Chances are that you’ve already seen a steel erector doing their job, even if you don’t know anything about the profession. Have you ever gone by construction sites for steel buildings, and see different professionals handling and working on the different girders and frames that make up the final structure? That’s a steel erector, also known as an ironworker, doing their job.
Steel erectors are an essential part of our infrastructure, not only helping to build new steel structures, but also rehabbing older ones like highways and bridges.
Some people may be interested in the trades, but are wondering “What does a steel erector do?” Here’s a rundown of the various aspects of the job description, the job outlook, as well as overall earning potential.
What is a Steel Erector?
The primary job function of a steel erector is working to install steel beams, steel girders, and columns to create the frames that our modern buildings are built upon. This work is rigorous and sometimes dangerous, which is why there are many different levels of training required. Here’s a glance at some of the tasks that a steel erector may do on a regular basis:
- -Unloading prefab steel and stacking it so it can be lifted into place
- -Operating cranes and other equipment to move the various steel components into place
- -Helping position structural members, either through signals or physically aligning it into place
- -Verifying that the steel frames are in proper alignment
- -Welding beams, columns, and girders into place per blueprint instructions
- -Creating components for steel frames in fabricating shops offsite
The above list is the main job functions of a steel erector, but there are other parts of the job that need to be discussed. For example, along with using cabling and cranes, forklift operation and other equipment are going to be a key part of daily operations. An offshoot of steel erector work that we should mention also is ornamental/architectural work. These professionals do a lot of the work of steel erectors, but generally, focus on architectural detail pieces. These include:
- -Door frames
While these are rarely as heavy as steel beams and girders, these require a very precise hand when mounting them to protect their appearance. In addition, some erectors need to both fabricate and mount these on-site.
By nature, being an ironworker requires physical fitness and extreme adherence to safety. In some cases, you need to work outside in inclement weather, as well as at great heights (though, not at the same time). Most steel erectors do this as a full-time job and need to wear safety devices at all times to minimize the risk of falling and other accidents. Depending on where you are based and the company you work for, a steel erector may do various jobs in a single area or will have to travel to various job sites.
Of course, one of the biggest questions people may have is how much a steel erector makes, especially given the physical nature of their work. Statistics from 2019 show that the median pay for a steel erector was $55,040. However, those same statistics show that there’s going to be a huge growth in demand over the next decade so that earning potential may increase.
Becoming A Steel Erector
So, let’s say that you decide that this work appeals to you, and you are ready to set off on the path to becoming a steel erector. Here are a few traits that you want to check to see if they apply to you:
- -Enjoying seeing tangible progress to your work projects each day
- -A steadfast devotion to quality
- -Preferring to work in a team
- -Preferring to work outdoors
- -Okay with doing physically demanding work/in good shape
- -Planning to stay in the industry for the long-term
- -Enjoying taking on regular new challenges
Unlike a lot of the steps out there, there isn’t necessarily a single formal way that you become a steel erector. However, the preferred method is going through an apprenticeship. This is preferred because it adds more structure to the learning process and gives you the chance to be mentored by a seasoned professional. If you’re interested in an apprenticeship to become a steel erector, look out for either professional organizations or a union.
General requirements to enter an apprenticeship program include:
- -Being 18 years old at minimum
- -Having either your high school diploma, GED, or an appropriate equivalent
- -Physical conditioning sufficient to handle the different materials
- -Passing a drug test
After meeting these qualifications, apprentice workers work alongside journeymen and master steel erectors doing basic tasks while learning the jobs for approximately a four-year period at approximately 2000 hours per year. During this time, they generally earn 50% of the average journeyman’s wage, and also take supplemental classes for instruction related to their coursework, approximately 160 hours per year. When they reach the end of their apprenticeship, they reach journeyman status and are able to qualify for their full pay.
There are a lot of opportunities to work for structural iron and steelworkers. However, whether you are planning on joining a larger company or setting out on your own, it’s important that you think of the complexity that goes on with a single steel construction site. Not only is there a matter of procuring the materials, but you also need to be mindful of proper construction as well as steel and safety. This generally requires a lot of coordination between the field teams and the front office, which isn’t always easy.
A great asset here is project management software like eSUB. Just like increasing your physical fitness helps with the physically demanding aspects of the job, project management software relieves a lot of the logistical burden. This is accomplished by helping keep your teams in communication and making data readily available through cloud storage.