Boilermakers and Mechanics


Employment Prospects


Approximately 14,500 boilermakers work in the United States. Of that number, 18 percent work in utility system construction and 16 percent work in nonresidential building construction. Others work in manufacturing; they are employed primarily in boiler manufacturing shops, iron and steel plants, petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and shipyards. Still others work for boiler repair firms, for railroads, and in navy shipyards and federal power facilities.

Starting Out

There are a limited number of apprenticeships available in boilermaking; only the best applicants are accepted, and there may be a waiting period before the apprenticeship starts. Sometimes workers begin as helpers in repair shops and enter formal apprenticeships later. These helper jobs are often advertised on employment Web sites and in newspapers. Vocational and technical schools and sometimes high schools with metal shop courses may also help their graduates locate such positions. Other good approaches are to apply directly to employers and to contact the local office of the state employment service.

Advancement Prospects

Upon completing their training programs, apprentices qualify as journeymen boilermakers. With experience and the right kind of leadership abilities, boilermakers may be able to advance to supervisory positions. In fabrication shops, layout workers and fitters who start as helpers can learn the skills they need in about two years. In time, they may move up to become shop supervisors, or they may decide to become boilermakers who work on-site to assemble vessels.

Tips for Entry

Become certified by the American Welding Society in order to increase your chances of being selected for an apprenticeship.

Join unions to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.

Land an entry-level job as a boilermaker helper to learn about the field and make valuable industry contacts.

Talk to boilermakers and mechanics about their jobs. Ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.