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FIELD IRON WORKER (UNION), IN-DEPTH: A Great Industry If You Can Get In While You're Young

About this video 

Jeff, the union field iron worker, talks about what he loves most about his job, the challenges, key decisions, how hard it is to get into his work, and work-life balance. The apprenticeship program is paid, but competitive and tough. Still, he loves it.

Job Title: Field Iron Worker (Union)

Job Summary: Structural Iron and Steel Workers

Job Description

Structural iron and steel workers install iron or steel beams, girders, and columns to form buildings, bridges, and other structures. They are often referred to as ironworkers.

Iron and steel are important parts of buildings, bridges, and other structures. Even though the primary metal involved in this work is steel, these workers often are known as ironworkers or erectors.

When building tall structures such as a skyscraper, ironworkers erect steel frames and assemble the cranes and derricks that move structural steel, reinforcing bars, buckets of concrete, lumber, and other materials and equipment around the construction site. Once this job has been completed, workers begin to connect steel columns, beams, and girders according to blueprints and instructions from construction supervisors.

As they work, they use a variety of tools. They use rope (called a tag line) to guide the steel while it is being lifted; they use spud wrenches (long wrenches with a pointed handle) to put the steel in place; and they use driftpins or the handle of the spud wrench to line up the holes in the steel with the holes in the framework. To check the alignment, they may use plumb bobs, laser equipment, or levels.

Structural steel generally comes to the construction site ready to be put up—cut to the proper size, with holes drilled for bolts and numbered for assembly.

On-the-Job Training

A 3-4 year apprenticeship is customary.

Certification Requirement
Recommended by by the American Welding Society.

Quick Facts

Average salary
Average salary
National Statistic Change Location
Confirm
$25,000 - $80,000
Projected job growth
Projected Job Growth
20 to 24 percent
Typical schedule
Typical schedule
Full-time
Typical workplace
Typical workplace
Outdoor, Physically demanding, Indoor
Personal qualities
Personal Qualities
Strength/stamina, Likes working with hands, Technical skills

Educational Path

Education requirement
Education Requirement
High school degree
Recommended majors
Recommended Majors
Metal Working
View Detailed Career Data
P3.instances[0].transcript.parse_transcript_data({"transcript":"<p><span m='340'>What</span> <span m='590'>do I</span> <span m='670'>like</span> <span m='1200'>most</span> <span m='1580'>about my</span> <span m='1920'>job?</span> <span m='2730'>Well,</span> <span m='2920'>I</span> <span m='3330'>have</span> <span m='4930'>excellent</span> <span m='5330'>benefits,</span> <span m='7040'>and</span> <span m='7260'>the</span> <span m='7380'>pay's</span> <span m='7710'>not</span> <span m='7900'>too</span> <span m='8050'>bad.</span> <span m='12990'>The</span> <span m='13060'>work's</span> <span m='13310'>usually</span> <span m='13650'>pretty</span> <span m='13920'>steady.</span> <span m='14550'>There's</span> <span m='14840'>not</span> <span m='15010'>a</span> <span m='15070'>lot</span> <span m='15290'>of</span> <span m='15400'>us</span> <span m='15540'>that</span> <span m='15650'>do</span> <span m='15800'>what</span> <span m='15970'>we</span> <span m='16129'>do</span> <span m='19230'>in</span> <span m='19650'>California.</span> <span m='20160'>My</span> <span m='20320'>union</span> <span m='20980'>represents</span> <span m='21860'>Southern</span> <span m='22100'>California</span> <span m='23060'>almost</span> <span m='23500'>to</span> <span m='23550'>San</span> <span m='23790'>Diego,</span> <span m='25600'>Las</span> <span m='25930'>Vegas,</span> <span m='26870'>and</span> <span m='27580'>up</span> <span m='27730'>to</span> <span m='27930'>Oxnard.</span> <span m='28630'>So</span> <span m='28800'>that's</span> <span m='29010'>quite</span> <span m='29260'>a</span> <span m='29300'>vast</span> <span m='29690'>area.</span> <span m='29930'>And</span> <span m='30020'>there's</span> <span m='30430'>less</span> <span m='30830'>than</span> <span m='31040'>5,000</span> <span m='31450'>of us</span> <span m='31860'>that</span> <span m='31970'>do</span> <span m='32110'>what</span> <span m='32259'>we</span> <span m='32390'>do.</span> </p><p><span m='33810'>There's</span> <span m='34090'>a</span> <span m='34160'>lot</span> <span m='34480'>of</span> <span m='34600'>iron workers</span> <span m='34860'>that</span> <span m='35240'>aren't</span> <span m='35510'>union.</span> <span m='39570'>There</span> <span m='39710'>are</span> <span m='39730'>a</span> <span m='39790'>lot</span> <span m='41100'>more</span> <span m='41470'>accidents</span> <span m='41990'>with</span> <span m='42140'>them.</span> <span m='42930'>They</span> <span m='43100'>don't</span> <span m='43240'>have</span> <span m='43390'>the</span> <span m='43480'>training</span> <span m='43960'>that</span> <span m='44080'>we</span> <span m='44300'>have.</span> <span m='45090'>We</span> <span m='45360'>do</span> <span m='45600'>all</span> <span m='45860'>of</span> <span m='45960'>the</span> <span m='46040'>big</span> <span m='46360'>stuff,</span> <span m='47220'>all</span> <span m='47390'>the</span> <span m='47460'>public</span> <span m='47900'>works</span> <span m='48200'>stuff,</span> <span m='48580'>because</span> <span m='49080'>of</span> <span m='49200'>our</span> <span m='49510'>safety</span> <span m='49940'>and</span> <span m='50070'>our</span> <span m='50180'>work</span> <span m='50460'>ethic,</span> <span m='54510'>which</span> <span m='55280'>creates</span> <span m='55640'>a</span> <span m='55680'>bunch</span> <span m='55940'>of</span> <span m='56020'>challenges</span> <span m='56620'>in</span> <span m='56750'>itself.</span> <span m='57240'>You</span> <span m='57370'>go</span> <span m='57610'>and</span> <span m='58020'>do</span> <span m='58160'>the</span> <span m='60220'>St.</span> <span m='60400'>Vincent</span> <span m='60760'>Thomas</span> <span m='61130'>bridge,</span> <span m='62360'>we</span> <span m='62650'>have</span> <span m='62830'>iron</span> <span m='63110'>workers</span> <span m='63460'>out there</span> <span m='63760'>that</span> <span m='63920'>have</span> <span m='63970'>been</span> <span m='64150'>out</span> <span m='64280'>there</span> <span m='64390'>for</span> <span m='64599'>year</span> <span m='64830'>and</span> <span m='64910'>a</span> <span m='64940'>half</span> <span m='65379'>trying</span> <span m='65876'>to</span> <span m='67820'>re-fabricate</span> <span m='68840'>some</span> <span m='69020'>of</span> <span m='70340'>the</span> <span m='70440'>damaged</span> <span m='71810'>pieces</span> <span m='72450'>that</span> <span m='72580'>are</span> <span m='73080'>needing</span> <span m='73540'>to</span> <span m='73600'>be</span> <span m='73780'>replaced.</span> <span m='74280'>And they've been</span> <span m='74520'>out</span> <span m='74660'>there</span> <span m='74780'>for</span> <span m='75130'>a</span> <span m='75220'>year</span> <span m='75520'>and</span> <span m='75580'>a</span> <span m='75600'>half</span> <span m='75980'>or</span> <span m='76100'>so.</span> <span m='76540'>And</span> <span m='77480'>you have to</span> <span m='77950'>keep from</span> <span m='78310'>falling</span> <span m='78740'>in</span> <span m='78840'>the</span> <span m='78940'>water</span> <span m='79200'>and</span> <span m='79460'>keep from</span> <span m='79820'>dropping</span> <span m='80180'>things</span> <span m='80460'>in</span> <span m='80560'>the</span> <span m='80700'>water.</span> <span m='83950'>Not</span> <span m='84080'>a</span> <span m='84120'>lot</span> <span m='84290'>of</span> <span m='84340'>people</span> <span m='84600'>can</span> <span m='84750'>do</span> <span m='84920'>it.</span> <span m='85310'>When</span> <span m='85650'>I</span> <span m='85700'>was</span> <span m='85910'>young,</span> <span m='86180'>I</span> <span m='86240'>kind</span> <span m='87730'>used</span> <span m='87990'>that</span> <span m='88170'>as,</span> <span m='88530'>not a</span> <span m='88640'>lot</span> <span m='88810'>of</span> <span m='88860'>guys can</span> <span m='89140'>do</span> <span m='89430'>this.</span> <span m='89560'>Well,</span> <span m='89700'>now</span> <span m='90160'>I'm</span> <span m='90310'>getting</span> <span m='90640'>older.</span> <span m='90960'>A lot</span> <span m='91305'>of guys</span> <span m='91650'>can't</span> <span m='91840'>do this.</span> <span m='92400'>I'm</span> <span m='93080'>getting</span> <span m='93340'>to</span> <span m='93420'>be</span> <span m='93570'>one of</span> <span m='93770'>them.</span> </p><p><span m='95630'>What</span> <span m='96110'>are</span> <span m='96140'>some of</span> <span m='96400'>the</span> <span m='96540'>key</span> <span m='96870'>decisions</span> <span m='97700'>that</span> <span m='98080'>led</span> <span m='98340'>me</span> <span m='98470'>to</span> <span m='98590'>this?</span> <span m='98960'>Well,</span> <span m='99870'>the acting</span> <span m='100400'>thing</span> <span m='100670'>didn't</span> <span m='100910'>work</span> <span m='101150'>out</span> <span m='101320'>so</span> <span m='101470'>well.</span> <span m='103210'>Didn't</span> <span m='103390'>really</span> <span m='103580'>want</span> <span m='103750'>to</span> <span m='103810'>sell</span> <span m='104120'>real</span> <span m='104340'>estate,</span> <span m='104700'>because I</span> <span m='104960'>didn't</span> <span m='107640'>like</span> <span m='107820'>the</span> <span m='107900'>ceiling</span> <span m='108310'>and</span> <span m='108400'>that.</span> <span m='112350'>Bartending</span> <span m='112850'>didn't</span> <span m='113020'>have</span> <span m='113190'>any</span> <span m='113320'>benefits,</span> <span m='114080'>so the</span> <span m='114310'>bartending</span> <span m='114930'>thing</span> <span m='115000'>didn't</span> <span m='115200'>last</span> <span m='115460'>very</span> <span m='115680'>long.</span> <span m='116990'>And</span> <span m='118916'>I could</span> <span m='119360'>do</span> <span m='119520'>iron</span> <span m='119770'>work.</span> <span m='120025'>I was</span> <span m='120280'>pretty</span> <span m='120490'>good</span> <span m='120740'>at it.</span> <span m='121095'>I'm not</span> <span m='121450'>afraid</span> <span m='121750'>of</span> <span m='121850'>heights.</span> <span m='122270'>And</span> <span m='122490'>like</span> <span m='122720'>I</span> <span m='122760'>said,</span> <span m='122960'>it pays</span> <span m='123320'>pretty</span> <span m='123510'>well.</span> <span m='124500'>And I</span> <span m='124590'>can</span> <span m='125510'>take</span> <span m='125680'>care</span> <span m='125790'>of</span> <span m='125830'>my</span> <span m='125930'>family.</span> <span m='127060'>Health</span> <span m='127270'>benefits--</span> <span m='127910'>if</span> <span m='128160'>anything</span> <span m='128280'>happens</span> <span m='128460'>to</span> <span m='128550'>me,</span> <span m='129560'>we're</span> <span m='129740'>pretty</span> <span m='129990'>well</span> <span m='130169'>taken</span> <span m='130470'>care</span> <span m='130690'>of.</span> </p><p><span m='133240'>To</span> <span m='133400'>get</span> <span m='133820'>into</span> <span m='134050'>my</span> <span m='134210'>job,</span> <span m='135150'>I</span> <span m='136140'>think</span> <span m='136540'>at</span> <span m='136700'>last</span> <span m='137050'>report</span> <span m='137460'>there</span> <span m='137560'>were</span> <span m='137680'>5,000</span> <span m='138470'>applications</span> <span m='139070'>a</span> <span m='139120'>month</span> <span m='140720'>for</span> <span m='140860'>guys</span> <span m='141170'>to come</span> <span m='141350'>and</span> <span m='141430'>do</span> <span m='141540'>what</span> <span m='141690'>I</span> <span m='141830'>do.</span> <span m='145140'>We</span> <span m='145610'>have an</span> <span m='145870'>apprenticeship</span> <span m='146367'>program.</span> <span m='146864'>It's a</span> <span m='147361'>four-year</span> <span m='147858'>program</span> <span m='148852'>when we</span> <span m='149349'>have a guy</span> <span m='149846'>that</span> <span m='150343'>comes</span> <span m='150591'>in</span> <span m='151834'>and</span> <span m='155810'>meets</span> <span m='156270'>a</span> <span m='156730'>certain</span> <span m='157020'>criterion,</span> <span m='157660'>we</span> <span m='157780'>can</span> <span m='157960'>find</span> <span m='158200'>a</span> <span m='158250'>place</span> <span m='158540'>for</span> <span m='158670'>him</span> <span m='158820'>to</span> <span m='158880'>get</span> <span m='159030'>sponsored,</span> <span m='159490'>a</span> <span m='159620'>contractor</span> <span m='160120'>that</span> <span m='160280'>will</span> <span m='160360'>sponsor</span> <span m='160770'>him</span> <span m='160910'>for</span> <span m='161050'>six</span> <span m='161280'>weeks,</span> <span m='161570'>which</span> <span m='161650'>means</span> <span m='162090'>that they'll</span> <span m='162320'>pay</span> <span m='162530'>him</span> <span m='162840'>for</span> <span m='163010'>six</span> <span m='163250'>weeks.</span> </p><p><span m='165120'>Having</span> <span m='165390'>no</span> <span m='165580'>experience,</span> <span m='166620'>little</span> <span m='166900'>experience,</span> <span m='169840'>some</span> <span m='170120'>aptitude</span> <span m='170630'>towards</span> <span m='171730'>construction</span> <span m='172320'>and</span> <span m='172380'>what</span> <span m='172630'>we</span> <span m='172790'>do</span> <span m='174930'>helps</span> <span m='175830'>get</span> <span m='176060'>sponsorship.</span> <span m='179820'>You</span> <span m='179910'>go</span> <span m='180040'>through</span> <span m='180190'>that</span> <span m='180350'>sponsorship</span> <span m='180880'>period.</span> <span m='185230'>About</span> <span m='185470'>a</span> <span m='185510'>third</span> <span m='185750'>of</span> <span m='185790'>the</span> <span m='185880'>guys</span> <span m='186540'>drop</span> <span m='186830'>out</span> <span m='186960'>right</span> <span m='187140'>away.</span> <span m='187660'>I've</span> <span m='187790'>seen</span> <span m='187990'>guys</span> <span m='188270'>that</span> <span m='188560'>didn't</span> <span m='188750'>even</span> <span m='188920'>last</span> <span m='189250'>the</span> <span m='189310'>day</span> <span m='189550'>and</span> <span m='189790'>got</span> <span m='190000'>out.</span> </p><p><span m='194340'>It's</span> <span m='194490'>a</span> <span m='194540'>four-year</span> <span m='195240'>apprenticeship</span> <span m='195770'>program.</span> <span m='196490'>And</span> <span m='197230'>each</span> <span m='197460'>class</span> <span m='197840'>is</span> <span m='197930'>usually</span> <span m='198490'>around</span> <span m='198980'>80</span> <span m='199210'>guys</span> <span m='199540'>in</span> <span m='199640'>the</span> <span m='199710'>class.</span> <span m='200510'>There'll be</span> <span m='200920'>two</span> <span m='201060'>different</span> <span m='201300'>classes.</span> <span m='202620'>By</span> <span m='202710'>the</span> <span m='203020'>end</span> <span m='203280'>of</span> <span m='204800'>the</span> <span m='204890'>four</span> <span m='205230'>years,</span> <span m='205650'>when</span> <span m='206050'>guys</span> <span m='206340'>are</span> <span m='207010'>graduating</span> <span m='208060'>out</span> <span m='208180'>of</span> <span m='208240'>the</span> <span m='208390'>apprenticeship</span> <span m='208910'>program</span> <span m='209165'>to</span> <span m='209420'>become</span> <span m='209740'>journeymen,</span> <span m='210860'>there's</span> <span m='212070'>about</span> <span m='213110'>15,</span> <span m='213510'>20</span> <span m='213910'>guys</span> <span m='214190'>that</span> <span m='214270'>actually</span> <span m='214610'>make</span> <span m='214830'>it.</span> <span m='216130'>So</span> <span m='216470'>that</span> <span m='216890'>gives</span> <span m='217070'>you</span> <span m='217180'>an</span> <span m='217300'>idea.</span> <span m='217990'>It's</span> <span m='218250'>a</span> <span m='218300'>difficult</span> <span m='218740'>industry.</span> </p><p><span m='221610'>But</span> <span m='225580'>depending</span> <span m='225950'>on</span> <span m='226060'>how</span> <span m='226220'>much</span> <span m='226440'>you</span> <span m='226530'>work,</span> <span m='227460'>you</span> <span m='227650'>can</span> <span m='228150'>make</span> <span m='228400'>anywhere</span> <span m='228480'>from</span> <span m='228880'>$60,000</span> <span m='229326'>to</span> <span m='229772'>$100,000</span> <span m='230220'>a</span> <span m='230310'>year.</span> <span m='231060'>You</span> <span m='231480'>get</span> <span m='231900'>vacation</span> <span m='232350'>benefits,</span> <span m='232850'>pension,</span> <span m='233380'>annuity.</span> <span m='237390'>The</span> <span m='237520'>union</span> <span m='237860'>is</span> <span m='237980'>a</span> <span m='238010'>good</span> <span m='238210'>thing.</span> <span m='240690'>It's</span> <span m='240850'>just</span> <span m='241360'>a</span> <span m='241430'>little</span> <span m='241610'>difficult</span> <span m='242150'>to</span> <span m='242360'>get into</span> <span m='242500'>it.</span> </p><p><span m='244470'>And</span> <span m='245950'>what</span> <span m='246130'>is</span> <span m='246390'>my</span> <span m='246760'>work-life</span> <span m='247550'>balance</span> <span m='247835'>like?</span> <span m='248800'>Well,</span> <span m='254190'>that's</span> <span m='254450'>a</span> <span m='254480'>good</span> <span m='254690'>question.</span> <span m='257399'>I</span> <span m='257890'>have</span> <span m='258050'>an</span> <span m='258410'>awesome</span> <span m='258820'>family.</span> <span m='264640'>I</span> <span m='264720'>think</span> <span m='265100'>that</span> <span m='266250'>the</span> <span m='266680'>pay</span> <span m='266920'>that</span> <span m='267080'>I</span> <span m='267120'>make</span> <span m='267530'>provides</span> <span m='267910'>us</span> <span m='268290'>opportunities.</span> <span m='269610'>My</span> <span m='269790'>son</span> <span m='270040'>gets to</span> <span m='270110'>go to</span> <span m='270250'>private</span> <span m='270590'>school.</span> <span m='276990'>We</span> <span m='277110'>can</span> <span m='277270'>take</span> <span m='277520'>off</span> <span m='277680'>when</span> <span m='277830'>we</span> <span m='277950'>want</span> <span m='278180'>to</span> <span m='278280'>take</span> <span m='278520'>off,</span> <span m='278660'>for</span> <span m='278780'>the</span> <span m='278880'>most</span> <span m='279140'>part,</span> <span m='279580'>as</span> <span m='279700'>long</span> <span m='279950'>as</span> <span m='280330'>I'm</span> <span m='280580'>working.</span> </p><p><span m='285180'>It's</span> <span m='285320'>a</span> <span m='285390'>little</span> <span m='285600'>more</span> <span m='285810'>difficult</span> <span m='286370'>to</span> <span m='286470'>do</span> <span m='286620'>the</span> <span m='288000'>balancing</span> <span m='288540'>act</span> <span m='288840'>because</span> <span m='289210'>of the</span> <span m='289310'>physicality</span> <span m='290030'>of</span> <span m='290100'>my</span> <span m='290240'>job.</span> <span m='290570'>I</span> <span m='290790'>come</span> <span m='290940'>home</span> <span m='292120'>tired</span> <span m='292450'>a</span> <span m='292510'>lot.</span> <span m='295250'>Being</span> <span m='295640'>almost</span> <span m='295940'>50</span> <span m='296230'>years</span> <span m='296500'>old</span> <span m='297380'>adds</span> <span m='297670'>to</span> <span m='297850'>that.</span> <span m='298130'>So</span> <span m='298620'>it's</span> <span m='298820'>a</span> <span m='299170'>young</span> <span m='299480'>man's</span> <span m='299850'>industry.</span> <span m='300390'>And</span> <span m='304470'>you</span> <span m='304580'>can</span> <span m='304710'>do</span> <span m='304870'>real</span> <span m='305070'>well.</span> <span m='306100'>If you</span> <span m='306270'>get</span> <span m='306440'>in</span> <span m='306570'>when</span> <span m='306680'>you're</span> <span m='306790'>young,</span> <span m='307040'>you</span> <span m='307160'>can</span> <span m='307280'>do</span> <span m='307430'>real</span> <span m='307600'>well.</span> <span m='308490'>It's</span> <span m='309260'>rewarding.</span> </p><p><span m='310200'>There's</span> <span m='311100'>camaraderie</span> <span m='311710'>there.</span> <span m='311950'>You</span> <span m='312110'>put</span> <span m='312420'>in your</span> <span m='312580'>hand</span> <span m='313660'>another</span> <span m='313820'>man's</span> <span m='314060'>life,</span> <span m='314460'>and</span> <span m='314620'>he's putting</span> <span m='314850'>his</span> <span m='315330'>hands</span> <span m='315670'>in</span> <span m='315800'>yours.</span> <span m='317490'>My</span> <span m='317660'>partner</span> <span m='318060'>that</span> <span m='318560'>I've</span> <span m='318780'>had,</span> <span m='322200'>Jose</span> <span m='322550'>will</span> <span m='322710'>be</span> <span m='322880'>64</span> <span m='324900'>in</span> <span m='325100'>January.</span> <span m='325480'>And</span> <span m='326570'>him</span> <span m='327060'>an</span> <span m='327160'>I have been</span> <span m='327470'>partners</span> <span m='327900'>longer</span> <span m='328150'>than</span> <span m='328320'>my</span> <span m='328450'>wife</span> <span m='328750'>have been</span> <span m='328950'>partners.</span> <span m='330590'>So</span> <span m='330790'>it</span> <span m='330880'>can</span> <span m='332790'>really</span> <span m='333080'>work</span> <span m='333320'>out</span> <span m='333460'>for</span> <span m='333570'>people.</span> </p>","file":{"id":276869,"video_id":"2698928406001","name":"72903511","duration":335188,"thumbnail_url":null}});