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What Does a Steel Erector Do?

April 8, 2021

Working in the construction industry often offers a variety of opportunities. Some construction workers specialize in a certain niche, such as working on construction sites for steel buildings. In this article, we discuss what a steel erector is, what steel erectors do and the requirements for becoming a steel erector.

Related: 16 Top Jobs in Construction Management

What is a steel erector?

A steel erector, or ironworker, is a construction worker who specializes in working with steel. They are essential in building new steel structures, such as buildings, or improving the integrity of existing ones, such as bridges and highways. They may work in one area, such as in a fabrication shop creating steel components, or in many areas, such as a variety of job sites.

Steel erectors create, install, place, align and reinforce steel structures and frameworks. This involves working with steel beams, steel girders, columns and a variety of tools and heavy machinery. Steel erectors may also assemble scaffold and steel structural components.

Steel erectors often work closely architects to achieve what they designed in blueprints. However, some steel erectors focus on completing ornamental or architectural work. They may create pieces like:

  • Bars
  • Catwalks
  • Door frames
  • Entrances
  • Fences
  • Gratings
  • Stairways
  • Windows

Here are some other things to consider about working as a steel erector:

Steel erector work environment

Steel erectors often complete rigorous, dangerous work. Their work is often physically demanding, and they typically work outside in stressful environments. Steel erectors typically work at great heights, and they occasionally work in uncomfortable or inclement weather. However, steel erectors typically do not work at great heights if there is extreme wet, icy or windy conditions.

A steel erector's typical work environment highlights the need for workplace safety. It's important for each ironworker to be familiar with and practice the best workplace safety standards. Steel erectors may wear additional safety equipment, such as harnesses, and install and use hardware for safety measures, such as decking, netting or hand rails.

Steel erector salary

Most steel erectors work full time. The national average base salary for steel erectors or ironworkers is $50, 163 per year. However, it's important to remember factors like experience, location, certifications and employer may affect salary. For example, apprentices often earn 50% of the standard pay rate of master steel erectors or journeymen.

Steel erector career outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of steel erectors or ironworkers will increase 5 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS predicts the growth in this field because of the popularity of steel and reinforced concrete in the construction of commercial and industrial buildings and a need to repair, maintain or replace older bridges and highways. The BLS expects workers with certifications in areas like rigging, welding and crane signaling may have access to the best opportunities.

Related: How To Become a Steel Worker

What does a steel erector do?

Steel erectors often work on steel building construction sites. Others work in offsite locations, such as steel fabrication shops. They may assist with building new structures or help rehab or repair existing structures.

Common responsibilities for steel erectors may include:

  • Handling and working on different frames and girders to construct steel structures
  • Unloading, stacking and lifting into place prefabricated steel
  • Moving steel components into place using cranes, cabling, forklifts or other equipment
  • Helping correctly position structural members through physical alignment or signals
  • Verifying the proper alignment of steel frames
  • Interpreting and following blueprints to weld girders, columns and beams
  • Creating components for steel frames
  • Reviewing technical plans and blueprints drawn by engineers and architects
  • Cutting and shaping steel
  • Creating project plans and assembly
  • Reinforcing steel bars with lasers, levers, taglines and plumb bobs
  • Using hand tools and power tools
  • Connecting iron and steel components with welding, wires and bolts
  • Setting up edge rails and safety netting
  • Following safety guidelines
  • Working outside, often at extreme heights
  • Installing vertical and horizontal cladding systems and roofs
  • Operating mobile elevated work platforms
  • Assembling and installing personnel lifts and hoists
  • Installing and layering metal decking

Related: What Are the Different Types of Construction Jobs?

Steel erector requirements

Here are some of the requirements for how to become a steel erector:

Education

Becoming a steel erector typically does not require earning a college education. However, interested candidates must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma, GED or other equivalent. It's important for candidates to develop good math and communication skills. Explore opportunities to take courses related to vocational topics, such as:

  • Design
  • Blueprint reading
  • Mechanics
  • Engineering
  • Welding

Related: High-Paying Construction Jobs That Require a High School Diploma

Training

Completing an apprenticeship is the most important training for those who want to become steel erectors. Apprenticeships often combine technical and classroom instruction with on-the-job learning. This allows apprentices to master the technical aspects of the career while learning directly from journeymen and master steel erectors.

Most apprenticeships last for three to four years with approximately 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training per year. Apprentices complete basic tasks to help them learn the job and learn more about the physical conditions required to handle different materials and complete the job.

In addition to completing training, individuals must pass a drug test to become a steel erector. While becoming a steel erector does not require earning a license or certification, some individuals choose to earn them to certify their credentials. Others choose to enroll in related courses to develop important related skills. Courses for steel erectors to consider include:

  • Welding
  • Modification
  • Rigging
  • Crane signaling
  • Fabrication work

Related: 8 Types of Welding: Definitions and Career Outlook

Skills

Here are some important skills for steel erectors to develop:

  • Ability to work at great heights
  • Ability to work in inclement weather
  • Ability to understand blueprints
  • Ability to work in stressful environments
  • Ability to work independently or as a team
  • Knowledge of construction
  • Understanding of safety best practices
  • Comfortable wearing and using safety devices
  • Handling and moving objects
  • Teamwork skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Logical thinking skills
  • Innovative and creative thinking skills
  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Listening skills
  • Social skills
  • Organized or methodical approach to work
  • Dedication to quality
  • Physical fitness
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Attention to detail
  • Self-control
  • Cooperation
  • Goal orientation
  • Integrity
  • Persistence
  • Concern for others
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Risk awareness

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