Metal Furnace Operator: Job Duties & Career Info

Metal furnace operators work in steel mills and metal refining plants, monitoring and controlling furnaces that produce steel. Keep reading to learn about the requirements and benefits of this occupation.

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Career Definition for a Metal Furnace Operator

Metal furnace operators monitor the process of making steel before it is cast into forms. They direct the activities of the furnace operation by interpreting information from a computer program, measuring the temperature, loading vessels, and adding iron, oxygen, and other additives to be melted into steel.

Education High school diploma and on the job training required, associate degrees available
Job Skills Communication, good health, physical strength, teamwork
Median Salary (2017)* $41,300 (metal-refining furnace operators and tenders)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* -8% (metal-refining furnace operators and tenders)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

A high school diploma and on-the-job training will suffice for some employers, but according to O*Net Online, about 13% of workers hold an associate's degree. Employers will look favorably on candidates who have had training in math and in reading blueprints, and who possess basic computer skills. Typically metal furnace operators will start out as 'tenders', delivering scraps of steel to the furnace and removing finished products from the production line. Some employers will send promising employees for additional training to develop skills in furnace machine operations; they may eventually have the expertise to instruct and assist new operators.

Required Skills

Metal furnace operators spend most of their time working alongside others at the mill to monitor the conditions of the furnace and oversee multiple operations; because they instruct a variety of workers at the plant, they require great interpersonal and communication skills. They spend most of their time in a sweltering room picking up heavy and rough metal scraps, so they require general good health and physical strength and dexterity.

Career and Economic Outlook

The median annual wage for metal-refining furnace operators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was $41,300 in May 2017. During this time, many metal furnace operators were employed in iron and steel mills, ferroalloy manufacturing and foundries. The BLS predicted that employment of metal furnace operators will decline by 8% between 2016 and 2026, likely a result of foreign outsourcing and technological advances.

Alternate Career Options

Check out these other options for machine operation careers:

Welder, Cutter, Solderer and Brazer

Some individuals receive training for this occupation in high school, while others learn their skills in technical schools or on the job. These professionals use hand-held equipment to join metal parts. Average employment growth of 6% was predicted by the BLS for these workers from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported an annual median wage of $40,240 for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers.

Sheet Metal Worker

The skills for installing and fabricating products like air conditioning ducts are normally learned through apprenticeships or technical school programs. Sheet metal workers earned an annual median salary of $47,990 in 2017, and the BLS projected average job growth of 9% from 2016-2026.

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