How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker:
The Definitive Guide


Even though you may not have known it, most construction sites require at least one Sheet Metal Worker, especially for building large manufacturing plants and metal shops.

With a skill like welding, Sheet Metal Workers are a commodity that’s hard to find.

Those interested in working as Sheet Metal Workers can expect to work long hours cutting and shaping hot metal, as well as using commercial and industrial equipment.


What is a Sheet Metal Worker?

As a Sheet Metal Worker, you will be tasked with creating designs, cutting out sheet metal, and installing sheet metal at various construction sites.

These types of craftsmen are typically skilled in their careers, gaining experience through school and hands-on apprenticeships.

This career requires using large equipment and handling hot metal, so a steady hand and patience are required in order to succeed in this job. 

You can find Sheet Metal Workers in factories as well, where they may often not be as specialized.

Those who work on construction sites will typically use saws, rulers, plasma cutters, and drills to complete tasks, and those in factories will likely use a machine designed to guide them.

Duties

There are many responsibilities on the construction site for a Sheet Metal Worker.

Some of the tasks that may be required throughout a typical workday include:

  • Measure and mark dimensions
  • Understand and interpret blueprints
  • Install pipes, assembly pieces, gutters, and other parts
  • Fasten seams with soldering, welding, or bolting
  • Use hand-powered tools
  • Ensure the safety of materials and construction

Salary

This is a very specialized career when working on a construction site, so a Sheet Metal Worker will likely need more education, meaning a higher salary for many.

Most Sheet Metal Workers in the United States make about $54,000 a year.

After working for many years, these skilled craftspeople can expect to make up to $88,000 in some areas.

Those who have just started their career in construction or as a Sheet Metal Worker can expect a salary closer to $30,000 a year.

Sheet Metal Workers in Washington DC can expect to make $63,000 a year, while those working in Wyoming or Arkansas will make closer to $40,000 a year.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $54,480

$29K
$37K
$54K
$66K
$88K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$41,720
Alaska$66,400
Arizona$43,310
Arkansas$37,570
California$61,270
Colorado$50,120
Connecticut$58,690
Delaware$60,370
District of Columbia$63,380
Florida$41,540
Georgia$48,000
Hawaii$79,830
Idaho$44,740
Illinois$69,280
Indiana$55,580
Iowa$50,000
Kansas$48,860
Kentucky$46,490
Louisiana$46,360
Maine$49,480
Maryland$57,260
Massachusetts$63,630
Michigan$55,190
Minnesota$63,660
Mississippi$42,280
Missouri$61,880
Montana$49,640
Nebraska$52,000
Nevada$57,060
New Hampshire$49,870
New Jersey$65,550
New Mexico$49,850
New York$72,850
North Carolina$40,450
North Dakota$52,740
Ohio$54,250
Oklahoma$50,600
Oregon$59,180
Pennsylvania$57,550
Rhode Island$52,570
South Carolina$38,700
South Dakota$47,400
Tennessee$44,720
Texas$43,910
Utah$55,200
Vermont$47,770
Virginia$47,400
Washington$67,450
West Virginia$69,710
Wisconsin$59,280
Wyoming$45,210
Guam$34,250
Puerto Rico$22,300

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Hawaii, where the average salary is $79,830.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Hawaii - $79,830
New York - $72,850
West Virginia - $69,710
Illinois - $69,280
Washington - $67,450
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Sheet Metal Worker

Step 1Graduate From High School

The first thing that any Sheet Metal Worker must have is a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Most employers and apprenticeship programs require that Sheet Metal Workers be at least 18 years old as well.

This is for safety and legal reasons.

Some employers don’t require any further education beyond high school and will hire people right away.

More often than not, an apprenticeship or some type of further education is required.

These don’t have to be done together, many people choose to work an apprenticeship to gain experience in the construction field while also going to school.

Others want to earn a degree and choose to go to college. 

Either way, it’s important to gain job experience.

Step 2Enter an Apprenticeship

For those looking to work while going to school, an apprenticeship might be appropriate.

These types of programs can last anywhere from 4-5 years, and often lead to a certificate in the field.

As an apprentice, you will work side by side with a Journeyman to gain knowledge and education both on the job and in the classroom.

When just beginning an apprenticeship, you might work for free, but after some time, it’s possible to gain wages while also going to school in an apprenticeship program.

Some of the types of classes you should expect to take throughout an apprenticeship program include:

  • Architectural Sheet Metal
  • Industrial Sheet Metal
  • Balancing and Testing
  • CAD
  • HVAC

Step 3Gain an Education

If you decide that you’d rather gain an associate’s degree, there are some programs at community colleges and trade schools that could help.

Some of the majors to consider when looking to become a Sheet Metal Worker are Sheetworking and Sheet Metal Technology.

Both types of education will help you to become a Sheet Metal Worker, and will typically take around two years to finish.

Some of the courses that you will take in an Associates degree program are:

  • Technical Communications
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Welding and Soldering
  • History of American Labor
  • Industrial Metal Fabrication
  • Foreman Training

Most Associate’s degree programs have Sheet Metal training and other labs so that students can gain hands-on experience.

Often, students will acquire an internship or apprenticeship while going to school as well.

Step 4Become Certified

Once you have finished your apprenticeship or Associate’s degree program, you will be eligible to gain certification and licensing in most states.

Licensing and certification are not necessary for any state in the United States for Sheet Metal Workers.

However, employers like to see these credentials on future employees, especially in areas like:

  • Welding
  • Testing and Balancing
  • Building Information Modeling
  • Blueprint Reading
  • Precision Sheet Metal Work

Sheet Metal Workers can find more information about these and other types of certification through associations including:

  • Sheet Metal and Air-conditioning Industry
  • Fabricators and Manufacturers Association
  • American Welding Society
  • International Training Institute

Each certification may require at least 2-4 years of education and will require passing an exam.


Education

There are some companies that will hire Sheet Metal Workers with no experience right out of high school, but more often than not, an employer will require some type of education in the field.

For a Sheet Metal Worker, education can come in several forms.

Some people interested in working as Sheet Metal Workers will apply for an apprenticeship.

Others may want to gain education through a trade school or community college.

Those who want to work while learning can gain an apprenticeship, which lasts anywhere from 4-5 years.

An apprenticeship allows a Sheet Metal Worker to gain on the job experience, sometimes for pay, as well as learn in classrooms at the same time.

In order to gain an apprenticeship, you’ll need to:

  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Pay an application fee (typically around $50)

While working as an apprentice, you will work alongside a senior journeyman on real job sites, and then typically have classes in the evenings.

Some of the things that will be covered in typical apprenticeship courses include:

  • Heating and cooling
  • Brazing
  • Welding
  • Detailing
  • Blueprints
  • Construction Specifications

Most apprenticeships offer a certification of completion once finished, which can be a great credential to have in this career.

Those interested in earning an Associate’s degree as a Sheet Metal Worker can find some programs at their local community colleges or trade schools.

The majors associated with Sheet Metal Workers include:

  • Sheet Metal Technology
  • Sheetworking

Either program choice is great for Sheet Metal Workers, and they both provide courses in areas such as:

  • English Composition
  • Detailing
  • Industrial Sheet Metal
  • Basic Sheet Metal Fabrication
  • Physical Science for the Industries
  • Technical Communications
  • CAD and HVAC Design

These types of degrees can take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete and can result in an Associate’s degree.

Most Sheet Metal Workers will need to gain some type of on the job experience while going to school, which means that they can work an internship or an apprenticeship.

These can be done while going to school, or right after graduation, and can last another 2-4 years.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

As with types of education for Sheet Metal Workers, it is likely that you will come across many ways to gain certification and licensure in this career.

Those who work an apprenticeship program or gain education through a college or technical school are both eligible for licensure.

To gain licensure to become a Journeyman in the Sheet Metal industry, you will need to:

  • Have a high school diploma 
  • Have the required education and hands-on experience 
  • Pay at least $150
  • Be of good moral character
  • Pass the exam

The exam can vary from state to state as it is not legally required but typically consist of 80-100 questions.

The topics covered in a Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker licensure exam include:

  • Blueprint reading
  • Safety
  • Ethics and Construction laws
  • Custom Metal Roofing Installation
  • Soldering
  • Engineered Metal Roofing Systems

You’ll need to have a score of at least 70% to pass this exam, and you will have 6 months to retake it if you don’t pass the first time.

Gaining licensure isn’t required in any state, but looks great on resumes.

There are other certifications available for Sheet Metal Workers, such as:

  • Industrial Welding
  • HVAC
  • Laser-cutting Machines
  • Building Information Modeling

Other types of certifications can be found through organizations associated with Sheet Metal Workers, like:

  • International Training Institute
  • Sheet Metal Occupational Health Trust
  • Air-conditioning Industry

Most often, certifications will require an exam or education classes and can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to finish, depending on the type of certification.

There are no certifications required to work as a Sheet Metal Worker, but many employers like to see their employees with credentials.

These credentials show customers and clients that you know exactly what you are doing and that they can trust you to do a good job.

Those who want to earn more salary and promotions will often gain certification. 

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

If you plan to take classes in order to earn certification as a Sheet Metal Worker, it should only take about 6-7 weeks to learn all of the necessary material.

Most classes can be taken at night school through community college or other trade school programs.

There are some certification programs that can take as much as 8-12 weeks, but these should also offer extensive education for Sheet Metal Workers.

Even though certification isn’t necessary everywhere, it is a great benefit and bonus to those looking to land a great career as a Sheet Metal Worker.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

With the economy the way that it is right now, it seems that individuals who are interested in working as Sheet Metal Workers will likely not find many job prospects.

This career is expected to grow about 1 percent over the next decade.

The growth in this career is much slower than many other careers, especially in construction.

There won’t be much growth in this field due to technological advancements and also because many Sheet Metal Workers do several jobs simultaneously.

Those who are interested in becoming a Sheet Metal Worker will want to gain experience and work an apprenticeship to gain the most career opportunities.

Employment Growth Projection: 1%

137,700
2018
139,500
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 1,800 jobs.

Sheet Metal Worker: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Sheet Metal Worker?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Many Sheet Metal Workers feel that their job makes other people’s lives better, which can make for satisfactory working conditions.

About 65% of Sheet Metal Workers say that they enjoy their career.

Though the work can be difficult at times, most construction work is done on a 9-5 schedule, which means Sheet Metal Workers will be home in time for dinner most nights.

Those who enjoy building and using their hands will gain the most satisfaction from this career.

Sheet Metal Workers who have credentials and further education will typically find more career opportunities in the United States, which can also make the career more satisfying.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

As a Sheet Metal Worker, you should expect to make around $54,000 a year.

This is the average for Sheet Metal Workers with several years of experience, for those just starting out in the career, it is likely that you will make closer to $29,000 in some areas.

There are some Sheet Metal Workers who have many years of experience, certifications, and other specializations that can make close to $88,000 a year.

Having an appropriate degree and working in larger populations can provide higher salaries to some Sheet Metal Workers.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

Over the coming years, there won’t be much growth in the field of Sheet Metal Workers.

This is because there will likely not be as much construction over the coming decade due to the economy and production costs across the country.

Those who are interested in working as Sheet Metal Workers should expect about a one percent increase in career opportunities between 2019 and 2029.

Most job prospects will occur in larger populations, or in industrial areas that require sheet metal construction.

Education Duration: 4+ Years

Education Duration

If you are looking to gain employment as a Sheet Metal Worker, most construction sites and factories require at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

It’s also possible to gain an apprenticeship, which can last anywhere from 4-5 years and can offer paid options as well as classroom education.

Then, it’s helpful to gain licensure or certification in some areas for Sheet Metal Workers, which can take another 6 months to one year to earn.

Sometimes, a Sheet Metal Worker can find employment right out of high school, and some Sheet Metal Workers may need to gain experience through an apprenticeship that can take five years, it all depends on the individual.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

You should assume that you will need physical stamina as a Sheet Metal Worker, but some of the other characteristics necessary for this career include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Customer service skills
  • Flexibility and dexterity
  • Ability to multitask
  • Understand how to use hand tools and power tools
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to work alone and with groups
  • Math knowledge
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to operate machinery
  • Spatial recognition skills
  • Time management skills
  • Decision-making skills

There may be times, working as a Sheet Metal Worker, that you will need to make decisions quickly, so having accurate troubleshooting and repair abilities will come in handy in this career.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of a Sheet Metal Worker?

On average, a Sheet Metal worker should make around $54,000 a year, with at least two years of experience and education.

With little or no experience and no education, it is possible to make closer to $27,000 a year as a Sheet Metal Worker.

Gaining credentials like certifications and degrees can provide higher salaries, up to $88,000 or more in some areas.

This career can have many benefits, including a good salary for those who work hard.

Q. How long does it take to become a Sheet Metal Worker?

There are two different paths to take when thinking of becoming a Sheet Metal Worker.

First, you can enter an apprenticeship, which can last anywhere from 4-5 years.

This is where you will learn all about the tricks of the trade with hands-on experience working as a Sheet Metal Worker under supervision.

Another choice is to enroll in a community college, trade school, or university to earn an Associate’s degree.

This takes roughly two years, and may not provide as much hands-on knowledge.

Q. What does a Sheet Metal Worker do?

A Sheet Metal Worker is responsible for measuring pipes and marking the dimensions in order to cut them properly.

After cutting, a Sheet Metal Worker will assemble, repair, or piece together materials in order to finish the blueprint and make the customer happy.

This is why it is also important to understand blueprints so that these tasks can be achieved.

Using power tools and working with heavy machinery is also a large part of this career.

Q. What is the demand for Sheet Metal Workers?

Many career opportunities will open up for Sheet Metal Workers in the near future, even though the numbers don’t spike too much.

The prospective career growth for Sheet Metal Workers is only one percent over the next decade.

The reason for this slow increase is due to technological advancements in the field.

Fewer man-hours are required to do sheet metal working jobs, which calls for fewer workers.

Most job opportunities will come from those who are retiring or quitting the workforce.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Sheet Metal Worker?

If you’re an aspiring Sheet Metal Worker, it’s possible to become one with no cost at all.

Most apprenticeships are free to students, and will often pay you to do the work.

However, those who want to earn an Associate’s degree may have to drop some cash.

The average Associate’s degree in the United States costs anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to complete.


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