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Custom Fabricator: Employment & Career Info

Mar 13, 2019

Custom fabricators work with metal to create parts for industrial and custom applications. See what kind of education and training is required to enter this field and where custom fabricators work. Get career and salary information and explore alternative careers.

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Career Definition for a Custom Fabricator

From providing steel girders for bridges and buildings to the metal parts necessary for aircraft assembly, a custom fabricator designs, cuts, and forms metal parts for use in industries like construction, manufacturing, and more. Drilling, welding, punching, and shearing are also part of the job. A custom fabricator can work from blueprints to create original metal designs required by his/her customers. A custom fabricator generally works in a shop and may be employed by machine shops and welding contractors as well as custom fabrication companies.

Education Certificate or bachelor's degree in welding and fabrication engineering or related field
Job Skills Coordination, mechanical and math abilities, blueprint analysis, physical fitness
Median Annual Salary (2017)* $38,450 (structural metal fabricators and fitters)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* -15% (structural metal fabricators and fitters)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Many technical colleges and institutes offer programs in welding and fabrication technology or fabrication engineering technology. One might become certified or pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in welding and fabrication engineering technology or in a related field. Steel fabrication, metal identification, metal surfacing, engineering basics, and blueprint reading are examples of courses one might need to complete. An apprenticeship with a professional custom fabricator may also be included in a fabrication technology degree or certificate program.

Skills Required

A custom fabricator needs to have excellent mechanical, coordination, and math skills. Computer skills are also important. The ability to analyze blueprints and conceptualize the completed project is essential. A custom fabricator should be in good physical condition, as the job requires a lot of standing, lifting, and bending.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of job growth for structural metal fabricators and fitters is expected to decrease 15% between 2016 and 2026 among all occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) estimated the median annual salary of structural metal fabricators and fitters to be $38,450 in May 2017. The states of Texas, California, and Wisconsin have the highest employment rates for professionals in this field, per the BLS.

Alternative Career Options

Below are some jobs similar to a custom fabricator:

Industrial Machinery Mechanic

Industrial machinery mechanics learn how factory and manufacturing machines and related systems work so that they can make repairs or replace parts as needed. They commonly use technical knowledge, computer diagnostic tools, computer programming skills and knowledge of electronics; welding may also be a required skill. A high school diploma or the equivalent plus relevant experience or completion of some post-secondary education in the field is often required for employment; on-the-job training is common for new hires.

The BLS reports that industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers and millwrights can expect jobs to increase 7% from 2016-2026. The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for industrial machinery mechanics was $51,360 in 2017.

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers typically work in factories where they make metal and plastic parts and pieces using specialized machinery that they configure, load, and adjust as needed to ensure the finished product meets project standards. Metal and plastic machine workers usually have at least a high school diploma; employment of new workers also requires on-the-job training.

Metal and plastic machine workers can anticipate an employment decline of -9% from 2016-2026, per the BLS. The agency reports that computer-controlled machine tool operators who worked on metal and plastic earned a median annual salary of $39,230 in 2017; metal and plastic extruding and drawing machine setters, tenders, and operators earned a median annual salary of $34,600 in the same year, and metal and plastic cutting, punching, and press machine setters, tenders, and operators earned a median annual salary of $33,060 in 2017 as well.

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