Assemblers and Fabricators

Summary

assemblers and fabricators image
Assemblers and fabricators assemble both finished products and the parts that go into them.
Quick Facts: Assemblers and Fabricators
2016 Median Pay $30,930 per year
$14.87 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 1,819,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -14% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -259,100

What Assemblers and Fabricators Do

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.

Work Environment

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants. Some of the work may involve long periods of standing or sitting. Most work full time, and they sometimes work evenings and weekends.

How to Become an Assembler or Fabricator

The education level and qualifications needed to enter these jobs varies with the industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and additional training are needed for more advanced assembly work.

Pay

The median annual wage for assemblers and fabricators was $30,930 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. Increasing productivity due to advances in automation and collaborative robotics may reduce demand for assemblers and fabricators.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for assemblers and fabricators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of assemblers and fabricators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Assemblers and Fabricators Do About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators conduct quality checks for faulty components or mistakes in the assembly process.

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.

Duties

Assemblers and fabricators typically do the following:

  • Read and understand schematics and blueprints
  • Position or align components and parts either manually or with hoists
  • Use hand tools or machines to assemble parts
  • Conduct quality control checks
  • Clean and maintain work area, tools, and other equipment

Assemblers and fabricators have an important role in the manufacturing process. They assemble both finished products and the pieces that go into them. The products encompass a full range of manufactured goods, including aircraft, toys, household appliances, automobiles, computers, and electronic devices.

Changes in technology have transformed the manufacturing and assembly process. Modern manufacturing systems use robots, computers, programmable motion-control devices, and various sensing technologies. These technological changes affect the way in which goods are made and the jobs of those who make them. Advanced assemblers must be able to work with these new technologies and use them to manufacture goods.

The job of an assembler or fabricator requires a range of knowledge and skills. Skilled assemblers putting together complex machines, for example, read detailed schematics that show how to assemble the machine. After determining how parts should connect, they use hand or power tools to trim, shim, cut, and make other adjustments to fit components together. Once the parts are properly aligned, they connect them with bolts and screws, or they weld or solder pieces together.

Quality control is important throughout the assembly process, so assemblers look for faulty components and mistakes in the assembly process. They help fix problems before defective products are made.

Manufacturing techniques are moving away from traditional assembly line systems toward lean manufacturing systems, which use teams of workers to produce entire products or components. Lean manufacturing has changed the nature of the assemblers’ duties.

It has become more common to involve assemblers and fabricators in product development. Designers and engineers consult manufacturing workers during the design stage to improve product reliability and manufacturing efficiency. Some experienced assemblers work with designers and engineers to build prototypes or test products.

Although most assemblers and fabricators are classified as team assemblers, others specialize in producing one type of product or perform the same or similar tasks throughout the assembly process.

The following are examples of types of assemblers and fabricators:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers fit, fasten, and install parts of airplanes, space vehicles, or missiles, such as the wings, fuselage, landing gear, rigging and control equipment, and heating and ventilating systems.

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers wind wire coils of electrical components used in a variety of electric and electronic products, including resistors, transformers, generators, and electric motors.

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build products such as electric motors, computers, electronic control devices, and sensing equipment. Automated systems have been put in place because many electronic parts are too small or fragile for human assembly. Much of the work of electrical and electronic assemblers is done by hand during the small-scale production of electronic devices used in all types of aircraft, military systems, and medical equipment. Production by hand requires these workers to use devices such as soldering irons.

Electromechanical equipment assemblers assemble and modify electromechanical devices such as household appliances, computer tomography scanners, or vending machines. The workers use a variety of tools, such as rulers, rivet guns, and soldering irons.

Engine and machine assemblers construct, assemble, and rebuild engines, turbines, and machines used in automobiles, construction and mining equipment, and power generators.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters cut, align, and fit together structural metal parts and may help weld or rivet the parts together.

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators laminate layers of fiberglass on molds to form boat decks and hulls, bodies for golf carts, automobiles, and other products.

Team assemblers work on an assembly line, but they rotate through different tasks, rather than specializing in a single task. The team may decide how the work is assigned and how different tasks are done. Some aspects of lean production, such as rotating tasks and seeking worker input on improving the assembly process, are common to all assembly and fabrication occupations.

Timing device assemblers, adjusters, and calibrators do precision assembling or adjusting of timing devices within very narrow tolerances.

Work Environment About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators work in plants and factories.

Assemblers and fabricators held about 1.8 million jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up assemblers and fabricators was distributed as follows:

Team assemblers 1,130,900
Assemblers and fabricators, all other 232,400
Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers 218,900
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 77,000
Electromechanical equipment assemblers 45,700
Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers 41,800
Engine and other machine assemblers 38,000
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 19,700
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 14,100
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 800

The largest employers of assemblers and fabricators were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing 24%
Temporary help services 13
Machinery manufacturing 10
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 9
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 7

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants, and working conditions vary by plant and by industry. Many physically difficult tasks, such as tightening massive bolts or moving heavy parts into position, have been automated or made easier through the use of power tools. Assembly work, however, may still involve long periods of standing, sitting, or working on ladders, such as in the shipbuilding industry.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some assemblers may come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals or fumes, but ventilation systems normally minimize any harmful effects. Other assemblers may come into contact with oil and grease, and their work areas may be noisy. Fiberglass laminators and fabricators are exposed to fiberglass, which may irritate the skin. Therefore, fiberglass workers must wear gloves and long sleeves and must use respirators for safety.

Work Schedules

Most assemblers and fabricators are employed full time. Some assemblers and fabricators work in shifts, which may require evening, weekend, and night work.

How to Become an Assembler or Fabricator About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators usually receive training in a specialty area.

The education level and qualifications needed to enter these jobs varies with the industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and additional training are needed for more advanced assembly work.

Education

Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent for assembler and fabricator positions.

Training

Workers usually receive several months of on-the-job training, sometimes including employer-sponsored technical instruction.

Some employers may require specialized training or an associate’s degree for the most skilled assembly and fabrication jobs. For example, jobs with electrical, electronic, and aircraft and motor vehicle products manufacturers typically require more formal education. Apprenticeship programs are also available.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) offers certificates and training programs in fabrication, coil processing, and other related topics. Although not required, becoming certified can demonstrate competence and professionalism. It also may help a candidate advance in the profession.

In addition, many employers that hire electrical and electronic assembly workers, especially those employers in the aerospace and defense industries, require certifications in soldering. The Association Connecting Electronics Industries, also known as IPC, offers a number of certification programs related to electronic assembly and soldering.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Assemblers and fabricators who make electrical and electronic products must distinguish different colors, because the wires they often work with are color coded.

Dexterity. Assemblers and fabricators should have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination, as they must grasp, manipulate, or assemble parts and components that are often very small.

Math skills. Assemblers and fabricators must know basic math and be able to use computers, because the manufacturing process continues to advance technologically.

Mechanical skills. Modern production systems require assemblers and fabricators to use programmable motion-control devices, computers, and robots on the factory floor.

Physical stamina. Assemblers and fabricators must stand for long periods and perform repetitious work.

Physical strength. Assemblers and fabricators must be strong enough to lift heavy components or pieces of machinery. Some assemblers, such as those in the aerospace industry, must frequently bend or climb ladders when assembling parts.

Technical skills. Assemblers and fabricators must understand technical manuals, blueprints, and schematics for a wide range of products and machines in order to manufacture the final product properly.

Pay About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Median annual wages, May 2016

Total, all occupations

$37,040

Production occupations

$33,130

Assemblers and fabricators

$30,930

 

The median annual wage for assemblers and fabricators was $30,930 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 $20,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $52,170.

Median annual wages for assemblers and fabricators in May 2016 were as follows:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers $50,050
Engine and other machine assemblers 41,210
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 37,730
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 37,040
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 33,940
Electromechanical equipment assemblers 33,350
Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers 31,310
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 30,870
Team assemblers 30,060
Assemblers and fabricators, all other 28,550

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

Transportation equipment manufacturing $36,930
Machinery manufacturing 34,040
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 32,100
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 30,990
Temporary help services 24,220

Wages vary by industry, geographic region, skill, education level, and complexity of the machinery operated.

Most assemblers and fabricators are employed full time and may need to work evenings and weekends.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers and structural metal fabricators and fitters had higher percentages of workers who belonged to a union in 2016.

Job Outlook About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Total, all occupations

7%

Production occupations

-4%

Assemblers and fabricators

-14%

 

Overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline 14 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Within the manufacturing sector, employment of assemblers and fabricators will be determined largely by the growth or decline in the production of certain manufactured goods. In general, overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline because many manufacturing sectors are expected to become more efficient and able to produce more with fewer workers.

In most manufacturing industries, improved processes, tools, and, in some cases, automation will reduce job growth. Increasingly, new advances in robotics have enabled machinery to perform more complex and delicate tasks previously performed by workers. In addition, assemblers and fabricators are increasingly working alongside robots, also known as “collaborative robotics.” These new robots can help workers perform tasks and increase efficiency. However, this increased efficiency may reduce the demand for some assemblers and fabricators.

Cheaper and more advanced robotics, along with the possibility of decreased taxes and regulations, may entice some manufacturers to bring previously offshored production back to the United States. However, the new jobs may be more highly skilled in nature and more dependent upon automated technology.

Advances in three-dimensional printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has the potential to reshape the entire manufacturing sector in the future. Entire parts or even vehicles might be produced in a single build that would require very little assembly or fabrication by hand. This technology is still emerging though, and may not immediately affect the demand for these workers within the next 10 years.

Job Prospects

Qualified applicants, including those with technical vocational training and certification, are likely to have the best job opportunities in growing, high-technology industries, such as aerospace and electro-medical devices manufacturing.

Many job openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who leave or retire from these large occupations.

Employment projections data for assemblers and fabricators, 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

Assemblers and fabricators

1,819,300 1,560,200 -14 -259,100

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers

51-2011 41,800 34,500 -17 -7,300 employment projections excel document xlsx

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers

51-2021 14,100 11,200 -21 -2,900 employment projections excel document xlsx

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers

51-2022 218,900 173,600 -21 -45,300 employment projections excel document xlsx

Electromechanical equipment assemblers

51-2023 45,700 36,000 -21 -9,700 employment projections excel document xlsx

Engine and other machine assemblers

51-2031 38,000 31,500 -17 -6,500 employment projections excel document xlsx

Structural metal fabricators and fitters

51-2041 77,000 65,200 -15 -11,800 employment projections excel document xlsx

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators

51-2091 19,700 19,400 -1 -300 employment projections excel document xlsx

Team assemblers

51-2092 1,130,900 987,900 -13 -143,000 employment projections excel document xlsx

Timing device assemblers and adjusters

51-2093 800 600 -20 -200 employment projections excel document xlsx

Assemblers and fabricators, all other

51-2099 232,400 200,300 -14 -32,200 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 assemblers and fabricators.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
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
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 $34,840
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
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
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 $62,060
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 more information about assemblers and fabricators, including certification, training, and professional development, visit

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

For information about careers in manufacturing, visit

Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs

For information about certifications in electronics soldering, visit:

Association Connecting Electronics Industries

CareerOneStop

For a career video on structural metal fabricators and fitters, visit

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

O*NET

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers

Assemblers and Fabricators, All Other

Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers

Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers

Electromechanical Equipment Assemblers

Engine and Other Machine Assemblers

Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

Team Assemblers

Timing Device Assemblers and Adjusters

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Assemblers and Fabricators,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/assemblers-and-fabricators.htm (visited November 01, 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.