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Structural Iron and Steelworker

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(5.2 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

21.9 percent

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Have you ever looked at a gleaming 100-story building and marveled at its height? Those buildings wouldn't be possible without structural iron and steelworkers. They create the forms of bridges and buildings by installing iron or steel beams. It is often dangerous work, which is why steelworkers benefit from apprenticeships to learn practices and skills that will increase their safety on the job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 58,100 steelworker jobs in 2012.

Demand should increase for these workers because the country's aging infrastructure, including roads and bridges, is in need of maintenance or rebuilding, and some cities, such as New York, are experiencing a building boom. Steelworkers will find the best job prospects in metropolitan areas where demand for building skyscrapers and bridges is highest. The BLS projects that there will be 12,700 new job openings for structural iron and steelworkers between 2012 and 2022, a 21.8 percent rise in employment for the industry.


Steelworkers bring an architect's dream to life by creating the structure of the building. They receive a decent income for their efforts, with the median worker bringing in $46,140 a year. The highest-paid 10 percent of steelworkers earned more than $83,970 in 2012, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made less than $26,970. Steelworker jobs in the areas of Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York pay the best salaries, at $96,180 on average. Other top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation include Trenton, N.J., New York City and Rockford, Ill.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $65,510
Median $46,140
25th Percentile $34,060


To be a steelworker, one typically takes an apprenticeship lasting three or four years, with each year requiring 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of experience doing the job. During the apprenticeship, steelworkers-in-training learn to construct metal frameworks and handle, measure, cut and lay rebar. They are also taught how to reinforce and install metals, and are trained in basic math and sketching. To qualify for an apprenticeship, which is typically offered through a union, contractor association or sponsor apprenticeship program, you have to be 18 years old and physically able to do the work. You are usually required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Reviews & Advice

Tim Meadows works for the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 580 union. He was involved in cleanup after the World Trade Center attacks and helped build the One World Trade Center. Meadows says his union accepts about 300 applications a year for apprenticeships, and 50 are chosen through a lottery system. People interested in the construction trades generally submit applications to several different apprenticeships, whether for carpentry or steel work, and take whichever opportunity presents itself first, Meadows says. However, it's just as important to find a steady stream of work, and doing so involves some networking. "It's important to be a good union member and go to rallies and union meetings. If your face is shown, then people know you and you can get work. There are so few guys here that word spreads quickly on your capabilities, and as they say, 'It takes years to build a good reputation and one minute to ruin it,'" Meadows says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Casey Quinlan.

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