Sheet Metal Technologies

A career in sheet metal technologies can provide you with the opportunity to use your knowledge of math and work with your hands. Safety issues are a concern in the field, so read on to learn more about job duties, training and earnings before deciding if a career as sheet metal worker is right for you.

Is Sheet Metal Technologies for Me?

Career Overview

Sheet metal technology involves the assembly, fabrication, installation and repair of sheet metal products. These include ducts, drainpipes and furnace casings, as well as tailgates and control boxes. People employed in this industry are often called sheet metal workers, although they might also work with plastic materials or fiberglass. Following safety precautions is a must, because working in this field comes with a relatively high risk of injury, including cuts, burns and falls.

Job Duties

As a sheet metal worker, you'll set up computerized equipment or machine tools to cut or shape sheet metal. You might also use hand tools, like forms and hammers, to shape the metal pieces manually. Additional activities can include assembling and welding pieces of sheet metal together to create products.

Career Options

As a sheet metal worker, you might work in a manufacturing plant, a small shop or for a construction contractor. You could also install the metal ducts used in heating and air conditioning. Although you might choose to specialize in just one area of sheet metal technology, most workers perform a variety of fabrication, installation and maintenance tasks.

Employment and Salary Information

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that sheet metal workers earned a median annual salary of $43,890. According to the BLS, job opportunities in sheet metal technologies were expected to increase by 15% nationwide, or faster than average, from 2012-2022. However, completing an apprenticeship or becoming a certified welder may improve your opportunities in the job market (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Sheet Metal Technologies?

Education and Training Requirements

A combination of classroom work and on-the-job training, typically over the course of 4-5 years, can help you prepare for a career in sheet metal work. Formal education programs can lead to a certificate, diploma or associate degree and can usually be found at community colleges, technical institutes and trade schools. Many classroom programs include an outside internship.

Apprenticeship programs may be offered by local offices of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) or Sheet Metal Workers' International Association (SMWIA). Although acceptance requirements can vary, you must be at least 18 years of age to begin working as an apprentice. High school courses in shop, mechanical drawing and math, particularly algebra, geometry and trigonometry, can be helpful in preparing for this trade.

Areas of Study

In a sheet metal program, you'll learn how to fit, solder and weld sheet metal, make patterns and read blueprints. Along with college math courses, you might study architectural sheet metal, computer-aided drafting (CADD) and duct system design. You'll also receive training in customer relations and the use of power machines. The standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will also be covered as you become familiar with safety concerns and the proper use of equipment.

Some sheet metal technology programs allow you to specialize in a specific area, such as fabrication and welding or sign fabrication. You might also pursue a concentration in heating, ventilation and technology (HVAC) installation and maintenance.

Required Skills

Physical stamina and strength is key to working in sheet metal technology, especially as you'll spend most of your day on your feet, lifting and maneuvering heavy materials. Good reading and math skills are also required for a career as a sheet metal worker.

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