Employment of boilermakers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.
Employment growth reflects the need to maintain and upgrade, rather than replace, the many boilers that are getting older. Employment growth will also result as a growing population demands more electric power. Although 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 continue to spur demand for boilermakers.
To meet requirements of the Clean Air Act, utility companies also will need to continue upgrading their boiler and scrubbing systems. The installation of new boilers and pressure vessels, air pollution equipment, water treatment plants, storage and process tanks, electric static precipitators, and stacks and liners will further drive employment growth of boilermakers, although to a lesser extent than repairs will.
Overall job prospects should be favorable because the work of a boilermaker remains hazardous 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 arise 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.
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.
However, 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition