Bureau of Labor Statistics

Boilermakers

boilermakers image
Boilermakers assemble and install containers that hold liquids and gases.
Quick Facts: Boilermakers
2020 Median Pay $65,360 per year
$31.42 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, 2020 14,900
Job Outlook, 2020-30 -1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2020-30 -200

Summary

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 do 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 $65,360 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of boilermakers is projected to show little or no change from 2020 to 2030.

Despite limited employment growth, about 1,300 openings for boilermakers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

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 large 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 of steel, iron, copper, or stainless steel. Most manufacturers have automated the production of boilers for improved quality. However, boilermakers still assemble and maintain boilers manually. 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.

During a boiler installation, boilermakers align boilerplates and boiler parts, using 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 plates into place. Boilermakers then join the plates and 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.

During regular maintenance, boilermakers inspect systems and their components, including safety and check valves, water and pressure gauges, and boiler controls. They also clean boilers and boiler furnaces and repair and replace parts, as needed.

Work Environment

Boilermakers
Boilermakers must wear protective gear to reduce injuries.

Boilermakers held about 14,900 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of boilermakers were as follows:

Utility system construction 23%
Nonresidential building construction 13
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 10
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 6
Other building equipment contractors 3

Boilermakers do 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

The work that boilermakers do can be dangerous. Workers must follow specific safety procedures to avoid injuries and illnesses and must be mindful of potential dangers to themselves and their coworkers. To reduce the risk of injury, boilermakers wear hardhats, earplugs, safety glasses, and other protective equipment. When working in enclosed spaces, boilermakers often wear a respirator.

Work Schedules

Most boilermakers work full time, and work schedules may vary. Boilermakers may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance or repair, or when necessary to meet construction or production deadlines. In contrast, because most field construction and repair is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment upon completion of a contract.

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

How to Become a Boilermaker

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, blueprint reading and sketching, safety practices, and other topics.

Apprenticeship programs typically last 4 years. When boilermakers finish an apprenticeship, they are considered to be journey-level workers. A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs.

Apprenticeship applicants who have previous welding or other related experience, such as through the military, may have priority over applicants without experience. In addition, those with experience or education may qualify for a shortened apprenticeship.

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require boilermakers to have a license; check with your state for more information. Licensure requirements typically include work experience and passing an exam.

Employers may require or prefer that boilermakers hold certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Welding certifications may also be helpful.

Important Qualities

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

Physical stamina. Boilermakers spend many hours on their feet while lifting heavy boiler components.

Physical strength. Boilermakers must be able 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

Boilermakers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Boilermakers

$65,360

Construction trades workers

$47,480

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for boilermakers was $65,360 in May 2020. 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 $39,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,920.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for boilermakers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors $79,190
Utility system construction 68,040
Nonresidential building construction 65,270
Other building equipment contractors 61,030
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 57,290

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

Most boilermakers work full time, and work schedules may vary. Boilermakers may experience extended periods of overtime when equipment is shut down for maintenance or repair, or when necessary to meet construction or production deadlines. In contrast, because most field construction and repair work is contract work, there may be periods of unemployment upon completion of a contract.

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

Job Outlook

Boilermakers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Construction trades workers

5%

Boilermakers

-1%

 

Employment of boilermakers is projected to show little or no change from 2020 to 2030.

Despite limited employment growth, about 1,300 openings for boilermakers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Boilers typically last for decades, but there will be an ongoing need for boilermakers to replace and maintain parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork. Boilermakers will also continue to be needed to install new equipment, including boilers, pressure vessels, air pollution abatement equipment, and storage and process tanks.

However, the shift away from coal-fired electricity generation will reduce the need for boilermakers. Renewable photovoltaic and wind generation systems do not have boilers, and natural gas plants require less ongoing boiler maintenance than coal plants.

Employment projections data for boilermakers, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Boilermakers

SOC Code47-2011
Employment, 202014,900
Projected Employment, 203014,700
Percent Change, 2020-30-1
Numeric Change, 2020-30-200
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Assemblers and fabricators Assemblers and Fabricators

Assemblers and fabricators build finished products and the parts that go into them.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,970
Stationary engineers and boiler operators Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment.

High school diploma or equivalent $64,680
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers use hand-held or remotely controlled equipment to join, repair, or cut metal parts and products.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,190
Machinists and tool and die makers Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

See How to Become One $47,040
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights install, maintain, and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery.

High school diploma or equivalent $54,920
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,330
Sheet metal workers Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,370
Insulation workers Insulation Workers

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

See How to Become One $45,820
Elevator installers and repairers Elevator and Escalator Installers and Repairers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $88,540
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 $53,210

Contacts for More Info

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 Apprenticeship program online, or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about apprenticeship and training, visit

Boilermakers National Apprenticeship Program

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

For more information about certification, visit

National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

For information about welding certification, visit

American Welding Society

For information about opportunities for former military service members, visit:

Helmet to Hardhats

O*NET

Boilermakers

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Boilermakers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm (visited October 28, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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