A Day in the Life of a Boilermaker

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If you’ve been looking for a new career in the industrial sector, becoming a boilermaker is something you should consider. Boilermakers make more than $65,000 per year on average and you don’t need a college degree to become one.

But before you commit to being a boilermaker, it’s important to do some research. More specifically, you should take a look at what an average day looks like for a boilermaker so you can get a better sense of how that aligns with your professional expectations. We’ve put together all of that info in the sections below. Keep reading to learn more.

Where do boilermakers work?

Boilermakers can work in several different places. About 23% work on utility construction sites. Another 16% work on nonresidential building construction sites. And a smaller percentage work with contractors, fabricated metal manufacturing facilities, and other types of building equipment contractors.

A boilermaker’s experience on the job will vary to some extent depending on which of these job sites they call home. But there are some similarities between each of these places that are worth exploring.

For example, a boilermaker typically has to work in cramped spaces, such as inside of tanks and boilers. These are often dark, damp, and poorly ventilated. A boilermaker’s job site is also typically very noisy and chaotic.

Is a boilermaker’s job dangerous?

A boilermaker’s job can be dangerous. They commonly get asked to work at heights as great as multiple hundreds of feet from the ground. Additionally, boilermakers work with a wide variety of tools, some of which can be dangerous. There’s also always the risk of getting struck by a heavy object while working on a job site.

There are also some long-term risks that boilermakers need to consider. Being around loud noises, fumes, and high heat for a long time can lead to various injuries. These include damaged hearing, tinnitus, burns, and chronic pain, among others.

To prevent these things from happening, boilermakers need to wear protective gear. They commonly wear articles like:

  • Hardhats
  • Earplugs
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirators (when working in enclosed spaces)

A day in the life of a boilermaker

CLOCKING IN AND GETTING STARTED

A boilermaker will usually work during normal business hours. The start of their shift could be anytime from 7:00 to 9:00 AM. When a boilermaker arrives at their job site, they’ll clock themselves in and begin putting on the protective gear they wear to keep themselves safe.

After that, the boilermaker will usually check in with a supervisor to see what they’re going to be responsible for that day. The supervisor will let the boilermaker know and they’ll gather any equipment that they need to get the job done.

COMPLETING THE DAY’S TASKS

Boilermakers may be responsible for completing a wide variety of tasks on an average day. These are some of the most common:

  • Read and interpret technical blueprints
  • Organize and arrange boiler parts before assembly
  • Use a variety of tools to put together new boilers and install them
  • Install premade boilers into various locations
  • Use various tools and materials to clean boilers and vats
  • Repair worn-out and broken boiler parts
  • Weld various metal together

There are some tasks that a boilermaker will complete less often than others. For example, these are some of the weekly and monthly tasks that someone in this job will be responsible for:

  • Shape or fabricate new boiler parts
  • Use rigging and cranes to move heavy parts into place
  • Examine boiler parts to identify leaks, weak spots, and defective sections

CLOCKING OUT AND GOING HOME

Boilermakers usually finish their shifts around 5:00 or 6:00 PM. But they may sometimes need to work longer than that if something unexpected happens during their shift. When a boilermaker has to stay late, they’re compensated with overtime pay.

When finishing for the day, a boilermaker will need to communicate any relevant information to either a supervisor or their replacement. Then the employee will take off their protective gear, complete any documentation that they need to update, and take themselves off of the clock for the day.

Can you train to be a boilermaker on the job?

You don’t need any advanced degrees to become a boilermaker. But you do need to go through some training to develop the skills that you’ll need to do well as a boilermaker. For most people, this means completing an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship programs typically take about 4 years to complete. They teach aspiring boilermakers how to use various tools and equipment on the job. Apprentices also get the chance to learn about various metals, installation techniques, safety practices, and how to read blueprints.

There are a limited number of apprenticeships available for boilermakers. Candidates who already have some welding experience are more likely to be accepted into these programs. Apprenticeships are often sponsored by unions, contractor associations, and even technical schools.

Apprenticeships take about as long to complete as a college degree, which can turn some people away from them. But you should keep in mind that you’ll get paid while completing the apprenticeship, just at a lower rate than what you would earn as a journeyman boilermaker.

Is becoming a boilermaker right for you?

Becoming a boilermaker is a great way to set yourself up with a lifelong career. However, the job won’t be a good fit for everyone. You should consider how you feel about the following factors before committing yourself to become a boilermaker.

SALARY EXPECTATIONS

It’s always important to consider your potential salary before pursuing a new line of work. Boilermakers do quite well for themselves, earning an average of $65,360 per year. However, that number can go up or down based on several different factors.

For example, the lowest 10% of boilermakers earn less than $39,620 per year, while the highest 10% earn more than $99,920. Factors that separate the top from the bottom include specialization, location, and experience.

WORKING CONDITIONS

A boilermaker’s job can be dangerous so you must know what you’re getting yourself into before committing. You should expect to spend a lot of time working in cramped and enclosed spaces. You will also need to be okay with working at great heights and around a lot of noise.

It’s also worth mentioning that boilermakers sometimes have to travel quite a bit. They work on job sites so they need to be able to travel from site to site depending on where work is available at the moment. This could lead to you spending a lot of time away from home. But the exact amount that you will travel as a boilermaker will depend on the sub-industry that hires you.

You do have some flexibility here to find working conditions that align with your needs. But you should be aware of what’s standard in the industry and plan for that just to be on the safe side.

YOUR SKILLSET

Boilermakers rely on their skill set to help them carry out their tasks with efficiency. Some of the most important skills for a boilermaker to have include:

  • Mechanical skills
  • Comfortability in tight and high spaces
  • Physical stamina
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading comprehension

If you have these skills already, then it will likely be easier for you to become a good boilermaker. If you don’t have the skills yet, that’s okay too. You may just need to spend some extra time training and working on your development before you can get hired as a boilermaker.

YOUR WILLINGNESS TO TRAIN

You won’t be able to develop the skills that you need to excel as a boilermaker overnight. Instead, you’re going to have to be willing to invest at least a few years in getting the training that you need to be an asset for an employer.

This usually involves completing a four-year boilermaker apprenticeship. Is that something that you’re willing to commit to completing? If you’d rather not spend that amount of time on training, then this job path may not be the best option for you.

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