Sheet Metal

Sheet metal workers make, install, and maintain heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning duct systems; roofs; siding; rain gutters; downspouts; skylights; restaurant equipment; outdoor signs; railroad cars; tailgates; customized precision equipment; and many other products made from metal sheets. They also may work with fiberglass and plastic materials. Although some workers specialize in fabrication, installation, or maintenance, most do all three jobs. Sheet metal workers do both construction-related sheet metal work and mass production of sheet metal products in manufacturing.

Sheet metal workers in manufacturing plants make sheet metal parts for products such as aircraft or industrial equipment. Although some of the fabrication techniques used in large-scale manufacturing are similar to those used in smaller shops, the work may be highly automated and repetitive. Sheet metal workers doing such work may be responsible for reprogramming the computer control systems of the equipment they operate.

Sheet metal workers first study plans and specifications to determine the kind and quantity of materials they will need. They then measure, cut, bend, shape, and fasten pieces of sheet metal to make ductwork, countertops, and other custom products. In an increasing number of shops, sheet metal workers use computerized metalworking equipment. This enables them to perform their tasks more quickly and to experiment with different layouts to find the one that results in the least waste of material. They cut, drill, and form parts with computer-controlled saws, lasers, shears, and presses.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Employment of sheet metal workers in construction is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012, reflecting growth in the demand for sheet metal installations as more industrial, commercial, and residential structures are built. The need to install energy-efficient air-conditioning, heating, and ventilation systems in the increasing stock of old buildings and to perform other types of renovation and maintenance work also should boost employment. In addition, the popularity of decorative sheet metal products and increased architectural restoration are expected to add to the demand for sheet metal workers. On the other hand, slower-than-average job growth is projected for sheet metal workers in manufacturing.

Wages and Earning Potential:

In 2002, median hourly earnings of sheet metal workers were $16.62. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.15 and $23.03. The lowest 10 percent of all sheet metal workers earned less than $9.50, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $29.53. The median hourly earnings of the largest industries employing sheet metal workers in 2002 are shown below.

Federal Government $19.73
Building equipment contractors 17.47
Building finishing contractors 16.77
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 15.48
Architectural and structural metals manufacturing 14.60

Apprentices normally start at about 40 to 50 percent of the rate paid to experienced workers. As apprentices acquire more skills throughout the course of their training, they receive periodic increases until their pay approaches that of experienced workers. In addition, union workers in some areas receive supplemental wages from the union when they are on layoff or shortened workweeks.

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.