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Glazier Career, Job and Training Information

Career and Job Highlights

  • Some glaziers gain their skills by completing an apprenticeship; others gain informal, on the job training.
  • Those entering the profession have excellent prospects.

Glazier Career Overview

Glass is an integral part of modern life. It is used for insulation, sound-muffling, safety, and decorative purposes. There are many types of glass and glass treatments – some glass is tempered, some is laminated, some is insulated. Many large skyscrapers use glass for aesthetic and practical purposes. Glass is also used for its aesthetic qualities in skylights, solars, and windows in houses or offices.

The work of a glazier consists of measuring, picking, fitting, installing, replacing, or taking out many different kinds of glass. Most glaziers specialize in one area. Some focus on residential work which consists of installing glass in windows, mirrors, doors, or dividers; and measuring glass for tabletops, curio cabinets, or shelving. Some industrial interior jobs might entail installing special safety windows or dividers which are often decorated or etched. Other jobs might be replacing display windows in retail stores, grocery stores, car dealerships, offices, or banks. Glaziers might also help in the construction of large office buildings by constructing metal frames and then putting in large sheets of glass or glass walls.

Glaziers, however, don’t work with only glass. They might use other materials like glass substitutes like plastic or plexiglass; stone; or laminates and treatments that make glass more safe or strong. Glaziers are often involved in building the framework for the glass which might be large heavy steel frames, window sashes, or door frames. Usually glass is already cut and fitted into its setting at a contractor’s establishment or at a factory. It is then delivered to the site and the glazier only has to install it. Installation can involve a crane or other large machinery that is equipped with suction cups to adhere to the glass and lift it so the glazier can carefully direct the glass into place.

After the glass is positioned, glaziers fasten it with mastic (a cement mixture), putty, concrete, rivets, springs, molding, glazing mixtures, or rubber gaskets, which are broad rubber half-tubes that are split down the middle. Using gaskets takes two steps. The first step is to fasten the gasket around the edges of the space. The second step is to insert the edge of the glass into the split in the gasket, which secures the glass firmly.

Sometimes glaziers use metal springs and wood or metal moldings. To begin with glaziers fasten the molding to the edge of the space and install the glass in the space. They next place metal springs between the molding and the glass. The springs keep the glass from shifting or moving.

Other times glaziers use an adhesive glazing mixture. To begin with they cover the area around the inside of the molding. They then position the glass, push it against the mixture, and then bolt or nail the outside molding, which then holds the glass in place. To further secure it they fill in the seam between the molding and the glass with more glazing mixture. To finish they clean the area of any excess glazing mixture.

Though glass is usually pre-cut, sometimes glaziers have to measure and cut it onsite. First they have to get the glass ready by positioning it on an A-frame or cutting table and making marks where they need to cut. They can then actually cut the glass using a tool that has a tiny but extremely tough metal wheel, like a pizza cutter. The glazier rolls it smoothly across the surface just enough to score it. To facilitate the process they usually paint a line of oil where they are going to cut and use a straightedge. After they score the surface they glazier puts pressure on the smaller piece of glass which neatly breaks the glass along the line.

Glaziers use lot of tools. They use hand tools like knives, cutter’s wheels, and suction cups. They also use power tools like glass grinders, saws, and drills. Computers are being used more frequently by glaziers who use them to plan exact cutting and use materials more efficiently by minimizing the amount of leftover glass.

Glazier Career Training and Job Qualifications

A large number of glaziers gain their skills by observing and working with experienced workers. They generally begin as assistants and perform simple tasks like transporting glass and tidying up sites and shops. During this time they might be able to attempt cutting leftover pieces of glass. With experience they are given more responsibilities like scoring glass. After they master that skill they help professionals with basic installations. Eventually they become skilled and capable glaziers.

Though many workers learn informally, most employers of glaziers advocate an apprenticeship which often provides more comprehensive training. Most apprenticeships last three or four years and are sponsored by the National Glass Association, regional unions, or contractors’ organizations.

Apprenticeship programs have two parts. The first part consists of 144 hours of coursework which involves reading blueprints, math, mechanical drawing, safety guidelines, types of glass, construction practices, and basic first aid. The second part consists of practical training where apprentices get hands-on practice in using tools, handling and cutting glass, installation, framing, and molding. Apprenticeships not only provide better training, they are usually faster than learning on the job. However, apprenticeships are becoming less popular and so there are fewer positions available.

Requirements for applying for an apprenticeship vary according to who is sponsoring the apprenticeship. As positions become limited and as new technology is used by glaziers, there are higher standards for apprentices. Usually applicants need to be eighteen or older and physically fit; and those with high school diplomas or degrees from a vocational or technical school will have an edge. Other helpful experience could come from classes in math, drafting, sketching, construction, or metal or wood shop. Some programs require skills assessments. Also, computers are changing the way everyone does business, including glaziers. Many sponsors of apprenticeships look for computer skills and integrate computers into their training.

The increasing scarcity of apprenticeships has lead to a number of other certifications that allow glaziers to demonstrate their experience and expertise. There are three levels of expertise. Level I designates the holder as a Glazier. Level II designates the holder as a Storefront/Curtain Wall Glazier or Residential/Commercial Interior Glazier. Level III designates the holder as a Master Glazier. There is an associated program for those who specialize in repairing glass in the automotive industry.

Opportunities for advancement for glaziers usually involve an increase in income. A few might become supervisors, building contractors, or specialize in estimating cost.

Job and Employment Opportunities

Glaziers have excellent prospects. Most job openings will result from retirements and career shifts by professionals. Also there may not be much competition as many people want work that is less physically demanding.

Job growth for glaziers is projected to proceed at the average rate in coming years. Most of this growth will be due to increasing construction, both commercial and residential. Also glass is extremely fashionable in interiors and so many people are looking to update the look of their home. Other people will need to replace glass in their homes with new glass that is better insulated, safer, and quieter. This is especially true as more people are trying to make their homes or businesses energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly. There are also new innovations in tinting, insulation, and condensation control that will encourage many people to modernize. Many retail businesses and offices install new glass as part of their security systems. All of this creates higher demand for glaziers.

The construction industry is notoriously susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. Construction projects are short-term and there are fewer projects when the economy is bad. What this means is that during downturns or recessions employment might be unstable or unavailable. Job openings depend not only on the global economy but on local economies as well, so availability may vary from location to location. Employment will be most stable in large urban areas.

Historical Earnings Information

Glaziers are usually paid by the hour. The majority of glaziers made between $11.60/hour and $20.50/hour in 2002 with a median of $15.20/hour. The lowest tenth of the pay scale made under $9.10/h and the highest tenth made over $28.20/hour.

Income can vary according to type of employer. The two industries that employed the most glaziers in 2002 were foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors; and building material dealers. Median income for glaziers employed by the contractors was $16.40/hour. Median income for those employed by the supplies dealers was $13.10/hour.

Glaziers who are members of a union usually have higher incomes than those who aren’t part of a union. Apprentices usually begin by earning about half of the income of skilled workers and get raises as they get more responsibility. Employment for glaziers may not be regular, as inclement weather and the economy can make work difficult to find, and so their yearly income may be lower than expected.