Structural Iron & Steel Workers
Get a Good Structure on a Hands-On Career
Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads. Duties Ironworkers typically do the following:
- Read and follow blueprints, sketches, and other instructions
- Unload and stack prefabricated iron and steel so that it can be lifted with slings
- Signal crane operators who lift and position structural and reinforcing iron and steel
- Use shears, rod-bending machines, and welding equipment to cut, bend, and weld the structural and reinforcing iron and steel
- Align structural and reinforcing iron and steel vertically and horizontally, using tag lines, plumb bobs, lasers, and levels
- Connect iron and steel with bolts, wire, or welds
Structural and reinforcing iron and steel are important components of buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors. Most of the work involves erecting new structures, but some ironworkers may also help in the demolition, decommissioning, and rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges. When building tall structures such as skyscrapers, structural iron and steel workers erect steel frames and assemble the cranes and derricks that move materials and equipment around the construction site. Workers connect precut steel columns, beams, and girders, using tools like shears, torches, welding equipment, and hand tools. A few ironworkers install precast walls or work with wood or composite materials.
Reinforcing iron and rebar workers use one of three different materials to support concrete:
- Reinforcing steel (rebar) is used to strengthen the concrete that forms highways, buildings, bridges, and other structures. These workers are sometimes called rod busters, in reference to rods of rebar.
- Cables are used to reinforce concrete by pre- or post-tensioning. These techniques allow designers to create larger open areas in a building because supports can be placed farther apart. As a result, pre- and post-tensioning are commonly used to construct arenas, concrete bridges, and parking garages.
- Welded wire reinforcing (WWR) is also used to strengthen concrete. This reinforcing is made up of narrow-diameter rods or wire welded into a grid.
Structural metal fabricators and fitters manufacture metal products in shops, usually located away from construction sites.
Nearly 3,900 Structural Iron & Steel Worker jobs expected in the Gulf Coast Region by the year 2028.
Estimates show an annual job opening of 421!
Structural Iron & Steel Workers are well-paid positions without a postsecondary degree requirement.
How do you become an Structural Iron & Steel Worker?
Education A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. Courses in math, as well as training in vocational subjects such as blueprint reading and welding, can be particularly useful. Training Most ironworkers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Nearly all apprenticeship programs teach both reinforcing and structural ironworking. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and lay rebar; and construct metal frameworks. In technical training, they are taught mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid. A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Physical ability to perform the work
- Pass substance abuse screeningAfter completing an apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journeymen who perform tasks without direct supervision.
Some employers provide on-the-job training which can vary in length. Training includes learning how to use the tools of the trade and learning proper safety techniques. Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker's usefulness on the jobsite. Several organizations provide certifications for different aspects of ironworkers' jobs. For example, the American Welding Society offers welding certification, and several organizations offer rigging certifications, including the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
What kind of skills and qualities do you need?
Important Qualities Balance. Ironworkers often walk on narrow beams, so a good sense of balance is important to keep them from falling while doing their job.
Depth perception. Ironworkers must be able to judge the distance between objects and themselves in order to work safely. Ironworkers often signal crane operators who move beams and bundles of rebar.
Hand-eye coordination. Ironworkers must be able to tie rebar together quickly and precisely. An experienced worker can tie rebar together in seconds and move on to the next spot; a beginner may take much longer.
Physical stamina. Ironworkers must have physical endurance because they spend many hours each day performing physically demanding tasks, such as moving rebar.
Physical strength. Ironworkers must be strong enough to guide heavy beams into place and tighten bolts.
Unafraid of heights. Ironworkers must not be afraid to work at great heights. For example, as they erect skyscrapers, workers must walk on narrow beams-sometimes over 50 stories high-while connecting girders.
Major Employers in the Region
- to come
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|*Includes the following counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.|