What Does a Boilermaker Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

••• Mark Benford / 123RF

A boilermaker is a who manufactures, installs, and maintains boilers, tanks, and closed vats. Boilers heat the liquid, usually water, that is used to generate electric power or provide heat to buildings, factories, or ships. Tanks and vats are storage containers that hold chemicals, oil, and other liquids.

Boilermaker Duties & Responsibilities

This job requires candidates to be able to perform duties that include the following:

  • Install premade boilers into manufacturing facilities and other buildings
  • Read and understand blueprints for the location, position, and dimension of boiler parts
  • Organize and lay out pre-made boiler parts before assembly
  • Assemble boiler tanks that often involves automatic or robotic welding
  • Use scrapers, cleaning solvents and wire brushed to clean vats
  • Inspect and perform tests on boiler systems to find any defects or leaks
  • Repair or replace parts such as valves, joints, or pipes, using welding equipment, hand tools, and gas torches

    Boilermakers are responsible for the maintenance and repair of boilers that may last for over 50 years. This includes ongoing inspections and the replacement of valves, fittings, feed pumps and other boiler components. Some boilers are so large a crane must be used to move pieces while the boiler is being assembled, and a boilermaker must direct the crane operator to lift the parts into their proper place.

    Boilermaker Salary

    • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $87,160 ($41.90/hour)
    • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $38,700 ($18.61/hour)


    Quick Facts About Boilermakers

    • Boilermakers earn a $62,260 and hourly wages of $29.93 (2017).
    • About 17,200 people work as boilermakers (2016).
    • Building equipment contractors employ most of them.
    • Jobs are typically full-time.
    • Boilermakers work overtime when there are deadlines to meet, for example when working on a construction project. They face periods of unemployment when their employers are between contracts.
    • The job outlook for boilermakers is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment will grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2026.

      Roles and Responsibilities

      These are some typical job duties listed in job announcements on :

      • "Read blueprints and specifications to determine the scope of work"
      • "Identify all tools required for tasks"
      • "Follow the rules of safe conduct at all times"
      • "Examine boilers, pressure vessels, tanks, and vats to locate defects such as leaks, weak spots, and defective sections so that they can be repaired"
      • "Complete work orders and other maintenance documentation"
      • "Evaluate basic boiler room systems, gather information and help solve problems"
      • "Repair and make new fabrication heat exchangers of all types and sizes"

        Reasons You May Not Enjoy This Work

        • You will have to work in confined spaces.
        • A lot of time outdoors will expose you to extreme temperatures.
        • Boilermakers are susceptible to injuries including burns, cuts, muscle strains and broken bones. Protective clothing and other precautions help mitigate these risks.

        How to Become a Boilermaker

        If you want to become a boilermaker, you can apply to a formal  program offered by a union or employer. It is likely to include about four years of paid on-the-job training combined with classroom instruction. You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED to enroll in such a program. Alternatively, you can attend classes at a trade or technical school and combine that with employer-provided training.

        What Soft Skills Do You Need?

        You will acquire the hard skills that allow you to do your job through your formal training, but boilermakers also need certain , or personal qualities. They are:

        • Physical Strength and Stamina: You must be able to lift heavy equipment and spend many hours on your feet.
        • Troubleshooting: The ability to correctly diagnose and then fix problems is essential.
        • : Boilermakers must weigh various solutions to problems and then predict which one will be most effective.
        • Reading Comprehension: You must be able to understand written documentation.

        Job Outlook

        According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for boilermakers over the next decade relative to other occupations and industries is about the same as the average for all occupations, driven by a continuing need to replace and maintain parts for boilers, offset by fluctuations in the construction industry.

        Employment is expected to grow by about 9 percent over the next ten years, which is the same as the average growth projected for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. Growth for other construction trade jobs is projected to grow at a slightly higher rate, which is 10 percent over the next ten years.

        These growth rates compare to the projected 7 percent growth for all occupations. Job prospects will fluctuate along with the economy, as levels of construction rise and fall.

        What Opportunities Are There to Advance in This Field?

        With experience, you may be able to move into a supervisory position. You can eventually become a  who supervisors other construction workers like , , , and .

        What Will Employers Expect From You?

        In addition to skills and experience, what qualities do employers look for when they hire workers? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements on :

        • "Must be able to take good and bad criticism"
        • "Physical Requirements: Climbing, Balancing, Stooping, Kneeling, Crouching, Crawling, Reaching, Standing, Walking, Pushing, Pulling, Lifting, Fingering, Grasping, Feeling, Repetitive Motions"
        • "Work at heights without fear"
        • "Must be able to work in team environment"
        • "Follows policies and procedures; supports organization's goals and values"

        Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

        Doing a  will help you determine if your , , and  are compatible with this career. Do you have the following traits?

        • Interests (): RCE (Realistic, Conventional, Enterprising)
        • Personality Type (): ESTJ, ESTP,
        • : Support, Relationships, Independence

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