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Iron Worker Careers

What Does an Iron Worker Do

Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.

Duties

Ironworkers typically do the following:

  • Read and follow blueprints, sketches, and other instructions
  • Unload and stack prefabricated iron and steel so that it can be lifted with slings
  • Signal crane operators who lift and position structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Use shears, rod-bending machines, and welding equipment to cut, bend, and weld the structural and reinforcing iron and steel
  • Align structural and reinforcing iron and steel vertically and horizontally, using tag lines, plumb bobs, lasers, and levels
  • Connect iron and steel with bolts, wire, or welds

Structural and reinforcing iron and steel are important components of buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors. Although most of the work involves erecting new structures, some ironworkers may also help in the demolition, decommissioning, and rehabilitation of older buildings and bridges.

When building tall structures such as skyscrapers, structural iron and steel workers erect steel frames and assemble the cranes and derricks that move materials and equipment around the construction site. Workers connect precut steel columns, beams, and girders, using equipment such as spud wrenches and driftpins. A few ironworkers install precast walls or work with wood or composite materials.

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers use one of three different materials to support concrete:

  • Reinforcing steel (rebar) is used to strengthen the concrete that forms highways, buildings, bridges, and other structures. These workers are sometimes called rod busters, in reference to rods of rebar.
  • Cables are used to reinforce concrete by pre- or post-tensioning. These techniques allow designers to create larger open areas in a building because supports can be placed farther apart. As a result, pre- and post-tensioning are commonly used to construct arenas, concrete bridges, and parking garages.
  • Welded wire reinforcing (WWR) is also used to strengthen concrete. This reinforcing is made up of narrow-diameter rods or wire welded into a grid.

Some ironworkers are assemblers and fabricators. They fabricate metal in shops, which are usually located away from the construction site.

How To Become an Iron Worker

Although most ironworkers learn through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job. Certifications in welding, rigging, and signaling can be helpful for new entrants.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required. Courses in math, as well as training in vocational subjects such as blueprint reading and welding, can be particularly useful.

Training

Most ironworkers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Nearly all apprenticeship programs teach both reinforcing and structural ironworking. On the job, apprentices learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade; handle, measure, cut, and lay rebar; and construct metal frameworks. In technical training, they are taught mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

A few groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Physical ability to perform the work
  • Pass substance abuse screening

After completing an apprenticeship program, they are considered to be journeymen who perform tasks without direct supervision.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certifications in welding, rigging, and crane signaling may increase a worker’s usefulness on the jobsite and result in higher pay. Many ironworkers become welders certified by the American Welding Society. Several organizations offer rigging certifications, including the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, and the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).

Important Qualities

Balance. Ironworkers often walk on narrow beams, so a good sense of balance is important to keep them from falling while doing their job.

Depth perception. Ironworkers must be able to judge the distance between objects and themselves in order to work safely. Ironworkers often signal crane operators who move beams and bundles of rebar.

Hand-eye coordination. Ironworkers must be able to tie rebar together quickly and precisely. An experienced worker can tie rebar together in seconds and move on to the next spot; a beginner may take much longer.

Physical stamina. Ironworkers must have physical endurance because they spend many hours performing physically demanding tasks, such as moving rebar, each day.

Physical strength. Ironworkers must be strong enough to guide heavy beams into place and tighten bolts.

Unafraid of heights. Ironworkers must not be afraid to work at great heights. For example, as they erect skyscrapers, workers must walk on narrow beams—sometimes over 50 stories high—while connecting girders.

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Average Salary
$34,802
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
31,911
Job Openings

Iron Worker Career Paths

Top Careers Before Iron Worker

Welder
28.7 %
Foreman
7.3 %

Top Careers After Iron Worker

Welder
23.9 %
Rigger
9.3 %
Foreman
7.8 %

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for an Iron Worker

Iron Workers in America make an average salary of $34,802 per year or $17 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $47,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $25,000 per year.
Average Salary
$34,802

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Reno, NV
Salary Range34k - 56k$44k$43,671
Buffalo, NY
Salary Range28k - 48k$38k$37,564
Santa Ana, CA
Salary Range27k - 46k$36k$36,209
Virginia Beach, VA
Salary Range25k - 41k$33k$32,827
Broken Arrow, OK
Salary Range24k - 36k$29k$29,458
Huntsville, AL
Salary Range23k - 36k$29k$29,365
$23k
$56k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Iron Worker Helper
Iron Worker Helper
Aerotek
Aerotek
01/29/2021
01/29/2021
$29,21801/29/2021
$29,218
Iron Worker/Steel Erectors Needed!
Iron Worker/Steel Erectors Needed!
Great Lakes Skilled Trades
Great Lakes Skilled Trades
01/04/2021
01/04/2021
$37,56601/04/2021
$37,566
Iron Worker
Iron Worker
Tradesmen International, Inc.
Tradesmen International, Inc.
12/15/2020
12/15/2020
$37,56612/15/2020
$37,566
Iron Worker/Helpers
Iron Worker/Helpers
Aerotek
Aerotek
11/24/2020
11/24/2020
$31,30511/24/2020
$31,305
Iron Worker
Iron Worker
Tradesmen International, Inc.
Tradesmen International, Inc.
11/19/2020
11/19/2020
$31,30511/19/2020
$31,305
See More Recent Salaries

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Iron Worker Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an Iron Worker. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write an Iron Worker Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Iron Worker resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Iron Worker Demographics

Gender

male

91.5 %

female

5.7 %

unknown

2.8 %

Ethnicity

White

65.1 %

Hispanic or Latino

20.1 %

Black or African American

9.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

79.5 %

German

2.3 %

Japanese

2.3 %
See More Demographics

Iron Worker Education

Majors

Business
11.4 %

Degrees

High School Diploma

57.2 %

Associate

12.5 %

Certificate

11.9 %
See More Education Info
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Full Time
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Internship
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Top Skills For an Iron Worker

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 8.3% of iron workers listed structural steel on their resume, but soft skills such as balance and hand-eye coordination are important as well.

  • Structural Steel, 8.3%
  • Ironworker, 7.3%
  • Safety Meetings, 6.7%
  • Heavy Equipment, 6.2%
  • Bolt-Up, 5.7%
  • Other Skills, 65.8%
  • See All Iron Worker Skills

Best States For an Iron Worker

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an iron worker. The best states for people in this position are Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Iron workers make the most in Rhode Island with an average salary of $42,479. Whereas in Connecticut and Massachusetts, they would average $42,200 and $41,813, respectively. While iron workers would only make an average of $41,359 in Nevada, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Vermont

Total Iron Worker Jobs:
149
Highest 10% Earn:
$60,000
Location Quotient:
1.9
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Connecticut

Total Iron Worker Jobs:
517
Highest 10% Earn:
$69,000
Location Quotient:
1.52
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Louisiana

Total Iron Worker Jobs:
523
Highest 10% Earn:
$56,000
Location Quotient:
1.6
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Iron Worker Employers

1. Fluor Corporation
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$46,201
Iron Workers Hired: 
147+
2. Performance Contractors
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$29,640
Iron Workers Hired: 
109+
3. KBR
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$42,785
Iron Workers Hired: 
108+
4. CBIZ, Inc.
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$37,801
Iron Workers Hired: 
83+
5. CCC Group
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$29,460
Iron Workers Hired: 
83+
6. Turner Industries
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$30,182
Iron Workers Hired: 
79+

Iron Worker Videos

Updated October 2, 2020