Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.
What they do
Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.
Sheet metal workers typically do the following:
- Select types of sheet metal according to building or design plans
- Measure and mark dimensions and reference lines on metal sheets
- Drill holes in metal for screws, bolts, and rivets
- Install metal sheets with supportive frameworks
- Fabricate or alter parts at construction sites
- Maneuver and anchor large sheet metal parts
- Fasten seams or joints by welding, bolting, riveting, or soldering
Sheet metal workers use pieces of thin steel, aluminum, or other alloyed metal in both manufacturing and construction. Sheet metal products include heating and air conditioning ducts, rain gutters, outdoor signs, and siding.
Sheet metal fabricators usually work in manufacturing plants and small shops, where they often lift heavy materials and stand for long periods of time.
Workers who install sheet metal at construction sites must bend, climb, and squat, sometimes in close quarters, in awkward positions, or at great heights. Sheet metal installers who work outdoors are exposed to all types of weather. The work environment may be noisy or dusty, and job tasks may create vibrations.
How to become a Sheet Metal Worker
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.
Sheet metal workers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra and geometry. Vocational-education courses such as blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding are also helpful.
Technical schools may have programs that teach welding and metalworking. These programs help provide the basic welding and sheet metal fabrication knowledge that sheet metal workers need to do their job.
Some manufacturers have partnerships with local technical schools to develop training programs specific to their factories.
Most construction sheet metal workers learn their trade through 4- or 5-year apprenticeships, which include both paid on-the-job training and related technical instruction. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, math, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. Welding may be included as part of the training.
Some workers start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship programs are sponsored 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.
After completing an apprenticeship program, sheet metal workers are considered journey workers who are qualified to perform tasks on their own.
The median annual wage for sheet metal workers was $50,400 in May 2019. 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 $29,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $88,070.
Employment of sheet metal workers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
Employment growth reflects an expected increase in the number of industrial, commercial, and residential structures that will be built over the coming decade. It also reflects the continuing need to install and maintain energy-efficient air conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems in existing buildings.
Similar Job Titles
Field Installer; HVAC Sheet Metal Installer (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Sheet Metal Installer); Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker; Sheet Metal Apprentice; Sheet Metal Fabricator; Sheet Metal Foreman; Sheet Metal Installer; Sheet Metal Layout Mechanic; Sheet Metal Mechanic; Sheet Metal Worker
Boilermaker; Construction Carpenter; Rough Carpenter; Structural Iron and Steel Worker; Layout Worker, Metal and Plastic
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Welding Society - This trade association is a nonprofit organization with a global mission to advance the science, technology and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes, including brazing, soldering and thermal spraying. There is much information available on this website for students of the trade as well as educators.
- Associated Builders and Contractors - This organization and its chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. ABC's membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors. Student chapters are available.
- International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers - Members of this trade association include sheet metal workers, service technicians, bus operators, engineers, conductors, sign workers, welders, production employees and more. With members in scores of different occupations, they advocate for fairness in the workplace, excellence at work and opportunity for all working families.
Magazines and Publications
A thin sheet of metal in the hands of a sheet metal worker has the potential to become a rain gutter, a duct to carry warm air throughout a building, or a precision part for medical equipment. Different job settings require different tasks for sheet metal workers. In construction, they are in charge of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems known as HVAC. They install duct work, clean and repair it, and adjust systems to ensure proper airflow. They also install sheet metal roofs, siding, and gutters at homes and buildings. These sheet metal workers choose the correct materials… measure… cut and drill before installing finished pieces. They are skilled at welding seams, bolting parts into tight corners, and riveting pieces high up. Taking precautions against cuts, burns, and falls is essential. In manufacturing, fabrication or precision sheet metal workers operate machinery that does the measuring, cutting and fabrication to make precision sheet metal parts used in industries from power generation to medical device manufacturing. They may program the computers that control the equipment. In construction and HVAC, sheet metal workers learn their trade through a 4-5-year apprenticeship that combines technical and paid on-the-job training. Those in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school. Most sheet metal workers have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org