.

See How to Become One $43,160
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 $49,100
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 $51,450
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 $46,940
Insulation workers

Insulation Workers

Insulation workers, also called insulators, install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings and their mechanical systems.

See How to Become One $39,280
Elevator installers and repairers

Elevator Installers and Repairers

Elevator installers and repairers install, fix, and maintain elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and other lifts.

High school diploma or equivalent $78,890
Structural iron and steel workers

Ironworkers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $50,830

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

Boilermakers National Apprenticeship Program

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, Boilermakers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm (visited December 14, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

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 CareerOneStop.

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).

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

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, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

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 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.