Boilermakers, or tradespeople who work in metal fabrication, usually acquire professional skills through apprenticeship, although some may take formal classes at a trade or technical school to become a boilermaker. Work in this field requires extensive training and experience. Professional organizations and unions may offer formal certification, including qualifications to work in sensitive areas and on technically demanding projects. This work can be dangerous, and it requires physical fitness and a high degree of attention to detail.
One way to become a boilermaker is to apply directly for an apprenticeship after graduating from high school. Apprenticeship programs regularly list new job opportunities, and students can also find out about training options through a union, professional organization, or trade school. Apprentices work their way through the ranks as they develop experience. Under the supervision of a skilled boilermaker, they can gradually take on increasingly complex and demanding projects. Eventually, they will be experienced and skilled enough to work independently as part of a shop, and can in turn train apprentices themselves.
Other boilermakers may start to get training for becoming a boilermaker by taking classes at a college or technical school. Welding classes can be a good choice, and some schools specifically offer a boilermaker preparation program. Students get classroom and technical experience while in school under the direction of an instructor. They may also have access to internships and apprenticeships that are not widely advertised, as some boilermakers looking for apprentices only list openings with trusted trade schools.
Despite the “boiler” in the name, a person in training to become a boilermaker may not actually work specifically on boilers. This job can include fabrication, maintenance, and repair of a variety of vats, vessels, and pressurized systems. Some technicians also fabricate metal parts for other kinds of projects. They work with structural engineers and other metal experts to develop the specifications for the project and plan out the fabrication in a logical way.
After a person has become a boilermaker, there are a number of careers she can pursue with her qualifications and experience. One option is to continue working in metal fabrication. Others may move into technical drawing, working on the schematics boilermakers use in their work. Boiler inspectors may also have a background in this area. Some boilermakers return to school for engineering degrees and participate in the development of newer, safer technology for activities ranging from fermenting beer to storing aviation fuel.