Ironworkers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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Top 3 Ironworker Jobs

  • Level 4 Network Installation Technician - RETECH - Rancho Cordova, CA

    Utilizes hand tools, test equipment and turn up, perform hardware adds and/or upgrades. • Experience in

  • Installation Manager - First Impression IronWorks - Phoenix, AZ

    Ensure all customer issues and concerns are addressed – corrected and prevented. · Measures performance, drives continuous

  • Structural Steel Estimator - Stone City Ironworks - Bedford, IN

    Ability to work under pressure · Able to multitask and handle multiple projects · Maintain a high standard of quality and confidentiality

See all Ironworker jobs

What Ironworkers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.

Duties of Ironworkers

Ironworkers typically do the following:

  • Read and follow blueprints, sketches, and other instructions
  • Unload and stack prefabricated iron and steel so that it can be lifted with slings
  • Signal crane operators who lift and position structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Use shears, rod-bending machines, and welding equipment to cut, bend, and weld the structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Align structural and reinforcing iron and steel vertically and horizontally, using tag lines, plumb bobs, lasers, and levels
  • Connect iron and steel with bolts, wire, or welds

Structural and reinforcing iron and steel are important components of buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors. Most of the work involves erecting new structures, but some ironworkers may also help in the demolition, decommissioning, and rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges.

When building tall structures such as skyscrapers, structural iron and steel workers erect steel frames and assemble the cranes and derricks that move materials and equipment around the construction site. Workers connect precut steel columns, beams, and girders, using tools like shears, torches, welding equipment, and hand tools. A few ironworkers install precast walls or work with wood or composite materials.

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers use one of three different materials to support concrete:

  • Reinforcing steel (rebar) is used to strengthen the concrete that forms highways, buildings, bridges, and other structures. These workers are sometimes called rod busters, in reference to rods of rebar.
  • Cables are used to reinforce concrete by pre- or post-tensioning. These techniques allow designers to create larger open areas in a building because supports can be placed farther apart. As a result, pre- and post-tensioning are commonly used to construct arenas, concrete bridges, and parking garages.
  • Welded wire reinforcing (WWR) is also used to strengthen concrete. This reinforcing is made up of narrow-diameter rods or wire welded into a grid.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters manufacture metal products in shops, usually located away from construction sites.

Work Environment for Ironworkers[About this section] [To Top]

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers hold about 20,100 jobs. The largest employers of reinforcing iron and rebar workers are as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 64%
Nonresidential building construction 15
Heavy and civil engineering construction 6
Manufacturing 6
Other specialty trade contractors 3

Structural iron and steel workers hold about 70,200 jobs. The largest employers of structural iron and steel workers are as follows:

Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 49%
Nonresidential building construction 20
Heavy and civil engineering construction 7
Manufacturing 6
Building equipment contractors 5

Structural ironworkers usually work outside in most types of weather, and some work at great heights. In doing so, they perform physically demanding and dangerous work. Workers must wear safety devices, such as harnesses, to reduce the risk of falls. Reinforcing ironworkers must be able to carry, bend, cut, and connect rebar at a steady pace to keep projects on schedule. The work is physically demanding, and they spend much of their time moving, bending, and stooping.

Injuries and Illnesses for Ironworkers

The work of ironworkers can be dangerous, and falls from great heights can be fatal. Ironworkers wear personal protective equipment like hard hats, boots, gloves, and safety glasses to prevent injury. Common injuries include falls, cuts, sprains, and overexertion.

Ironworker Work Schedules

The majority of ironworkers work full time. They may have to travel regionally to job sites.

Structural ironworkers who work at great heights do not work during wet, icy, or extremely windy conditions. Reinforcing ironworkers may be limited by any kind of precipitation.

How to Become an Ironworker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Ironworkers near you!

Although most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job.

Education for Ironworkers

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. Courses in math, as well as training in vocational subjects such as blueprint reading and welding, can be particularly useful.

Ironworker Training

Most ironworkers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Nearly all apprenticeship programs teach both reinforcing and structural ironworking. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and lay rebar; and construct metal frameworks. In technical training, they are taught mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Physical ability to perform the work
  • Pass substance abuse screeningAfter completing an apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journeymen who perform tasks without direct supervision.

Some employers provide on-the-job training which can vary in length. Training includes learning how to use the tools of the trade and learning proper safety techniques.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Ironworkers

Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker's usefulness on the jobsite. Several organizations provide certifications for different aspects of ironworkers' jobs. For example, the American Welding Society offers welding certification, and several organizations offer rigging certifications, including the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Important Qualities for Ironworkers

Balance. Ironworkers often walk on narrow beams, so a good sense of balance is important to keep them from falling while doing their job.

Depth perception. Ironworkers must be able to judge the distance between objects and themselves in order to work safely. Ironworkers often signal crane operators who move beams and bundles of rebar.

Hand-eye coordination. Ironworkers must be able to tie rebar together quickly and precisely. An experienced worker can tie rebar together in seconds and move on to the next spot; a beginner may take much longer.

Physical stamina. Ironworkers must have physical endurance because they spend many hours each day performing physically demanding tasks, such as moving rebar.

Physical strength. Ironworkers must be strong enough to guide heavy beams into place and tighten bolts.

Unafraid of heights. Ironworkers must not be afraid to work at great heights. For example, as they erect skyscrapers, workers must walk on narrow beams—sometimes over 50 stories high—while connecting girders.

Ironworker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for reinforcing iron and rebar workers is $47,600. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,980.

The median annual wage for structural iron and steel workers is $51,800. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,830.

The median annual wages for reinforcing iron and rebar workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $57,990
Nonresidential building construction 53,870
Other specialty trade contractors 53,490
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 46,190
Manufacturing 37,660

The median annual wages for structural iron and steel workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $55,400
Building equipment contractors 54,950
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 52,150
Nonresidential building construction 49,870
Manufacturing 45,440

The starting pay for apprentices is usually about 50 percent of what journeymen ironworkers make. They receive pay increases as they learn to do more.

The majority of ironworkers work full time. Structural ironworkers who work at great heights do not work during wet, icy, or extremely windy conditions. Reinforcing ironworkers may be limited by any kind of precipitation.

Union Membership for Ironworkers

Compared with workers in all occupations, ironworkers have a higher percentage of workers who belong to a union. Although there is no single union that covers all ironworkers, the largest organizer of these workers is the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers.

Job Outlook for Ironworkers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 13 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Steel and reinforced concrete are an important part of commercial and industrial buildings. Future construction of these structures is expected to require ironworkers. The need to rehabilitate, maintain, or replace an increasing number of older highways and bridges is also expected to lead to some employment growth.

Job Prospects for Ironworkers

Employment opportunities for job seekers are expected to be good. Those who are certified in welding, rigging, and crane signaling should have the best job opportunities.

As with many other construction workers, employment of ironworkers is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

Employment projections data for Ironworkers, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Ironworkers 90,300 101,700 13 11,400
  Reinforcing iron and rebar workers 20,100 22,500 12 2,400
  Structural iron and steel workers 70,200 79,200 13 9,000


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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