Ironworkers are the construction tradesmen who place and install iron or steel girders, columns and beams that form the structural skeleton for buildings, bridges and overpasses. They also position the iron reinforcement within concrete emplacements, called rebar. This material is used extensively for large concrete components of bridges, tunnels and many other massive structures.
Structural girders are almost exclusively steel today, but the professionals that position them and connect them are still called ironworkers. They position the girders around the construction site, raise them into position with cranes or other equipment, and weld them into position. They follow blueprints that lay out precise locations for the structural elements of the project.
Most ironworkers enter the program through a three to four year apprentice program sponsored and monitored by ironworkers union local. There is significant classroom work involved and some individuals seeking to enter the field attend vocational schools or community colleges.
There were 102,000 structural ironworkers employed in 2006, according to the United States Department of Labor. 72,000 of them worked in structural assembly, and 30,000 were rebar and reinforcing iron specialists.
Jobs in the ironworker profession are expected to grow over the next several years about as fast as the average for all job categories combined. Job prospects are rated as excellent however, because of an expected increase in non-residential and heavy construction projects. If a national program of infrastructure repair gets underway, there will be a chronic shortage of skilled ironworkers.
Lowest 10% $11.63 $24,180
Median Salary $20.26 $42,130
Highest 10% $35.90 $74,670
Source: U.S. Department of Labor