Career Development

What Does a Shipfitter Do?

Find out what a shipfitter does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a shipfitter.

Shipfitters are skilled tradespeople who build and repair ships. They use a variety of tools, equipment, and materials to assemble the various parts that make up a ship into one cohesive unit. Their work is critical to ensuring that vessels can safely navigate the waters they travel on.

Shipfitter Job Duties

Shipfitters have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Inspecting materials for proper size and shape before cutting begins to ensure that the correct pieces are being used
  • Installing wooden decks, bulkheads, and interior partitions in ships’ interiors
  • Installing steel plates on hulls for protection against damage from collisions or rough seas
  • Cutting, shaping, and assembling metal parts according to engineering drawings and blueprints
  • Installing mechanical equipment such as plumbing pipes and electrical wiring
  • Measuring materials to determine length or depth
  • Installing structural support beams inside hulls for stability during sailing
  • Installing and repairing ship engines, equipment, and machinery such as steering mechanisms and propellers
  • Installing decks or other surfaces in ships using tools such as welding machines and saws

Shipfitter Salary & Outlook

Shipfitters’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,000 ($48.08/hour)

The employment of shipfitters is expected to decline over the next decade.

The need for new ships and ship repairs will be limited because of the large number of ships currently in service. In addition, automation and the use of modular ship sections will allow fewer workers to build and repair ships.

Shipfitter Job Requirements

Shipfitters typically need to have the following qualifications:

Education: Shipfitters need at least a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed some college or trade school courses. Those who want to advance to supervisory positions may need a bachelor’s degree in marine technology or a related field.

Training & Experience: Shipfitters receive most of their training on the job. They may work as a helper or apprentice before becoming a shipfitter. Apprenticeships last between one and four years, depending on the state.

Shipfitters can also receive training through the military. The Navy, Marines and Coast Guard offer training programs for aspiring shipfitters. These programs are available to active duty and reserve members. They also provide training for military spouses.

Shipfitters can also receive training through vocational programs. Some community colleges and technical schools offer programs in shipfitting. These programs can last between one and four years and provide training in a variety of areas.

Certifications & Licenses: Shipfitters need to obtain a number of certifications prior to being eligible for employment. These include first aid, CPR and OSHA 30-hour certification. These certifications show employers that a shipfitter is motivated and a skilled professional.

Shipfitter Skills

Shipfitters need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Shipfitters use technical skills to read and interpret blueprints, schematics and other technical documents. They use these skills to determine the correct tools and materials needed to complete a project. Technical skills also include math skills, such as the ability to calculate measurements and angles.

Communication skills: Shipfitters use their communication skills to interact with coworkers and clients. They use these skills to explain their work and answer questions about their projects. Shipfitters also use communication skills to read and interpret blueprints and other technical documents.

Problem-solving skills: Shipfitters use problem-solving skills to troubleshoot and repair machinery and equipment. They use these skills to identify the source of a problem, develop a solution and implement the solution. Shipfitters use problem-solving skills to identify and repair leaks, fix broken parts and make adjustments to machinery to ensure it operates properly.

Attention to detail: Shipfitters need to have excellent attention to detail to ensure they complete their work accurately. They need to be able to read and understand blueprints and schematics to know where to place equipment and how to connect pipes and wires. They also need to be precise when cutting and welding materials to ensure the pieces fit together properly.

Physical stamina: Shipfitters often work in confined spaces and on ladders, so physical stamina is important for this career. Stamina allows you to work for long periods of time and continue to work at a fast pace.

Shipfitter Work Environment

Shipfitters work in shipyards, repairing and constructing ships. They also work in dry docks, where ships are brought out of the water for repair and construction. Shipfitters work on all types of vessels, from small pleasure boats to large ocean liners and tankers. They use a variety of hand and power tools to cut, weld, and shape metal plates and structural members. Many shipfitters are members of unions, which set wages and working conditions. Most shipfitters work a standard 40-hour week, but overtime is common, especially during busy periods. Some shipfitters may be required to work weekends and holidays. The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dangerous, and shipfitters are exposed to noise, fumes, and dirt.

Shipfitter Trends

Here are three trends influencing how shipfitters work. Shipfitters will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Technical Skills

The shipbuilding industry is becoming increasingly technical, which means that shipfitters will need to develop more technical skills in order to be successful.

As the industry moves towards more complex ships, shipfitters will need to be able to understand and assemble complex systems. This requires a deep understanding of how these systems work together and how they can be assembled safely and efficiently.

Shipyards Will Become More Automated

The shipbuilding industry is moving towards increased automation, which means that shipfitters will need to learn new skills in order to stay competitive.

One of the most important trends in this area is the increased use of robots in shipyards. As robots become more common, shipfitters will need to learn how to work with them and integrate them into their teams. This will require an understanding of how robots work and how to program them to perform specific tasks.

More Focus on Quality Control

Quality control has always been an important part of the shipbuilding process, but it is becoming even more important as the industry becomes more competitive.

Shipfitters can capitalize on this trend by developing expertise in quality control procedures. This will allow them to ensure that each ship meets the highest standards of quality before it leaves the dock. In addition, shipfitters can also focus on developing relationships with customers who value quality control, which can lead to long-term partnerships.

How to Become a Shipfitter

Shipfitters have a variety of career paths they can take. They can move up the ranks to become a supervisor or manager, or they can specialize in a particular area of shipfitting such as pipe fitting, structural steel fitting, or electrical fitting. They can also choose to become certified in one or more areas of specialization.

Shipfitters who want to advance their careers should focus on developing strong communication and leadership skills. They should also stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and techniques used in shipfitting.

Advancement Prospects

There are many ways to advance in the field of shipfitting. One of the best is to get more education. Many shipfitters start out with only a high school diploma, but those who get more education, such as an associate’s degree in maritime technology or a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture, will have better prospects for advancement.

Shipfitters with more education and experience may be promoted to positions such as supervisor, project manager, or estimator. They may also move into related fields such as maritime engineering or naval architecture.

Shipfitter Job Description Example

We are looking for an experienced shipfitter to work in our shipyard. The successful candidate will have experience working with steel, aluminum, and other metals to construct, repair, and maintain ships and other large vessels. They will be able to read and interpret blueprints and other technical drawings, and use hand tools, power tools, and welding equipment to cut, shape, and join metal components. They will also be responsible for ensuring that all safety standards are met. The shipfitter will work closely with other members of the shipyard team, including welders, carpenters, and electricians.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Read and interpret blueprints, drawings, and sketches to determine specifications and calculate requirements
  • Mark outlines of parts on metal sheets or plates, using scribes, dividers, and rulers
  • Measure, mark, and cut steel plates, sections, bars, and beams, using handtools, power tools, machines, and equipment
  • Fit and weld together parts of structural metal products, according to welding symbols and blueprints, using electric arc-welding equipment
  • Inspect completed welds to determine structural soundness and conformance to specifications
  • Position and secure parts and assemblies prior to assembly, using jacks, turnbuckles, clamps, and hammers
  • Align and fit parts according to specifications, using squares, rules, plumb bobs, and levels
  • Rivet, bolt, screw, clip, braze, solder, cement, press-fit, or weld assembled components and parts
  • Grind, file, shim, notch, bend, punch, drill, or tap parts, using handtools, power tools, machines, and equipment
  • Lay out, position, align, and secure parts and assemblies prior to installation, using straightedges, levels, plumb bobs, and jacks
  • Install or replace machinery, equipment, and new or replacement parts, following specifications and blueprints
  • Operate newly installed machinery and equipment to verify operational efficiency

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • 4+ years of welding experience in a production environment
  • Ability to read and interpret blueprints, sketches, and drawings
  • Working knowledge of welding safety procedures
  • Familiarity with welding tools and equipment
  • Physical ability to lift 50 pounds and stand for long periods of time

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Associate’s degree in welding technology or related field
  • 6+ years of welding experience in a production environment
  • Certification from the American Welding Society
  • Experience working with stainless steel and aluminum
  • Experience in a shipyard or maritime environment


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