What Does a Sheet Metal Worker Do? (With Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

5 August 2021

If you're considering getting a trade, you may wonder “What does a sheet metal worker do?” Understanding what these professionals do can help you decide if this is a career you're interested in. Learning more about the skills sheet metal workers use can also tell you whether you're well suited to this career. In this article, we explain what sheet metal workers do and the training and skills they need to succeed.

What does a sheet metal worker do?

An individual with a sheet metal job may make, install, maintain and repair items made from sheet metals. They work with steel, iron, aluminium and copper. They make sure they perform sheet metal work to a high standard to ensure all their products function reliably. What a sheet metal worker does for their businesses depends on the industry they work in:

  • Manufacturing: Making sheet metal products including pipes, ducting, car bodies, signs and cladding.

  • Construction: Installing, maintaining and repairing roofing, cladding, gutters, downpipes and air-conditioning, heating and ventilation system components.

  • Automotive: Repairing the bodywork of damaged vehicles.

A sheet metal worker's specific duties vary depending on the sector they work in. Sheet metal workers specialise in fabrication, installation or maintenance. They focus their tasks around their area of specialty. Some common tasks included in a sheet metal worker's job description include:

  • Interpreting technical drawings and blueprints for projects and assessing the processes, materials and tools needed

  • Measuring and marking pieces of sheet metal according to the plans and cut required

  • Cutting, bending and stamping sheet metal to match design instructions

  • Checking work for accuracy using calipers and micrometers

  • Welding, soldering, bolting, brazing and riveting sheet metal to put together and install metal items

  • Soldering and insulating roof coverings to make them waterproof

  • Applying paint and rust inhibitors to sheet metal to improve their appearance and protect the material

  • Filing, sanding, polishing and cleaning sheet metal products to improve their finish

  • Modifying plans as required for better results

  • Performing routine maintenance on sheet metal products

  • Assessing damaged or rusty sheet metal products and repairing or replacing them as required

  • Inspecting installed and repaired sheet metal products to make sure they're fit for purpose, waterproofed and sealed

How much money does a sheet metal worker make?

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for sheet metal workers is $65,549 per year. Salaries vary according to the sheet metal worker's experience, employer, location and specialty. For example, the average salary for sheet metal fabricators is $63,286 per year. The average salary for sheet metal mechanics, who work in the automotive industry, is $81,356 per year as their skills are in high demand.

Related: 6 Tips For Your Next Salary Negotiation

What skills do you need to be a sheet metal worker?

The skills sheet metal workers need depend on their area of focus. However, companies hiring sheet metal workers look for applicants with the following skills:

Mechanical skills

Sheet metal workers need strong mechanical skills to work accurately and safely with a variety of sheet metal tools. They use saws, shears, snips and lasers when cutting sheet metal. They stamp sheet metal with mechanical or automatic presses and manipulate it with turning lathes and drills. A good sheet metal worker feels confident using and maintaining all these tools. They also need good technical understanding to interpret blueprints and technical drawings accurately.

Dexterity

Sheet metal workers need good manual dexterity to precisely cut sheet metal to reduce waste. Dexterity also helps them use sheet metal tools safely. Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination help sheet metal workers use their tools as required.

Computer literacy

Many modern sheet metal factories rely heavily on computer technology for their operations. They use computer software to design projects, regulate production and cut sheet metal to the required size and shape. Sheet metal workers can gain experience using computer-aided design applications and programming and operating computer numerical control cutting machines.

Related: Computer Literacy: What It is And How You Can Improve Yours

Mathematics

Sheet metal work requires working on metal components in a variety of different sizes and shapes. Mathematics skills, such as understanding algebra and geometry, help sheet metal workers find the right dimensions and angles for their components. Sheet metal workers who perform accurate calculations reduce waste by cutting fit-for-purpose components.

Physical fitness

Sheet metal workers need good physical fitness to work efficiently through their shifts. Their endurance helps them work standing up for their entire shift or spend extended periods working in confined spaces. They also need good physical strength to lift heavy sheet metal and operate heavy equipment.

Understanding of occupational health and safety

It's important for sheet metal workers to understand how to complete their work safely. They use tools carefully and understand how to work safely in challenging conditions, including at heights and during wet weather. They can understand why protective clothing matters and wear welding helmets, overalls and safety boots as required. They can also develop a clear knowledge of industry practices and their employer's safety protocols.

How do you become a sheet metal worker?

You can become a sheet metal worker after completing an apprenticeship or a traineeship. These similar pathways have key differences. Apprenticeships are always full-time, while traineeships can be part-time or full-time. The contract between apprentices and their employers is valid for the program's term, once the probation period ends. The contract only ends by mutual agreement. Traineeships are a bit different, as the contract may end at any time if one party wants to cancel the agreement or the business gets sold. After completing your program, you may need a licence and registration to work independently:

1. Choose relevant subjects at high school

Sheet metal workers may leave school at year 10 or continue through to year 12. Regardless of your choice, select subjects that teach you the skills you need in your chosen career. Studying advanced mathematics provides a good understanding of algebra and geometry. Many high schools also offer metalwork, which teaches students the basics of working with common metals and tools. This subject also helps you understand how to work with metals safely.

2. Complete an engineering tradesperson fabrication (sheetmetal) apprenticeship or traineeship

An engineering tradesperson fabrication (sheetmetal) apprenticeship or traineeship gives you paid practical experience as a sheet metal worker while you're working towards a nationally recognised vocational qualification. The Certificate III in Engineering - Fabrication (Sheetmetal) is the most common qualification for apprentices and trainees. During your apprenticeship or traineeship, you'll work under the direct supervision of an experienced sheet metal worker. You'll start performing simple duties and gain more responsibility as you prove your competency.

Your apprenticeship or traineeship may take between 42 and 48 months. You can complete these programs after leaving high school or while you're attending year 11 and 12, as part of a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship program. Your school's vocational education and training coordinator can help you organise your program.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

3. Get necessary licences and registrations, for construction jobs

Sheet metal workers in the construction sector need a general construction card, sometimes called a white card, to work independently. Complete the Prepare to Work Safely in the Construction Industry course, available through registered training operators, to learn safe working practices. Then contact the official safety body in your state or territory to apply for your card. As these cards have nationwide recognition, your card is valid wherever you find work.

You'll also need a builder's licence to work independently on most construction projects. You may also need additional licences to work on roofs or remove asbestos from construction sites. Your project manager can help you identify any extra licences you need. Relevant builder's licences for sheet metal workers in the construction industry are:

  • New South Wales: Contractor licence from Service NSW, for projects with a total cost of more than $5,000

  • Australian Capital Territory: Construction occupations licence from Access Canberra

  • Victoria: Building practitioner registration from the Victorian Building Authority

  • Queensland: Trade contractor licence from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. Complete the Establish Legal and Risk Management Requirements of New Business Ventures course, available through registered training organisations, before applying for this licence.

  • Tasmania: Builder licence from Consumer Building and Occupational Services

  • South Australia: Building work contractor's licence from Consumer and Business Services SA

  • Northern Territory: Builder contractor registration from Building Practitioners Board

  • Western Australia: Builders' registration from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation for independent work on projects with a total cost of more than $20,000

Related: How to Apply For a Job in 6 Steps

4. Apply for sheet metal worker jobs

Once you have the necessary licences, registration and qualifications, you can start applying for professional metal worker jobs. If your apprenticeship or traineeship was successful, you may transition to a regular full-time sheet metal job with this business. Alternatively, you could apply for roles at different businesses or become self-employed.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.