Boilermaker Vs. Ironworker

Sep 27, 2019

Both boilermakers and ironworkers assemble large equipment in hazardous conditions. However, boilermakers specialize in constructing boilers while ironworkers install support structures for buildings. This article looks at the different job responsibilities of these professions.

Comparing Boilermakers to Ironworkers

Boilermakers and ironworkers work with their hands to assemble heavy equipment. Both of these jobs are physically demanding and often place workers in dangerous environments. The work differs, however, in the type of structures boilermakers and ironworkers build, inspect, and maintain. This article examines the different responsibilities boilermakers and ironworkers have in construction.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Boilermaker High school diploma (or equivalent) $62,150 6%
Ironworker High school diploma (or equivalent) $52,770 11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Boilermakers vs Ironworkers

Boilermakers and ironworkers tend to possess great physical strength and stamina, as well as a willingness to work in hazardous conditions, to assemble the equipment their employers require. Both must also be proficient in mathematics, blueprint reading, and the construction of items to exact specifications using specialized tools. However, boilermakers tend to focus on assembling boilers and large containers for factories, ships, and dams. Ironworkers, by contrast, usually help build the steel frameworks of buildings, such as skyscrapers and high rises.


Boilermakers help construct boilers that heat fluids to produce the pressure needed to generate electric power and heat. Their job also requires them to regularly inspect and maintain existing boilers by repairing or replacing key components. To fulfill their responsibilities, boilermakers must know how to safely use welding, riveting, and bolting equipment, skills they usually learn in a 4-year apprenticeship program. Boilermakers often work full time and may frequently travel to distant sites such as factories, ships, and water treatment plants. Work conditions can be hazardous, and boilermakers are expected to work in small, cramped spaces as well as at dangerous heights.

Job responsibilities of a boilermaker include:

  • Assembling, inspecting, and cleaning large tanks and vats that process and store oil, beer, chemicals, and other liquids
  • Using flame-cutting torches, plumb bobs, levels, wedges, and turnbuckles to align pieces accurately
  • Building air pollution abatement equipment, blast furnaces, and smokestacks
  • Maintaining large pipes at dams that direct water for hydroelectric power generation turbines


Ironworkers help assemble commercial and industrial buildings and aid in the rehabilitation of highways and bridges. Their job requires them to install steel supports for buildings, bridges, and roads. Ironworkers can work on tall buildings, typically requiring them to not only be comfortable with heights but also have good balance and depth perception. Ironworkers learn their trade usually through 3- or 4-year apprenticeship programs. For every year in the program, apprentices must spend at least 144 hours studying mathematics, blueprint reading, safety practices, and construction techniques. Apprentices must also devote 2,000 hours to paid on-the-job training each year, where they learn how to use ironworking tools to handle, measure, cut, and construct metal frameworks.

Job responsibilities of an ironworker include:

  • Unloading and arranging iron and steel structures
  • Using tools such as rod-bending machines, shears, and welding equipment
  • Assisting in the demolition of old buildings and bridges
  • Traveling to different job sites in the region

Related Careers

If boilermaker work interests you, you may want to look into a career as a welder, which requires you to assemble components made of steel, brass, and other metals. Those interested in ironworker jobs might consider carpenter work, which also involves constructing, repairing, and installing building frameworks.

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