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How to Become a Sheet Metal Mechanic

If you’re looking for a hands-on job where you can utilize your technical mindset, a position as a sheet metal mechanic may be the perfect job for you. As a sheet metal mechanic, you will design, install, and repair sheet metal components on aircraft and spacecraft. To be successful in this position, sheet metal mechanics need strong hand-eye coordination when dealing with tools as well as a deep understanding of metals and aircraft sealants.

Sheet metal mechanics are primarily responsible for repairing the structural components of an aircraft to ensure every part is safe and ready to be in flight. Some of your duties could include performing routine inspections, completing maintenance operations, ordering supplies and equipment, and keeping a detailed record of repairs and replacements. Sheet metal mechanics should be able to read and analyze aircraft blueprints to make the correct repairs. 

This job opportunity allows sheet metal mechanics to use critical thinking skills and mechanical aptitude to make sure aircraft are safe to fly and keep up with federal guidelines. Sheet metal mechanics who are passionate and meticulous with their crafts will be offered bigger projects on more complicated aircraft.

Sample job description

A sheet metal mechanic is a skilled tradesman that deals with creating, installing, and repairing sheet metal. These workers specialize in heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in order to fabricate and repair metal products. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced sheet metal mechanic to be responsible for creating metal products for our clients. We’re looking for someone who is passionate and precise in their craft. If you have previous training and experience with sheet metal, our sheet metal mechanic position may be the right for you. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Install, repair, inspect, and replace sheet metal components on aircraft and spacecraft, including structural assemblies and sub-assemblies
  • Analyze and understand aircraft blueprints, specifications, and maintenance manuals to make repairs
  • Conduct maintenance operations
  • Fabricate replacement parts as needed
  • Ensure all repairs are up to FAA and manufacturer specifications
  • Safely operate various tools used for sheet metal applications
  • Order supplies, equipment, materials, and parts for repairs and general maintenance
  • Keep detailed records of inspections, maintenance, repairs, and parts inventor

Education and experience

This position requires a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Mechanical aptitude and ability to understand engineering documents and schematics
  • Knowledge of metal, alloys, aircraft adhesives, and sealants
  • Strong hand-eye coordination and proficiency in using tools
  • Sufficient physical strength and dexterity to climb on aircraft and manipulate replacement parts
  • Knowledge of the use, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials
  • High-level organization skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Prior experience with sheet metal work in the mechanical/HVAC industry
  • Understand basic math
  • Ability to work alone without much oversight needed

Typical work environment

Sheet metal mechanics typically work at construction sites, manufacturing plants, and in metal shops. Sheet metal mechanics in construction are expected to work long and unusual hours and can be exposed to harsh weather and unwavering great heights. While other sheet metal mechanics work in aviation dealing with various plane parts. The aviation industry offers more consistent hours and less dangerous conditions compared to other industries.

Typical hours

Typical hours for this position are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in a factory setting. 

Available certifications

There are several certifications available to aspiring sheet metal mechanics that are interested in developing critical skills in this field. Check out the following: 

  • Safety Fundamentals for Metal Manufacturing Certificate. Making sure your workplace offers a safe environment, it is important to have fundamental safety habits. This certificate is essential to you learning the metal manufacturing safety procedures that will help empower you to establish a safe work environment. Developed by national safety experts and industry leaders, this training will provide you with the best safety practices that will protect you as you navigate this on-hands job. 
  • Precision Sheet Metal Operator Certification (PSMO). The FMA’s Precision Sheet Metal Operator Certification (PSMO) is designed to increase a candidate’s knowledge of fundamental precision sheet metal operations. Students learn various processes, including shearing, sawing, press brake, turret punch press, laser cutting, and mechanical finishing. Earning this certification will open a door to many different opportunities since you are able to demonstrate your competence to many potential employers.

Career path

The path to becoming a sheet metal mechanic starts by earning a high school diploma or its equivalent. Successful sheet metal mechanics can advance into leadership roles such as foreman, lead mechanic, shop superintendent, or shop supervisor.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 47-2211

2020 Employment135,400
Projected Employment in 2030140,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 4% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift4,800 increase

According to the trade publication Industry Week, one major trend impacting the aviation industry in the years to come is the continual advancements in aviation technology. Specifically, the conversions to new, more efficient electronics systems in aircraft will mean sheet metal mechanics will have to stay educated on the latest technological improvements.

Another trend in the aviation and aerospace industry is the need for new aircraft. Whether it’s mature markets looking to replace aging airplanes or companies seeking more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft, many companies are looking to replace their fleets. That could mean an increase in job opportunities on the design and manufacturing side, rather than an increase in opportunities for repair and maintenance professionals.