Sheet metal workers install, assemble and repair products made from thin metal sheets, such as drain pipes or ducts used for ventilating, heating and air-conditioning. They work in many different specialty areas such as welding, metal roofing and siding, rain protection systems and kitchen equipment.
A sheet metal worker career includes choosing and measuring specific metal or nonmetal materials, drilling holes, anchoring parts and installing metal sheets with supportive frameworks and securing joints and other parts through using techniques such as welding or riveting.
Education and Certifications
People interested in a sheet metal career typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and either formal or informal apprenticeships through technical colleges, businesses or unions. Sheet metal workers who work in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship. Those who work in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school.
Apprenticeships can take up to 5 years to complete, and for each year in training, workers must earn a minimum of 246 hours of technical training and at least 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid, on-site instruction.
Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra, geometry, and general vocational education courses including blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding.
Many technical schools have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic welding and sheet metal fabrication knowledge that many workers need to perform their job.
Some manufacturers have partnerships with local technical schools to develop training programs specific to their factories.
Education includes learning how to use machines, tools and equipment, reading blueprints, following safety requirements, as well as learning math and construction basics.
Although most construction workers enter apprenticeships directly after finishing high school, some start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship programs are offered by unions and businesses. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are being 18 years old and having a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some apprenticeship programs give veterans preference.
After completing an apprenticeship program, sheet metal workers are considered to be journey workers who are qualified to perform tasks on their own. Programs such as the Sheet Metal Institute provide certifications. For example, some sheet metal workers can become certified in welding from the American Welding Society.
In addition, the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry Offers certification in building information modeling (BIM), welding, testing and balancing, and other related activities. The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International, offers a certification in precision sheet metal work.
Essential Career Information
- $47,990 - Median pay, 2017
- $27,330 - Wage of lowest 10 percent, 2017
- $87,120 - Wage of the highest 10 percent, 2017
- 138,900 - Number of jobs, 2016
- 9% - Employment growth forecast, 2016
- Entry-level education requirements - High school diploma or equivalent
- Computer Skills. Sheet metal workers use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) programs and building information modeling (BIM) systems as they design products and cut sheet metal.
- Math Skills. Sheet metal workers must calculate the proper sizes and angles of fabricated sheet metal, as it is important to ensure the alignment and fit of ductwork.
- Mechanical Skills. Sheet metal workers use saws, lasers, shears, and presses to do their job. As a result, they should have good mechanical skills in order to operate and maintain equipment.
- Dexterity. Sheet metal workers need good hand–eye coordination and motor control to make precise cuts and bends in metal pieces.
- Physical Stamina. Sheet metal workers in factories may spend many hours standing at their workstation.
- Physical Strength. Sheet metal workers must be able to lift and move ductwork that is often heavy and cumbersome. Some jobs require workers to be able to lift 50 pounds.