Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Worker: Career Information

Constructor workers assembling rebar structure at construction site
Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline / Getty Images

Visit any construction site, and you will likely find a reinforcing iron and rebar worker—probably more than one—on the crew. He or she is the skilled tradesperson who uses wire mesh, steel bars (called rebar) or cables to reinforce the concrete used in constructing buildings, bridges, and roadways.

Employment Facts

There were 19,000 reinforcing iron and rebar workers employed in 2010. Most of them worked for foundation, structure and building exterior contractors.

Many worked for companies involved in nonresidential building construction and highway, street and bridge construction.

Working in this occupation can take a toll on one's body due to the physical demands of the job. These construction workers spend a great deal of time bending, moving and stooping as they install rebar, usually at a rapid pace. Falls from ladders and scaffolds, cuts from sharp metal and burns contribute to a rate of injuries that is higher than it is for most other occupations.

Educational Requirements

If you want to become a reinforcing iron and rebar worker, you must earn a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma. Classes in math, shop and blueprint reading can provide a good foundation for this occupation.

Once you get your diploma, you can take one of two paths. You can get informal on-the-job training from experienced workers on a construction site. You will have to do unskilled labor which will include carrying rebar.

Your other option is to enter a formal apprenticeship program that a union or contractor association sponsors. It usually takes about three or four years to complete this type of program. You will spend 144 hours or so receiving technical training in both reinforcing and structural iron working and 1,400 to 2,000 hours getting on-the-job training.

You must be 18 years old to enter an apprenticeship program.

Other Requirements

Not everyone makes a good reinforcing iron and rebar worker. To succeed in this occupation, you need to be physically strong and have a lot of stamina. Your job will have you carrying heavy loads and spending many hours standing and bending. Good hand-eye coordination is an important skill as well. You must be able to tie rebar together quickly as construction usually is very fast-paced.

Advancement Opportunities

Workers who have received only on-the-job training will advance to more responsible positions after they have acquired a sufficient amount of guidance from experienced reinforcing iron and rebar workers. Those who have taken part in an apprenticeship will be able to work independently as soon as they have completed the program.

Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this occupation will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. Furthermore, they say it will be among the fastest growing careers that require only a high school diploma.

Earnings

Reinforcing iron and rebar workers earned a median annual salary of $37,990 and median hourly wages of $18.27 in 2011.

A Day in a Reinforcing Iron And Rebar Worker's Life

On a typical day a reinforcing iron and rebar worker's tasks might include:

  • reading blueprints or looking at sketches to determine how to install rebar or mesh
  • figuring out the quantity, size, and shapes of reinforcing rods and determining where to place them
  • preparing rebar and mesh for installation using metal shears, hacksaws and torches
  • bending or welding rebar together
  • installing cables
  • using pliers to tie wire around rods to fasten them together
  • positioning rods, cables, mesh or rebar in concrete forms and then securing it

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Reinforcing Iron And Rebar Worker, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/reinforcing-iron-and-rebar-workers.htm (visited August 10, 2012).


Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Reinforcing Iron And Rebar Worker, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/47-2171.00 (visited August 10, 2012).

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