About the Job

Structural iron and steelworkers, or ironworkers, install beams and columns of structures for buildings, bridges, and any other structures using steel or iron materials.

What You’ll Do

Ironworkers unload and stack prefabricated steel to be lifted by cranes. As beams and columns are lifted into place, ironworkers may stand upon them in order to guide the pieces into position. They also signal to crane operators when pieces are in position and help to align all of the pieces. Once all pieces are in place, ironworkers verify vertical and horizontal alignments and connect all pieces together by fastening them with bolts and welds.

Although most jobs performed by ironworkers involve new buildings, some ironworkers may also help to disassemble older buildings and bridges either being demolished or repaired.
Some ironworkers are known as assemblers and fabricators, who create prefabricated steel and iron pieces before sending them to construction sites. For example, a rod buster creates steel mesh cages from rebar to be used in concrete floors, wall, beams, and footings.

Qualities and Skills Needed

Depth perception
Physical stamina
Physical strength
Unafraid of heights

Education Required

A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Coursework in mathematics, industrial arts, plan reading, and welding can be particularly useful.

Being an ironworker is considered to be trade career that generally requires an apprenticeship. Although the chief requirement to commence an apprenticeship is a high school diploma or equivalent, many aspiring ironworkers attend technical school. These schools offer programs that may provide specific certifications and training that can even count as credit toward completing an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships usually last 3–4 years before a journeyman’s license is awarded, which allows an ironworker to work without supervision. Many ironworkers go on to become master certified, which requires continued education and experience.

Although not required, some ironworkers become certified welders by the American Welding Society. Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker’s value and result in higher pay.

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The average starting salary is $32,455. With experience, they can earn up to or over $56,238.