Formal degree and apprenticeship programs in sheet metal fabrication are 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.
Individuals in a certificate program in sheet metal technology often attend school part-time while working in the industry. Certificate programs 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.
Graduates 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, sheet metal workers make a mean annual wage of $49,810 as of May 2015. The employment of these workers, from 2014-2024, is expected to grow 7%, which is as fast as 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.
Degree and apprenticeship programs in sheet metal fabrication take 4-5 years to complete and prepare students to work with sheet metal professionally. Graduates can complete additional training in job safety, which might be required by some employers, or pursue voluntary certifications in more advanced specialties to advance their careers.