Ironworkers help build modern skyscrapers, bridges and other structures by handling materials made from iron and steel. They can maintain, reinforce and repair older structures. Salaries depend on their type. Structural ironworkers create the frames on which modern construction hangs, while reinforcing ironworkers set rebar in concrete forms to strengthen construction.
Though some ironworkers learn their skills on the job, most employers recommend a three- to four-year apprenticeship that combines a classroom education with practical experience. Study includes math, basics of structures, rigging, reinforcing and blueprint reading. Construction learning includes the use of tools and materials, unloading and storing materials at the project site, connecting structural steel and welding. Apprentices typically earn 60 percent of the wages for journeymen, though they can differ depending on the local union’s bargaining ability. Upon completing apprenticeships, ironworkers become journeymen, entitled to full pay.
Structural ironworkers place and join girders, columns and other metal members to form the framework for construction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2010, journeymen earned a mean $23.42 per hour or $48,710 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned a mean $12.66 per hour or $26,330 per year, while the top 10 percent averaged $38.48 per hour or $80,030 per year. The largest employers were foundation, structure and building exterior contractors, which hired almost 45 percent of all workers and paid a mean $24.10 per hour or $50,120 per year. The highest salaries were with local government such as cities, towns and countries. Wages here reached a mean $35.50 per hour or $73,840 per year.
Reinforcing steel workers place steel bars and mesh inside concrete to reinforce such constructs as walls and foundations. They made a mean $21.48 per hour or $44,690 per year, with lows at $11.67 per hour or $24,280 per year, and highs of $35.68 per hour or $74,210 per year. Their biggest employers were foundation, structure and building exterior contractors with over 63 percent of the positions. Pay here ran a mean $21.85 per hour or $45,450 per year. The highest-paying employers were heavy and civil engineering construction, with average at $28.28 per hour or $58,820 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for ironworkers will grow at 12 percent from 2008 to 2018. This is about average for all jobs in all industries. Aging buildings, power plants, bridges and other civil infrastructure will increasingly require the skills of ironworkers for rehabilitation and repair. State and local governments will also need employees to build the freeways and bridges demanded by a growing population. Opportunities vary by area. Increasing populations in the South and West will create the best opportunities.
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