How Do I Become a Shipfitter?

Shipfitters frequently work with sheet metal.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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People who want to become a shipfitter might want to gain some experience in the construction or building trades before applying for an entry-level position. Experience of this nature is considered the most important quality employers look for when an applicant wants to become a shipfitter. Good math skills might also help a person in his or her quest to become a shipfitter because the job requires reading blueprints and working with precise measurements.

Some people who work in the shipbuilding industry start off as a helper to gain experience and knowledge to become a shipfitter. Helpers learn terms used on the job and become familiar with materials and equipment used to build, overhaul, or repair large vessels. Employers typically prefer applicants who finished secondary education with several math courses, including algebra, geometry, and calculus. Candidates who also passed advanced science courses might stand a better chance of getting the job. Some employers administer tests before an applicant can become a shipfitter.

A shipfitter performs extremely physical work inside shops and outside on the vessel. He or she often carries material weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg). The job might require climbing high into the air to weld or rivet metal to the ship’s frame. To become a shipfitter, a person must be able to kneel, crawl, and crouch when designing templates or cutting metal to size.

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Cranes and hoists typically lift heavy equipment to the installation area, but shipfitters commonly push or pull large pieces of metal before cutting. These duties require strength and good manual dexterity to force materials into place. Some shipfitters also install doors and hatches, meaning they must be able to lift and hold the material while it is secured to the frame. Working in confined spaces represents part of the job.

These workers also endure all types of weather, ranging from extreme heat to intense cold while working on drydocks. They might work rotating shifts to meet deadlines for completion of a ship. Shipfitters might be responsible for quality control, determining the type and amount of material to order, and meeting budgets.

Shipfitters work with numerous electric, hydraulic, and hand tools. In addition to welders, they might use heat torches and mallets to smooth out dents in sheet metal after it is secured to the frame. The work environment, especially in an enclosed shop, can expose shipfitters to dust, noise, fumes, and heat. They typically wear protective clothing when on the job, including goggles, ear plugs, and face masks.

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