Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.
Work Environment: Ironworkers perform physically demanding and dangerous work, often working at great heights. Workers must wear safety harnesses to reduce the risk of falling.
How to Become One: Although most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job.
Salary: The median annual wage for reinforcing iron and rebar workers is $49,390. The median annual wage for structural iron and steel workers is $54,830.
Job Outlook: Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of ironworkers with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as an ironworker with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Top 3 Ironworker Jobs
- Lead Staffing - National LA
- Stockton, CA
We are hiring experienced structural welder/ ironworker for a structural steel contractor that works on commercial and industrial projects throughout Central and Northern California. Job Requirements
Rebar Field Ironworker Dispatcher, Coordinate, Supervise
- Mission City Rebar, Inc.
- Livermore, CA
We are looking for an energetic motivated sharp Ironworker Superintendent to run our field operations from the main office. Experience in Rebar construction and blueprint reading is a must This job ...
Rebar - Journeyman Ironworker
- Shelby Erectors
- North Palm Beach, FL
We're building a team of the best ironworkers in the industry, and we need experienced rodbusters to join our team. If you appreciate a hard day's work for a good day's pay and you're excited to make ...
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 22,100 jobs. The largest employers of reinforcing iron and rebar workers are as follows:
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||61%|
|Nonresidential building construction||6%|
|Other specialty trade contractors||5%|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||4%|
Structural iron and steel workers hold about 71,000 jobs. The largest employers of structural iron and steel workers are as follows:
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||46%|
|Nonresidential building construction||23%|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||7%|
|Building equipment contractors||7%|
Ironworkers usually work outside in many types of weather. Some work at great heights. Their tasks are physically demanding, as they spend much of their time moving and stooping to carry, bend, cut, and connect iron or steel at a steady pace so projects stay on schedule.
Injuries and Illnesses for Ironworkers
The work of ironworkers can be dangerous. Common injuries include cuts, sprains, overexertion, and falls; from great heights, falls can be deadly. To reduce these risks, ironworkers must wear safety equipment such as harnesses, hard hats, boots, gloves, and safety glasses.
Ironworker Work Schedules
Most ironworkers work full time. They may have to travel to jobsites.
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.
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 $49,390. 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 $32,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $88,380.
The median annual wage for structural iron and steel workers is $54,830. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,140.
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||$56,830|
|Nonresidential building construction||$52,340|
|Other specialty trade contractors||$51,020|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||$48,860|
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||$62,830|
|Building equipment contractors||$61,700|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||$56,650|
|Nonresidential building construction||$51,860|
The starting pay for apprentices is usually about 50 percent of what journey-level ironworkers make. They receive pay increases as they learn to do more.
Most ironworkers work full time. Structural ironworkers who work at great heights do not work when conditions are wet, icy, or extremely windy. Reinforcing ironworkers may be limited by precipitation.
Job Outlook for Ironworkers[About this section] [To Top]
Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 10,100 openings for ironworkers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Ironworkers
Steel and reinforced concrete are important parts of commercial and industrial buildings. Future construction of these structures is expected to require ironworkers.
Much of the projected employment growth for structural iron and steel workers is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020. The need to rehabilitate, maintain, or replace an increasing number of older highways and bridges also is expected to lead to some employment growth.
Special tying and placing equipment should reduce demand for reinforcing iron and rebar workers in the road building industry.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Reinforcing iron and rebar workers||22,100||23,200||5||1,200|
|Structural iron and steel workers||71,000||75,300||6||4,200|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.