Sheet metal workers construct or install products made from thin metal sheets in a variety of settings.

What Do Sheet Metal Workers Do?

Thin sheets of metal such as steel or aluminum are essential components of both manufacturing and construction, and sheet metal workers are responsible for fabricating and installing sheet metal products. They measure and cut sections of sheet metal, drill holes in it for bolts and screws, place and secure the sheet metal with supporting framework, modify sheet metal parts as necessary throughout the course of the project at hand, and maneuver and fasten large pieces of sheet metal. Sheet metal workers often construct heating and air conditioning ducts, metal roofs, and gutters. Some of these workers, called fabrication sheet metal workers, make precise sheet metals parts for various industrial purposes, while others are specifically tasked with the repair and maintenance of sheet metal ventilation systems.

Career Snapshot

Sheet metal workers install, assemble and repair products made from thin metal sheets, such as drain pipes or ducts used for ventilating, heating and air-conditioning.  A sheet metal worker career includes choosing and measuring specific metal or nonmetal materials, drilling holes, anchoring parts and installing metal sheets with supportive frameworks and securing joints and other parts through using techniques such as welding or riveting.

(Workers in this construction job sub-sector may also have the title of: Field Installer; HVAC Sheet Metal Installer (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Sheet Metal Installer); Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker; Sheet Metal Apprentice; Sheet Metal Fabricator; Sheet Metal Foreman; Sheet Metal Installer; Sheet Metal Layout Mechanic; Sheet Metal Mechanic; Sheet Metal Worker)

Job Details

Sheet metal workers typically have the following responsibilities:

  • Select types of sheet metal according to building or design 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

Education and Experience

Sheet metal workers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some workers start out as helpers before entering apprenticeships.  Those interested in becoming a sheet metal worker should take high school classes in algebra and geometry. Vocational-education courses such as blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and welding are also helpful.  Most construction sheet metal workers learn their trade through 4- or 5-year apprenticeships, which include both paid on-the-job training and related technical instruction.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: Sheet metal workers can expect an annual salary as low as $26,500 (newbie with entry level experience) to over $85,000 (if you have a ton of experience under your belt)
  • Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 8%
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent

Career Growth Opportunity

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.  Experienced sheet metal workers may choose to become independent contractors.

Professional Associations

  • Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, Intl. - FMA’s mission is to advocate for the growth and sustainability of the North American metal processing, forming, and fabricating industries.
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers - The Sheet Metal arm of SMART, formerly the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, represents 136,000 members in the sheet metal and related trades.
  • International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry - The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.  ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • American Welding Society - AWS was founded in 1919 as a non-profit organization with a global mission to advance the science, technology and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes, including brazing, soldering and thermal spraying.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.  Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.

Publications

  • SNIPS - news, how-to's, subscribe, events
  • Metal Forming Magazine - MetalForming strives to serve the needs of its readers— engineers, technicians, managers, designers and others working in facilities that add value to sheet metal.
  • Sheet Metal World - Sheetmetalworld.com is a site providing Internet-related services and information to/for the sheet metal fabrication industry.
  • The Fabricator - subscribe, e-newsletter, digital edition
  • Metal Working World Magazine - news briefs, machine tools, sheet metal, technology spotlights