As a boilermaker, you will be making boilers, tanks and vats that can hold various types of liquids and gases. Boilers are used in various facilities to heat fluids like water at very high pressures in order to generate electricity and produce heat. Huge tanks and vats, on the other hand, are used in the processing and storage of various chemicals and liquid products, including oil and beer.
You will be using various tools to put together boiler tanks following blueprints as a guide. Nowadays, assembling of tanks has been made easier because of robotics and automatic welders. You will still be cutting the pieces using hand and power tools and torches. Moreover, you will be using levels, wedges, turnbuckles and plumb bobs to bend and get them in line in precise fashion.
Once the parts are already queued together, metalworking machinery and other tools are used to smooth out the rough edges in order for the parts to fit each other perfectly. In some cases, the sections of a boiler become too large for boilermakers to lift manually. Thus, cranes have to be used to line them up before the parts are bolted or welded together.
Installation of boilers in buildings and factories is also part of the job. You are also tasked with maintaining and fixing them in case there are leaks and other issues. Boilermakers have to constantly check and upgrade the parts of a boiler because they can last for half a century. To ensure that they will continue to work, boilermakers have to check the feed pumps, fittings, safety and check valves, controls and water and pressure gauges of these boilers.
Aside from making, installing and maintaining boilers, your work also involves building and fixing air pollution equipment, water treatment facilities, blast furnaces, storage and process tanks and smokestacks. In some cases, you may be asked to set up and maintain dam pipes that channel water to and from hydroelectric power generation turbines. You may also fit fireboxes with heat-resistant materials like refractory brick. The work of boilermakers also encompasses the cleaning of vats using cleaning solvents and scrapers.
Work as a boilermaker is physically demanding. It requires physical strength and stamina because they have to carry heavy plates and other components of vats and boilers to the designated assembly area. You also need to be able to stand on your feet for long periods as installation and maintenance can take a lot of time. Moreover, you should not be claustrophobic nor should you be afraid of heights as the work can involve being in confined spaces or be located several stories above ground level.
Why Become A Boilermaker
A career as a boilermaker is not for everyone as it is physically taxing and can even be dangerous. But for those who love to work with their hands assembling the parts of tanks and vats and installing them, the job can be very fulfilling. It also provides the opportunity for those who want to start training on the job to do so immediately right after high school. Another reason to become a boilermaker is that it also provides decent pay.
Boilermaker Work Environment
Boilermakers work in various industries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26 percent of boilermakers worked with building equipment contractors, 17 percent were employed with nonresidential building construction, 12 percent were with utility building construction and 11 percent were working with boiler, tank and shipping container manufacturing. This was according to a 2012 report of the agency.
Their work is often demanding and dangerous as boilermakers may be assigned to install boilers above ground or even work inside boilers and vats which are dark and poorly-ventilated. Burns, cuts, muscle strains and falls are common. However, the incidence of injuries can be reduced by wearing protective clothing. When inside enclosed spaces, they also need to have a respirator.
Boilermakers work fulltime but overtime is often necessary if they have to do maintenance work. Extended work hours are also required if they are striving to meet deadlines—something common in the spring and fall. Travel is often required to worksites and as a result, many boilermakers may have to be away from home for long periods of time.
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau lf Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wages of boilermakers is $57,920. Apprentices are paid lower than experienced workers, typically receiving 60 percent of what fully trained boilermakers get. Their pay increases as they learn more tasks. They receive higher pay than construction trades workers who are paid $44,510, the date revealed.
Boilermaker Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasted that in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, the employment of boilermakers will grow four percent. This rate is slower than the average for all job types. According to the agency, the demand for boilermakers will depend on the cost of coal when compared to that of natural gas. Boilermakers will be needed to install and maintain power plants that run on coal. However, the demand for boilermakers will decline if the prices of natural gas will stay low. If the prices of coal are lower, however, more boilermakers will be needed as they will be tasked with the upgrading of the boiler and scrubbing systems of these plants in order to meet the standards of the federal Clean Air Act. Those who hold certificates as lenders will have the highest chances of getting accepted to boilermaker apprenticeship programs.
Boilermakers typically gain entry to the profession through an apprenticeship program that lasts for four to five years. Apprentices need to have a minimum of 144 hours of related technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-training. Those with training and experience in welding finish training earlier than those who haven’t done so. After completing apprenticeship, boilermakers become journey workers. As such, they can do tasks for as long as they are supervised by experienced workers.