What Does a Steel Detailer Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 30 March 2019
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A steel detailer is a technical drafter who creates drawings used in the fabrication and placement of structural steel. The qualifications necessary to work as a steel detailer can vary by region. Some nations require that drafters meet specific education and certification requirements, while others do not, and it may be possible to enter a career as an apprentice with no training. Pay scales for steel detailing are highly variable. Some detailers require security clearances because of the nature of their work, and they must have clean criminal records as well as the technical skills needed to do the work.

The steel detailer produces accurate, detailed drawings to help steel fabricators produce pieces of steel to the specifications of a given project. The drawings are done in a traditional engineering style to facilitate ease of reading and use standardized measurements, terminology, and other conventions. Any fabricator should be able to work with the drawings, just as any detailer could pick up a project started by someone else in the middle and understand what the previous person was doing.

In addition, steel detailers also make technical drawings for the workers on a site. These drawings provide information about how to construct a steel structure, using the fabricated pieces of steel. Acting as assembly instructions, they tell the construction workers about what order they should use, and which pieces go where. These drawings may also include a brief technical paper to discuss the project.


To become a steel detailer, it is necessary to be familiar with steel construction, computer aided design (CAD) programs used to generate technical drawings, and the engineering concepts that underlie technical design. Some steel detailers choose to go to school and may attend a technical school or conventional college or university. In some regions, this is required. A new apprentice, with or without training, usually starts out under supervision and gradually takes on more responsibility over time.

In some regions, certification is necessary to work as a steel detailer. People in this field need to take an exam to demonstrate competence. Many steel detailers choose to join professional organizations to have access to other people in the profession along with trade publications, conferences, special training, and other opportunities. Detailers in industries like aerospace may make high salaries because of the complexity and level of detail on the projects they work on. For detailers in construction, pay may be lower, although the size and complexity of construction projects can also be considerable.



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