Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
While boilers typically last more than 50 years, the need to replace parts, such as boiler tubes, heating elements, and ductwork, is an ongoing process that will require the work of boilermakers.
The installation of new boilers and pressure vessels, air pollution abatement equipment, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, electrostatic precipitators, and stacks and liners will spur some demand for boilermakers, although to a lesser extent than repairs and upgrades will.
Additionally, the demand for boilermakers is linked to the cost of coal relative to that of natural gas. Coal-fired power plants require more boilermakers for installation and maintenance. As a result, if natural-gas prices continue to remain low relative to the cost of coal, fewer boilermakers will be needed.
Overall job prospects should be favorable because the work of a boilermaker remains difficult and physically demanding, leading some qualified applicants to seek other types of work. Although employment growth will generate some job openings, the majority of positions will stem from the need to replace the large number of boilermakers expected to retire in the coming decade.
People who have welding training or a welding certificate should have the best opportunities to be selected for boilermaker apprenticeship programs. In addition, workers with military service experience are viewed favorably during initial selection.
As with many other construction workers, employment of boilermakers is sensitive to fluctuations of the economy. On the one hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, shortages of workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.
Nonetheless, maintenance and repair of boilers must continue even during economic downturns, so boilermaker mechanics in manufacturing and other industries generally have more stable employment than those in construction.
The spring and fall seasons are the busiest times for boilermakers.
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Construction trades workers
Total, all occupations
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program