Iron Worker: Job Outlook & Career Information

Learn what an iron worker does and what kind of education and training are required for employment. Keep reading to see the career prospects for iron workers and decide if this job is right for you.

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Career Definition for an Iron Worker

Iron workers may work in new, reinforcement, or restorative-type construction programs. They spend their days working on new buildings, fixing bridges, or repairing and restoring structures that are undergoing renovation. Iron workers' workplaces are generally outdoors, and they could work in all kinds of weather and at extreme heights.

Education Apprenticeship
Job Skills Depth perception, hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, physical strength
Median Salary (2015)* $50,490 (for structural iron and steel workers)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% (for iron workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required to begin an apprenticeship program with the Iron Workers' Union through a local branch. No formal college degree is required. An iron worker's apprenticeship can take several years to complete and combines real-world experience with classroom learning. Iron workers study math and how to read blueprints, as well as proper safety procedures. Iron workers may also learn rigging and welding, ornamental iron working, and structural iron working in addition to other specialties.

Skills Required

It is essential that iron workers do not have a fear of heights, due to their often challenging working conditions. Iron workers also need to be in good physical condition, be able to do a lot of heavy lifting and have strong stamina. Iron workers also face a high risk from falls and other injuries, so a good knowledge of safety procedures is also important.

Career and Economic Outlook

Iron workers can expect job openings to increase at an above-average rate - 9% from 2014-2024 - with greater opportunities in cities and towns that are expected to grow and thusly require more infrastructure and building work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS published the median annual salary for structural iron workers as $50,490 in May 2015.

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Alternate Career Options

Those with experience in structural iron work may consider similar occupations in welding and construction.

Welder

A welder uses specialized tools to heat pieces of metal to very high temperatures for the purpose of joining them permanently and according to project blueprints. Welding is commonly used in the fields of construction and manufacturing. Welders may complete a combination of technical and on-the-job training. Professional certification is available, and sometimes employers require it. The BLS predicts that jobs for welders will increase 4% from 2014-2024. The agency also reports that welders earned median pay of $38,150 in 2015.

Construction Laborer and Helper

A construction laborer and helper often works outdoors or at heights, assisting construction workers within a specific area of construction, such as carpentry, masonry, roofing, and plumbing, among others. There's no minimum education requirement for construction laborers and helpers; completion of trade or vocational school programs, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training are common. Federal licensing is required for construction laborers who may handle hazardous materials. Depending on the job, some laborers may need to have professional certification, too, such as in lead abatement or welding.

Jobs for construction laborers and helpers are predicted to grow 13% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. Those who specialize may see more or less growth - for example, those who assist brickmasons could see 22% job growth, and those who assist roofers could see 15% growth. Pay can also vary by specialty. The BLS reports that brickmasons' helpers earned median pay of $29,320 in 2015, while roofers' helpers earned median pay of $27,110 that same year.

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