What Does a Boilermaker Do? (With Salary and Path)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A boilermaker is a tradesperson who assembles, tests and repairs heavy metal structures. They often complete their duties in a manufacturing facility or on large constructions, such as a ship. Understanding the typical boilermaker responsibilities can help you determine the skills you might require becoming one. In this article, we discuss the answer to the question 'What does a boilermaker do?', explore the industries they may gain employment in, provide a guide on how to become one, review their average salary and examine some of their skills.

What does a boilermaker do?

Understanding the responsibilities of a boilermaker can help you answer the question, 'What does a boilermaker do?' A boilermaker is an expert in operating welding equipment to join, repair and create metal fabrications. The type of fabrications they create can depend on their employers or clients. Boilermakers may gain employment for manufacturing companies, shipyards, railway companies and chemical plants. They can also gain employment as contractors, where their responsibilities can vary.

The typical responsibilities of a boilermaker can include:

  • interpreting design plans

  • identifying suitable materials

  • joining fabrications to form metal structures

  • repairing liquid and gas tanks

  • operating hand tools, welding tools and fabrication machinery

  • installing pre-fabricated structures for residential and commercial buildings

  • creating and repairing railway structures

  • joining support beams and load-bearing structures

  • replacing metal structures with new fabricated materials

Related: What Does a Welder Do? (With Steps to Help You Become One)

What industries do boilermakers work in?

Boilermakers usually have similar responsibilities, regardless of the industry where they gain employment. The key differences between boilermakers in different fields are their work environment and the fabrications they create. Below are details about the role of a boilermaker in several industries:

Building and construction

A common industry for a boilermaker to gain employment in is the building and construction industry. A boilermaker in this industry typically welds pre-fabricated metal structures on a building site. They join metal structures to improve the structural load-bearing capacity of buildings. These structures can include steel beams, joints and columns. Boilermakers also weld structures on civil constructions, such as bridges and overpasses. The role of a boilermaker is often crucial in the construction industry, because they ensure the structural integrity of large buildings that may house many occupants.

Shipbuilding

Building ships often requires extensive fabrication and heavy-duty welding. Boilermakers are an important part of the shipbuilding process because they have the qualifications to operate heavy welding equipment. A shipbuilding process typically involves several pre-fabrications, which a boilermaker joins through welding methods.

Manufacturing

Boilermakers typically gain employment in the manufacturing industry. They may fabricate several metal structures, such as water tanks, oil tanks and drill rods. Boilermakers in the manufacturing industry essentially fabricate structures that withstand intensive load, pressure and force. The most common structure a boilermaker might fabricate is a liquid tank. Multiple industries use liquid tanks to store and transport liquids. In many industries, the substance stored may be hazardous to the environment or living beings. A boilermaker inspects the tank seals and welds to ensure their structural integrity. This can minimise the potential for hazardous spills.

Related: Manufacturing Careers: Job Titles, Skills and FAQs

Rail

The rail industry refers to structures, infrastructures and vehicles used in railways. A boilermaker in the rail industry typically repairs or fabricates steel beams for rail tracks. They may complete their duties in a workshop or on the railway track. Boilermakers may also replace beams, depending on the age of the railway system. A common responsibility for a boilermaker on an old railway track includes replacing iron beams with steel beams. They may also have expertise in the hot-rolling process that creates these steel beams.

Oil and gas

A boilermaker may gain employment in the oil and gas industry. They may fabricate storage units or extraction systems. A boilermaker in this industry may have similar responsibilities to a boilermaker in the manufacturing industry. The main difference is that a boilermaker for an oil and gas company typically works on-site. They may repair and fabricate structures on mining sites or offshore drilling platforms. A boilermaker on an offshore platform may have unique certifications that allow them to perform underwater welding.

Related: The Average Underwater Welding Salary (Plus Tips to Earn More)

Industrial plants

Industrial plants refer to large facilities that process raw minerals, gasses and liquids. Some industrial plants can contain explosive or corrosive substances. A boilermaker for an industrial plant typically ensures the integrity of large metal structures, such as tanks, mills, silos and assembly lines. A boilermaker for an industrial plant focuses on the quality of fabrications, rather than the assembly. This means they evaluate, test and repair metal structures.

Hydroelectricity

A boilermaker in the hydroelectricity industry usually fabricates and installs pipe systems that transfer water from dams to hydro turbines. The pipes used in hydroelectricity withstand a massive amount of force and water pressure. A boilermaker typically requires extensive skills in the operation of heavy-duty welding equipment to ensure the integrity of the pipes.

How to become a boilermaker

Below are some common steps for becoming a boilermaker:

1. Consider a pre-apprenticeship

Completing a pre-apprenticeship may be a good idea if you have minimal skills and knowledge about boiler making. A pre-apprenticeship can allow you to experience the role of a boilermaker before committing to an apprenticeship. You can also gain the fundamental skills of operating welding equipment and fabricating metal structures. A pre-apprenticeship typically takes six months to complete and comprises practical activities with theoretical studies. Completing a pre-apprenticeship can enhance your job application, because it shows your commitment to the industry.

2. Complete an apprenticeship

Completing a boilermaker apprenticeship can often be a direct pathway to becoming a boilermaker. You may gain the skills and knowledge to become a qualified boilermaker during your apprenticeship. An apprenticeship can take three to five years to complete, depending on your competencies. Your employer usually confirms your competency with each stage of the apprenticeship. Once you complete your apprenticeship, you may conduct boiler making responsibilities independently.

Related: 6 of the Highest-Paid Apprenticeships (With Duties)

3. Gain relative certifications

There are several certificates you can complete that might help you find employment. Welding certificates typically require a completed apprenticeship. One of the most popular certificates can be the Welding Inspection Certification. This can allow you to inspect the fabrication, assembly and installation of welded structures. This certificate can be an excellent enhancement to your job application, as it highlights your capabilities and attention to detail.

4. Apply for a boilermaker job

Once you gain the necessary qualifications and certificates, you may apply for a boilermaker job. Some industries can require several years of boiler making experience to enter. Other industries may provide more employment opportunities if you're new to the profession, such as the construction or manufacturing industry. You can apply for a boilermaker job using online job boards.

The average salary of a boilermaker

The national average salary of a boilermaker is $83,828 per year. You can improve your salary as a boilermaker by gaining advanced certifications and experience. If you gain managerial experience and skills throughout your career, you may gain employment as a boilermaker supervisor. Managerial roles typically provide a competitive salary. Where you work as a boilermaker can also influence your salary. Regions with a high demand for boilermakers may offer high-paying roles.

Below are some of the average salaries for boilermakers in different cities and towns:

  • Pilbara, WA: $112,479 per year

  • Mackay, QLD: $100,153 per year

  • Perth, WA: $98,494 per year

  • Henderson, WA: $91,723 per year

  • Muswellbrook, NSW: $81,100 per year

Skills of a boilermaker

Here, you can find some of the typical skills that can assist a boilermaker when fulfilling their duties:

  • Independence: As a boilermaker, you may have jobs that require you to work alone. Independence can help you analyse and make important decisions by yourself.

  • Adaptability: If you're a boilermaker contractor, you may have a variety of jobs that require different fabrications. Adaptability can help you use different equipment and materials.

  • Awareness: Most of the tools you operate as a boilermaker produce extreme amounts of heat. Awareness can help you identify potential hazards and operate equipment safely.

  • Attention to detail: As a boilermaker, you may inspect welded structures to identify potential cracks and weak bonds. Attention to detail can help you identify these damages and repair them.

  • Physical dexterity: Some of your jobs as a boilermaker may require you to work in confined spaces for an extended period. Physical fitness can allow you to operate tools in awkward spaces with precision and dexterity.

  • Communication: As a boilermaker, you may frequently communicate with clients and interpret design plans. Communication can help you interpret these plans and absorb client instructions.

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.

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