Sheet Metal Training Programs and Requirements
Sheet metal workers spend several years acquiring sheet metal design, fabrication, installation and maintenance expertise. These professionals often train informally on the job; however, many may also choose to complete formal degree and apprenticeship programs in sheet metal technology.
Sheet metal fabricators may train informally on the job and under the supervision of an experienced sheet metal technician, or they may complete formal degree and apprenticeship programs offered by trade, vocational or community colleges.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most formal training programs for sheet metal workers last 4-5 years (www.bls.gov). These apprenticeship programs blend classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Upon completion, some training programs confer certificates, while others grant associate's degrees in sheet metal technology.
- Program Levels in Sheet Metal Training: Certificate programs, associate's degrees
- Program Length: 4-5 years for all programs
- Other Requirements: Apprenticeships or supervised on the job training may be required for some programs
Individuals in a certificate program in sheet metal technology often attend school part-time while working in the industry. Certificate programs may be found at local trade schools or community colleges. Certificate programs last 4-5 years and offer courses in:
- Sheet metal design and fabrication
- Traditional and computer-aided drawing
- Sheet metal fitting techniques
- Drafting and blueprint principles
- Sheet metal welding applications
- Duct system design
Associate's Degree Programs and Apprenticeships
Associate's degree programs often integrate classroom instruction with paid, on-the-job apprenticeships. Similar to sheet metal certificate programs, associate's degree programs and apprenticeships also take 4-5 years to complete, culminating with associate's degrees at graduation.
Graduates of sheet metal associate's degree programs may seek more advanced fabrication positions or management-level employment. Many of these programs adhere to local sheet metal regulations and guidelines set forth by the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association or the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors' National Association. These combined programs include coursework in:
- Sheet metal applications
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, structural metal fabricators make a mean annual wage of $38,160 as of May 2014. The employment for sheet metal workers, from 2012-2022, is expected to grow 15%, which is faster than average.
Licenses and Certifications
Sheet metal workers are not bound by state certification or licensure mandates. However, many choose voluntary certification in a particular sheet metal specialty, such as HVAC, industrial welding or architectural sheet metal installation. These certifications are offered through professional organizations, such as the International Training Institute for Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Industry. Sheet metal workers may also take additional certificate courses in welding, laser-cutting machines or building information modeling.
Sheet metal workers may be required to complete additional safety coursework in sheet metal technology, welding and hazardous materials. Professional associations, such as the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust, offer traditional and electronic courses to help sheet metal workers advance their knowledge and skills. Workers may also view industry-related podcasts on topics such as preventing lifting injuries, controlling bleeding for sheet metal cuts, protection measures for eyes and faces and preventing welding fires.
Individuals seeking bachelor's degree programs for sheet metal workers often complete mechanical engineering degree programs. These programs offer courses in heat and mass transfer, manufacturing processes, materials science and mechanical design. Graduates may find engineering positions within the automotive industry, where engineers design and fabricate industrial sheet metal for use in new cars, trucks and recreational vehicles.