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Engine or Machine Assembler

Job Outlook: -11% (Decline)

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What Assemblers and Fabricators Do About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators conduct quality checks for faulty components or mistakes in the assembly process.

Assemblers and fabricators build finished products and the parts that go into them. They use handtools and machines to make vehicles, toys, electronic devices, and more.

Duties

Assemblers and fabricators typically do the following:

  • Read and understand schematics and blueprints
  • Position or align components and parts either manually or with hoists
  • Use handtools or machines to assemble parts
  • Conduct quality control checks
  • Clean and maintain work area and equipment, including tools

Assemblers and fabricators need a range of knowledge and skills. For example, assemblers putting together complex machines must be able to read detailed schematics. After determining how parts should connect, they use handtools or power tools to trim, cut, and make other adjustments to fit components together. When the parts are properly aligned, they connect them with bolts and screws, or they weld or solder pieces together.

Assemblers look for faulty components and mistakes throughout the assembly process. Such assessments help to ensure quality by allowing assemblers to fix problems before defective products are made.

Modern manufacturing systems use robots, computers, and other technologies. These systems use teams of workers to produce entire products or components.

Assemblers and fabricators may also be involved in product development. Designers and engineers may consult manufacturing workers during the design stage to improve product reliability and manufacturing efficiency. Some experienced assemblers work with designers and engineers to build prototypes or test products.

Although most assemblers and fabricators are classified as team assemblers, others specialize in producing one type of product or in doing the same or similar tasks throughout the manufacturing process.

The following are examples of types of assemblers and fabricators:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers fit, fasten, and install parts of airplanes, missiles, or space vehicles. These parts include the wings, landing gear, and heating and ventilating systems.

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers roll wire curs of electrical components used in electric and electronic products, including resistors, transformers, and electric motors. Using handtools, these workers also attach and trim coils or insulation.

Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers build products such as computers, electric motors, and sensing equipment. Unlike in industries with automated systems, much of the small-scale production of electronic devices for aircraft, military systems, and medical equipment must be done by hand. These workers use devices such as soldering irons.

Electromechanical equipment assemblers make and modify mechanical devices that run on electricity, such as household appliances, computer tomography scanners, and vending machines. These workers use tools such as rulers, rivet guns, and soldering irons.

Engine and machine assemblers construct and rebuild motors, turbines, and machines used in automobiles, construction and mining equipment, and power generators.

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators overlay fiberglass onto molds, forming protective surfaces for boat decks and hulls, golf cart bodies, and other products.

Structural metal fabricators and fitters cut, align, and fit together structural metal parts and may help weld or rivet the parts together.

Team assemblers rotate through different tasks on an assembly line, rather than specializing in a single task. Team members may decide how work is assigned and tasks are completed.

Timing device assemblers, adjusters, and calibrators manufacture or modify instruments that require precise measurement of time, such as clocks, watches, and chronometers.

Work Environment About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators work in plants and factories.

Assemblers and fabricators held about 1.9 million jobs in 2019. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up assemblers and fabricators was distributed as follows:

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 1,389,100
Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers 291,700
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 78,500
Engine and other machine assemblers 45,900
Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers 43,900
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 20,400
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 13,000
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 1,300

The largest employers of assemblers and fabricators were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing 25%
Temporary help services 12
Machinery manufacturing 10
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 9
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 8

Most assemblers and fabricators work in manufacturing plants, and working conditions vary by plant and by industry. Many physically difficult tasks, such as tightening massive bolts or moving heavy parts into position, have been automated or made easier through the use of power tools. Assembly work, however, may still involve long periods of standing, sitting, or working on ladders.

Injuries and Illnesses

Some assemblers come into contact with potentially dangerous chemicals or fumes, but ventilation systems usually minimize any harmful effects. Other assemblers come into contact with oil and grease, and their work areas may be noisy. Fiberglass laminators and fabricators are exposed to fiberglass, which may irritate the skin; these workers must wear protective gear, such as gloves and long sleeves, and must use respirators for safety.

Work Schedules

Most assemblers and fabricators work full time. Some assemblers and fabricators work in shifts, which may require evening, weekend, and night work.

How to Become an Assembler or Fabricator About this section

Assemblers and fabricators
Assemblers and fabricators usually receive training in a specialty area.

The education and qualifications typically needed to enter these occupations vary by industry and employer. Although a high school diploma is enough for most jobs, experience and training are needed for advanced assembly work.

Education

Assemblers and fabricators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the occupation.

Training

Workers typically receive several months of on-the-job training, sometimes including employer-sponsored technical instruction.

Skilled assemblers and fabricators may need special training or an associate’s degree, depending on the employer. For example, workers in electrical, electronic, and aircraft and motor vehicle products manufacturing typically need postsecondary education. Apprenticeship programs are also available.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) offers certificates and training programs in fabrication, coil processing, and other related topics. Although not required, these credentials demonstrate competence and professionalism and may help a candidate advance in the occupation.

In addition, many employers, especially those in the aerospace and defense industries, require electrical and electronic assembly workers to have certifications in soldering. The Association Connecting Electronics Industries, also known as IPC, offers a number of certification programs related to electronic assembly and soldering.

Advancement

Experienced assemblers and fabricators may advance to become a supervisor or manager.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Assemblers and fabricators who make electrical and electronic products must distinguish different colors, because the wires they often work with are color coded.

Dexterity. Assemblers and fabricators should have a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination, as they must grasp, manipulate, and assemble parts and components that are often very small.

Mechanical skills. Assemblers and fabricators must have a working knowledge of basic machinery to use programmable motion-control devices, computers, and robots on the factory floor.

Physical stamina. Assemblers and fabricators must be able to stand for long periods and do repetitive tasks. Some assemblers, such as those in the aerospace industry, must frequently bend or climb ladders when assembling parts.

Physical strength. Assemblers and fabricators must be able to lift heavy components or pieces of machinery.

Technical skills. Assemblers and fabricators must understand technical manuals, blueprints, and schematics for manufacturing a range of products and machines.

Pay About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Production occupations

$36,000

Assemblers and fabricators

$33,710

 

The median annual wage for assemblers and fabricators was $33,710 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,660.

Median annual wages for assemblers and fabricators in May 2019 were as follows:

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers $54,210
Engine and other machine assemblers 45,660
Structural metal fabricators and fitters 40,390
Coil winders, tapers, and finishers 36,520
Fiberglass laminators and fabricators 35,480
Timing device assemblers and adjusters 35,080
Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers 34,810
Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators 32,350

In May 2019, the median annual wages for assemblers and fabricators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $38,820
Machinery manufacturing 36,190
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 34,640
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 34,200
Temporary help services 27,390

Wages vary by industry, geographic region, skill, education level, and complexity of the machinery operated.

Most assemblers and fabricators work full time, and some work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Assemblers and Fabricators

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Production occupations

-4%

Assemblers and fabricators

-11%

 

Overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline 11 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Within the manufacturing sector, employment of assemblers and fabricators will be determined largely by the growth or decline in the production of certain manufactured goods. In general, overall employment of assemblers and fabricators is projected to decline because many manufacturing sectors are expected to become more efficient and able to produce more with fewer workers.

In most manufacturing industries, improved processes, tools, and, in some cases, automation will reduce job growth. Increasingly, new advances in robotics have enabled machinery to perform more complex and delicate tasks previously performed by workers. In addition, assemblers and fabricators are increasingly working alongside robots, also known as “collaborative robotics.” These new robots can help workers perform tasks and increase efficiency. However, this increased efficiency may reduce the demand for some assemblers and fabricators.

Cheaper and more advanced robotics, along with the possibility of decreased taxes and regulations, may entice some manufacturers to bring previously offshored production back to the United States. However, the new jobs may be more highly skilled in nature and more dependent upon automated technology.

Advances in three-dimensional printing, also known as additive manufacturing, have the potential to reshape the entire manufacturing sector in the future. Entire parts or even vehicles might be produced in a single build that would require very little assembly or fabrication by hand. This technology is still emerging and may not immediately affect the demand for these workers over the coming decade.

Job Prospects

Despite projected employment declines, about 156,300 openings for assemblers and fabricators are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Qualified applicants, including those with technical vocational training and certification, are likely to have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for assemblers and fabricators, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Assemblers and fabricators

1,883,700 1,679,400 -11 -204,300

Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers

51-2011 43,900 36,300 -17 -7,600 Get data

Coil winders, tapers, and finishers

51-2021 13,000 10,500 -19 -2,400 Get data

Electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers

51-2028 291,700 295,900 1 4,200 Get data

Engine and other machine assemblers

51-2031 45,900 39,000 -15 -7,000 Get data

Structural metal fabricators and fitters

51-2041 78,500 66,000 -16 -12,500 Get data

Fiberglass laminators and fabricators

51-2051 20,400 19,300 -5 -1,100 Get data

Timing device assemblers and adjusters

51-2061 1,300 1,000 -22 -300 Get data

Miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators

51-2090 1,389,100 1,211,500 -13 -177,600 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about assemblers and fabricators, including certification, training, and professional development, visit

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

For information about careers in manufacturing, visit

Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs

For information about certifications in electronics soldering, visit:

Association Connecting Electronics Industries

CareerOneStop

For a career video on aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers, visit:

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers

For a career video on structural metal fabricators and fitters, visit

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

O*NET

Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers

Assemblers and Fabricators, All Other

Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers

Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers

Electromechanical Equipment Assemblers

Engine and Other Machine Assemblers

Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators

Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters

Team Assemblers

Timing Device Assemblers and Adjusters

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