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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3cAgVHqHlw.
Quick Facts: Sheet Metal Workers
2019 Median Pay $50,400 per year
$24.23 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, 2019 137,700
Job Outlook, 2019-29 1% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 1,800

What Sheet Metal Workers Do

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

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 employed in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship. Those employed in manufacturing typically learn on the job or at a technical school.

Pay

The median annual wage for sheet metal workers was $50,400 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of sheet metal workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than 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 decade.

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
Sheet metal 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 building or design 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 workers use pieces of thin steel, aluminum, or other alloyed metal in both manufacturing and construction. Sheet metal products include heating and air conditioning ducts, rain gutters, outdoor signs, and siding.

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, including power generation and medical device manufacturing. They often work in shops and factories, operating tools and equipment. In large-scale manufacturing, their tasks may be highly automated and repetitive. Some 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 may use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) systems to make products. Some of these workers are 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 put in 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. In addition to installing sheet metal, some workers install nonmetallic materials such as fiberglass and plastic board. Information about workers who install or repair roofing systems is 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 is 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 sheet metal at construction sites, which requires climbing and working at great heights.

Sheet metal workers held about 137,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of sheet metal workers were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 60%
Manufacturing 21
Government 6
Construction of buildings 3
Employment services 3

Sheet metal fabricators usually work in manufacturing plants and small shops, where they 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. The work environment may be noisy or dusty, and job tasks may create vibrations.

Injuries and Illnesses

Sheet metal workers risk injury on the job. Common injuries include cuts from sharp metal, burns from soldering or welding, and falls from ladders or scaffolding.

Some sheet metal fabricators work around high-speed machines, which may be dangerous and also may carry risks of loud noise, dust particles, and vibrations. To reduce injuries resulting from these hazards, workers often must wear safety glasses, ear protection, and dust masks 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

Most sheet metal workers work full time.

How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker About this section

sheet metal workers image
Sheet metal workers learn their trade through an apprenticeship or on-the-job training, or at a technical school.

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

Education

Sheet metal workers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra and geometry. Vocational-education courses such as blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding are also helpful.

Technical schools may have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic welding and sheet metal fabrication knowledge that sheet metal workers need to do 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, which include both paid on-the-job training and related technical instruction. 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.

Some workers start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship programs are sponsored 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.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require licenses for sheet metal workers. Check with your state for more information.

Although not required, sheet metal workers may earn certifications for several tasks that they perform. For example, some sheet metal workers become certified in welding from the American Welding Society. In addition, the International Certification Board offers certification in testing and balancing, HVAC fire life safety, and other related activities for eligible sheet metal workers. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International, offers a certification in precision sheet metal work.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Sheet metal workers must precisely measure and cut, follow detailed directions, and monitor their surroundings for safety risks.

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 to ensure the alignment and fit of ductwork.

Mechanical skills. Sheet metal workers use saws, lasers, shears, and presses. 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 heavy and cumbersome. Some jobs require workers to push, pull, or lift 50 pounds or more.

Pay About this section

Sheet Metal Workers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Sheet metal workers

$50,400

Construction trades workers

$46,340

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for sheet metal workers was $50,400 in May 2019. 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 $29,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $88,070.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for sheet metal workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $58,420
Specialty trade contractors 51,910
Construction of buildings 46,070
Manufacturing 43,590
Employment services 41,230

The starting pay for apprentices is usually less than what fully trained sheet metal workers make. As apprentices learn more skills, their pay increases.

Most sheet metal workers work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Sheet Metal Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Construction trades workers

3%

Sheet metal workers

1%

 

Employment of sheet metal workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than 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.

Job Prospects

Despite limited employment growth, about 12,700 openings for sheet metal workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many 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 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, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Sheet metal workers

47-2211 137,700 139,500 1 1,800 Get data

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 sheet metal workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2019 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Assemblers and fabricators

Assemblers and Fabricators

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

High school diploma or equivalent $33,710
Glaziers

Glaziers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $44,630
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 work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.

Postsecondary nondegree award $48,730
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 $45,750
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.

See How to Become One $36,990
Roofers

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings.

No formal educational credential $42,100
Boilermakers

Boilermakers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $63,100
Insulation workers

Insulation Workers

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

See How to Become One $44,180
solar photovoltaic installers image

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,890
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 $42,490

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

For more information about sheet metal workers, visit

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

International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry

NCCER

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

For more information about certification for sheet metal workers, visit

American Welding Society

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

International Certification Board

For information about opportunities for military veterans, visit:

Helmet to Hard Hats

CareerOneStop

For a career video on sheet metal workers, visit:

Sheet Metal Workers

O*NET

Sheet Metal Workers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Sheet Metal Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/sheet-metal-workers.htm (visited September 12, 2020).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

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).

2019 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 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.

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, 2019

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2019, which is the base year of the 2019-29 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2019-29

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029. The average growth rate for all occupations is 4 percent.

Employment Change, 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

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 2019-29

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2019 to 2029.

2019 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 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.