What Does a Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Worker Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a female iron and rebar worker wearing a utility vest, gloves and a hard hat. She is installing a lattice frame. Text reads: "A day in the life of a reinforcing iron & rebar worker: using pliers to tie wire around rods to fasten. Figuring out the quantity, size, and shape of the rods. Reading blueprints and sketches for installation. Positioning rods, mesh, and cables in concrete forms."

Image by Chloe Giroux © The Balance 2019

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

Duties & Responsibilities

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 and securing rods, cables, mesh, or rebar in concrete forms

Reinforcing iron and rebar are important components of buildings, bridges, roads, and other structures. Often, these tradespeople work on new structures, but they may also help repair and rehabilitate older ones, and they're sometimes involved in demolition as well.

Worker Salary

A reinforcing iron and rebar worker's median salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,320
  • Top 10 Percent Annual Salary: $91,400
  • Bottom 10 Percent Annual Salary: $32,590

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2018.

Education Requirements & Qualifications

No formal education past high school is required for this type of job, and you can choose to take part in a formal apprenticeship or informal on-the-job training. Many companies that sponsor apprenticeship programs require that participants are at least 18 years old, have the physical ability to perform the work, and pass substance abuse screenings.

  • Education: If you want to become a reinforcing iron and rebar worker, you typically must earn a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma. Math classes and vocational classes such as welding and blueprint reading can provide a good foundation for this occupation, although they're not required. Once you get your diploma, you can choose to take one of two paths:
    On-the-Job Training: 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.
  • Formal Apprenticeship: 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 ironworking and 1,400 to 2,000 hours getting paid, on-the-job training.

Worker Skills & Competencies

Not everyone makes a good reinforcing iron and rebar worker. Solid physical health can mean greater success in such a position.

  • Physical Strength and Stamina: The job requires carrying heavy loads and spending many hours standing, as well as bending and stooping as workers install rebar.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: Workers must be able to tie rebar together quickly, as construction usually is very fast-paced.
  • Confidence Working at Great Heights: This occupation often requires working on tall buildings, skyscrapers, and bridges.
  • Balance: Workers often must stand and walk on narrow beams while reinforcing construction.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicts this occupation will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2026, at a rate of 12%. That's because reinforcing concrete is an important part of commercial and industrial construction.

Employment for reinforcing iron and rebar workers can be affected by changes in the economy and overall construction levels.

Work Environment

Many reinforcing iron and rebar workers are employed by foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors, and others work for companies involved in nonresidential building construction and highway, street, and bridge construction. Most of this work is done outdoors and at great heights.

Working as a reinforcing iron and rebar worker can take a toll on a person's body due to the physical demands of the job. In addition, 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.

Work Schedule

Most reinforcing iron and rebar workers work full time, according to the BLS, but their schedules may be affected by weather that isn't safe for such work, such as extreme wind, rain, snow, and ice. Schedules may vary per construction project.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming a reinforcing iron and rebar worker may also be interested in other similar jobs. Here are some of them, along with their median annual salary:

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.