Ironworkers are tradesmen who are typically employed to construct the structural steel framework of buildings and other architectural structures such as bridges. Depending upon the employer's needs, ironworkers may repair existing structures, tear down old buildings or construct new infrastructure. Welders are also often employed to work on similar jobs, as they use specialized tools that join metal together.
Ironworking is typically divided into three main categories: reinforcing, ornamental and structural. Structural ironworkers are responsible for using cranes to lift steel beams, columns and girders that comprise the main framework of a structure. Reinforcing ironworkers use rebar, a steel bar, or a mesh of steel wires that is placed in a mold and filled with concrete. The concrete then has a rebar core and forms a solid structure. Ornamental ironworkers primarily are employed to install the finishing apparatuses to a building, such as windows, catwalks, stairways and doors. Often, ironworkers will collaborate with construction laborers and helpers, who assist with carpentry, masonry and plumbing.
Ironworker Job Education Requirements
To become an ironworker, candidates typically must have a high school diploma and must participate in an apprenticeship program with the Iron Workers Union. Though a college degree is not usually required, apprenticeships often take several years and are a combination of field training and classroom study. Ironworker training includes math, a course in how to read blueprints and classes that introduce extensive safety protocols.
Ironworker Job Market
In metropolitan areas, ironworkers often can find employment opportunities working on large commercial and industrial buildings. The employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 22 percent by 2022. Workers who are certified in welding, rigging and crane signaling will find additional job opportunities, and candidates who have prior military experience are often viewed favorably by employers.
Ironworker Job Salary Information
Ironworkers typically work full-time, but weather conditions can limit the hours of work during wet, icy or extremely windy conditions. In May of 2012, the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median pay for an ironworker was $46,140 annually. The lowest 10 percent of workers made about $27,000 and the top 10 percent made over $83,000.
Apprentices are usually paid about half of what a journeyman ironworker makes. However, they receive pay increases as they learn new skills and are able to work more independently. Many ironworkers belong to unions, the largest of which is the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers.