What Does a Metal Fabricator Do?
If you like building and fixing things, metal fabrication could be the perfect career for you.
Metal fabricators follow patterns and blueprints to create structures from raw metal.
They are skilled craftspeople who assemble structural metal products such as frameworks or shells for machinery, ovens, tanks, stacks and metal parts for buildings and bridges. They prepare, cut, shape, machine and weld metal using complex hand tools and equipment such as blowtorches, shears, gauges, nail sets, power saws and workshop presses.
They typically work in factory settings or construction and must use hardhats, gloves and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect them from flying debris and other workplace hazards.
If this sounds interesting, keep reading to learn more about this physical, in-demand skilled job.
- Interpret engineering blueprints
- Measure meticulously and plan well to reduce waste
- Mark cutting and bending lines
- Set up metalwork machinery, including rollers, drill presses, flame cutters, brakes and shears
- Fabricate and construct metal components
- Grind and finish completed products
- Perform quality checks on completed products
- Program robotic machines and computers
- Follow all safety regulations
- Maintain records
How To Become a Metal Fabricator: FAQs
What education and training are required to be a metal fabricator?
Employers require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some metalworking companies train metal fabricators in-house through apprenticeships.
However, most employers look for metal fabricators who have received training. The most common route is to earn a one-year certificate or technical diploma from a community college or technical school.
A two-year associate degree in metal fabrication or additional vocational training may be required for more highly skilled metal fabricating work.
All programs will include classroom instruction plus hands-on training. Study areas include blueprint reading, welding and cutting, safety procedures, shop math, metallurgy, how to produce different metal parts out of metal and steel (fabrication techniques) and how to operate machinery and tools.
Though it’s not required, many students who want to explore metal fabrication also earn a welding certificate.
Once all the core requirements have been met, metal fabrication students must pass an exam.
Metal fabricators may get additional training to program robotic machines and computers, including software such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
Others go on to be specialists. For example, structural metal fabricators specialize in buildings and electronic fabricators specialize in technology. (This variety and the job opportunity it presents is one of the reasons metal fabrication is one of the top careers for trade school students.)
Are there any other qualifications?
The need for metal fabrication certifications vary, but in most cases, certification will create opportunity.
Certifications are offered by organizations such as the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA) and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC). Certifications include Precision Sheet Metal Operator Certification (PSMO), Precision Press Brake Certification (PPB) and AISC Certification.
What’s the difference between welding and metal fabrication?
Welding is one of many skills metal fabricators use to shape metal. A welder uses heat to join metal. Metal fabricators use welding in addition to other methods of shaping metal, such as bending and cutting.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful metal fabricators share these traits:
- Able to understand and translate technical instructions
- Good math skills
- Excellent communication skills
- Good manual dexterity with hand and power tools
- Good troubleshooting skills
- Can lift in excess of 50 pounds