Boiler Maker

Boilermakers manufacture and build structures of steel, plate and piping ranging from boilers for steam engines and pressure vessels for power stations and petrochemical plants, to mine head-gear, bridges and oil-drilling platforms.

Prior to the construction of a new boiler, all the materials must first be prepared before the actual work of assembly and construction can begin. Drawings are made in separate sections and many calculations are made in this process. Blueprints are studies to determine the locations, relationships or dimensions of the parts. Reference poins for columns or plates on boiler foundations are located and marked, following the blueprints and using straightedges, squares, transits or measuring instruments.

Plates, sheet steel or other heavy metal is laid out so that the bending and cutting lines can be located and marked, using protractors, compasses and drawing instruments or templates.  They are then bent into the required shape, manually using hand tools or mechanically by using bending brakes, rolling machines and heating procedures. The various parts are then assembled and prepared for welding. They shape seams, joints or irregular edges of pressure vessel sections or structural parts to attain the specified fit of parts, using cutting torches, hammers, files or metal-working machines.

Boilermakers are also responsible for cleaning and inspecting boilers to ensure that they work effectively. Because boilers have to last a very long time, a lot of work is devoted to maintaining and repairing them. Boilers, pressure vessels, tanks or vats are examined to locate any defects, such as leaks, weak spots or defective sections, so that they can be repaired. Defective pressure vessel parts, such as safety valves or regulators, are repaired or replaced using torches, jacks, caulking hammers, power saws, threading dies, welding equipment or metal-working machinery. They straighten or reshape bent pressure vessel plates or structure parts, using hammers, jacks or torches.  They install manholes, handholes, taps, tubes, valves, guages or feedwater connecitons in drums of the water tuve voilers, using hand tools.

Boilermakers work in industrial plants near boilers, vats, tanks and other vessels. They may also work at the construction site of these vessels. Boilermakers work indoors in workshops or factories, and outdoors on construction sites. Work settings may be hot, noisy, poorly ventilated or damp. Often they must work in cramped quarters inside boilers. The work can be dangerous, at considerable heights and/or around heavy, dangerous equipment.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • have some insight into electrical engineering
  • have some mechanical aptitude
  • responsible, alert and careful
  • enjoy working with your hands
  • work well with others
  • concentrate under noisy working conditions
  • physical strength, stamina and flexibility
  • good eyesight

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate
  • some employers demand higher qualifications

What to Study

There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • engineering factories
  • construction companies
  • iron and steel plants
  • petroleum refineries
  • railways and shipyards
  • government departments
  • electrical and atomic power plants
  • such organisations as: Sasol and Mittal Steel
  • mines
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience and capital to start own business

Further Information

Southern African Institute of Welding
52 Western Boulevard
Off Main Reef Road
Tel: (011) 298-2100

Getting Started

  • find vacation work in a boiler-making company
  • make an appointment to speak to a boilermaker about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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