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Become A Sheet Metal Fabricator

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Working As A Sheet Metal Fabricator

  • Getting Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $43,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Sheet Metal Fabricator 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.

Duties

Sheet metal workers typically do the following:

  • Select types of sheet metal according to 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 is thin steel, aluminum, or other alloyed metal that is used in both manufacturing and construction. Sheet metal is commonly used to make ducts for heating and air conditioning systems, but it is also used to make products such as rain gutters, outdoor signs, and siding.

In addition to installing sheet metal, some workers install nonmetallic materials such as fiberglass and plastic board. 

The following are examples of types of sheet metal workers:

Fabrication sheet metal workers, sometimes called precision sheet metal workers, make precision sheet metal parts for a variety of industries, from power generation to medical device manufacturing. Most work in shops and factories, operating tools and equipment. In large-scale manufacturing, the work may be highly automated and repetitive. Many fabrication shops have automated machinery, such as computer-controlled saws, lasers, shears, and presses, which measure, cut, bend, and fasten pieces of sheet metal. Workers often use computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) systems to make products. Some of these workers may be responsible for limited programming of the computers controlling their equipment. Workers who primarily program computerized equipment are called metal and plastic machine workers.

Installation sheet metal workers install heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts. They also install other sheet metal products, such as metal roofs, siding, and gutters. They typically work on new construction and on renovation projects. Information about workers who install or repair roofing systems can be found in the profile on roofers.

Maintenance sheet metal workers repair and clean ventilation systems so the systems use less energy. Workers remove dust and moisture and fix leaks or breaks in the sheet metal that makes up the ductwork.

Testing and balancing sheet metal specialists ensure that HVAC systems heat and cool rooms properly by adjusting sheet metal ducts to achieve proper airflow. Information on workers who install or repair HVAC systems can be found in the profile on heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

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How To Become A Sheet Metal Fabricator

Sheet metal workers who work in construction typically learn their trade through an apprenticeship, while those who work in manufacturing often learn on the job or at a technical school.

Education

Most sheet metal workers have a high school diploma or equivalent. 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.

Training

Most construction sheet metal workers learn their trade through 4- or 5-year apprenticeships. Each year, apprentices must have 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and 144 to 320 hours of related technical instruction, depending on the program. 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.

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 have preferred entry for veterans.

After completing an apprenticeship program, sheet metal workers are considered to be journey workers who are qualified to perform tasks on their own.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, sheet metal workers can earn certifications for several of the tasks that they perform. 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.

Important Qualities

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.

Dexterity. Sheet metal workers need good hand-eye coordination and motor control to make precise cuts and bends in metal pieces. 

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.

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.

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Average Length of Employment
Steel Fabricator 3.7 years
Metal Technician 3.4 years
Sheet Metal Welder 3.3 years
Sheet Metal Former 3.2 years
Fabricator 2.6 years
Metal Fabricator 2.6 years
Sheet Metal Helper 1.8 years
Top Careers Before Sheet Metal Fabricator
Welder 14.6%
Mechanic 4.8%
Cashier 4.3%
Technician 4.1%
Installer 3.5%
Fabricator 3.1%
Machinist 2.9%
Cook 2.8%
Top Careers After Sheet Metal Fabricator
Welder 12.0%
Technician 4.2%
Driver 4.1%
Fabricator 3.9%
Owner 3.7%
Supervisor 3.3%
Machinist 3.3%
Mechanic 3.1%
Installer 3.0%

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Top Skills for A Sheet Metal Fabricator

  1. Aircraft Parts
  2. Drill Press
  3. Product Specifications
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Convert blueprints into aircraft parts from aluminum and stainless steel materials.
  • Operated drill presses, punch presses, rivet and hardware presses, and press break machines safely and correctly.
  • Read and interpret blueprints, sketches, and product specifications to determine sequence, methods of fabrication and installation.
  • Set up and operating CNC 20 station turret press, single station punch, sheet metal shear and bending Break.
  • Skilled with gas tungsten arc, gas metal arc, plasma arc, and shielded metal arc welding.

Sheet Metal Fabricator Demographics

Gender

Male

86.3%

Unknown

7.5%

Female

6.1%
Ethnicity

White

63.7%

Hispanic or Latino

16.4%

Black or African American

11.0%

Asian

5.8%

Unknown

3.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

78.9%

Polish

10.5%

Italian

5.3%

Vietnamese

5.3%
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Sheet Metal Fabricator Education

Schools

The Academy

9.4%

University of Phoenix

9.4%

Universal Technical Institute

7.1%

Hutchinson Community College

5.9%

Wayne County Community College District

4.7%

Wake Technical Community College

4.7%

Chattanooga State Community College

4.7%

Macomb Community College

4.7%

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

4.7%

Wichita Technical Institute

4.7%

Hennepin Technical College

4.7%

Palomar College

4.7%

University of Missouri - Saint Louis

4.7%

Portland Community College

4.7%

Highline Community College

3.5%

Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology

3.5%

Wichita Area Technical College

3.5%

Triangle Tech Inc-Pittsburgh

3.5%

Kirkwood Community College

3.5%

College of DuPage

3.5%
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Majors

Precision Metal Working

16.4%

Business

10.5%

Heating And Air Conditioning

9.4%

Automotive Technology

8.6%

Drafting And Design

5.0%

General Studies

4.8%

Aviation

4.6%

Electrical Engineering

4.4%

Criminal Justice

4.4%

Fine Arts

3.7%

Computer Science

3.5%

Graphic Design

3.5%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

3.5%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.3%

Industrial Technology

3.1%

Mechanical Engineering

2.9%

Accounting

2.9%

Education

2.0%

Communication

1.8%

Civil Engineering

1.8%
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Degrees

Other

49.2%

Associate

16.8%

Certificate

15.1%

Bachelors

10.5%

Diploma

4.8%

Masters

2.7%

License

0.4%

Doctorate

0.4%
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