The Job and What's Involved

Steeplejacks work high up on tall buildings and structures such as:

- Power station chimneys
- Cooling towers
- Oil refineries
- Tower blocks
- Factories
- Bridges
- Church spires

Much of their work involves renovating, repairing and maintaining them. Steeplejacks use a range of building tools and welding equipment.

They also:

- Install fall-arrest systems
- Erect, inspect and dismantle steel chimneys
- Fit aircraft warning lights on tall structures

There are several stages to a steeplejack's work, beginning by carefully planning the job. When on site, they put up access ladders, specialist scaffolding, work platforms (cradles) and the traditional bosun's seat (harness) and fall arrest devices. All this is to create a safe working environment. In certain circumstances they use industrial rope access (abseiling) techniques.

Steeplejacks climb up to high places with their tools to carry out a variety of tasks such as repairs, painting, welding, replacing glass, inspection, demolition and rebuilding. Once the job has been completed they dismantle all their access equipment.

The hours of work vary. Shifts and overtime, including evenings and weekends, may be required.

Steeplejacks work outdoors, at varying heights, in all weather conditions. The work is physically demanding and includes rigging, climbing, and carrying ladders, tools and safety equipment. Steeplejacks wear protective clothing and headgear.

Conditions can be very dusty (for example, inside industrial chimneys), in which case they must wear respirators. This can make the work unsuitable for people with chest complaints.

The work may be local, but can involve travel to different parts of the country (or even abroad). It may be necessary to spend some time away from home.

A driving licence is useful.

Starting salaries may be around £15,000 a year. Steeplejacks are normally paid according to nationally-recommended industry rates. They can earn significantly more with overtime payments and shift allowances.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most steeplejacks work for specialist firms of steeplejacks. Most of these are in or around London, Middlesborough, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and they tend to recruit local people. There are some limited opportunities in other areas.

There are between 800 and 1,000 steeplejacks in the UK. The number of steeplejacks is increasing and qualified steeplejacks tend to find work easily. Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices and by word of mouth.

Education and Training

There are no specific entry qualifications, but GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, English, science subjects and CDT are useful for the calculations, measurements and theory involved in the work and training.

Young people can become apprentices on sponsored training through the Atlas Training Group and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). They have to take aptitude tests involving maths and problem solving. They are also checked for literacy and for their ability to work at heights.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

Not all young people train through Apprenticeships. Some are trained by an employer outside the Apprenticeship system.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Each year there are at least 12 places for apprentice steeplejacks on the course organised by Atlas Training Group and CITB-ConstructionSkills.

Apprentices are sponsored by an employer. They spend about six months (in small blocks spread over two or three years) at the CITB-ConstructionSkills residential National Construction College in Bircham Newton, Norfolk. During their Apprenticeship they can work towards qualifications such as:

  • NVQ/SVQ Accessing Operations and Rigging - Steeplejacking Level 2.
  • NVQ/SVQ Accessing Operations and Rigging - Steeplejacking Level 3.
  • Key Skills Level 1.
  • Slinger/Signaller.
  • Abrasive Wheels (CITB).
  • Industrial Rope Access (CITB).
  • Mobile Towers (CITB).
  • Passport to Safety.
  • First Aid Certificate.
  • Fire Fighting.
  • Health and Safety Test.
  • Safe Use of Ladders.
  • Manual Handling.
  • Confined Spaces certification.
  • Working at Heights certification.

Adults and young people may be trained by their employer outside the Apprenticeship system and work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in Construction: Accessing Operations and Rigging - Steeplejacking Levels 2 and 3, and other relevant qualifications.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A steeplejack should:

  • Have a good head for heights - this is absolutely essential.
  • Be physically fit to cope with extensive climbing and holding.
  • Have a good sense of balance and be sure-footed.
  • Be able to work inside chimneys, in dark, restrictive conditions.
  • Have good hand skills for using tools and equipment.
  • Be able to work well with others, as safety depends on teamwork.
  • Have a total commitment to safe working practices.
  • Have good organisational skills - it is important to prepare carefully for each job as it is a long way to the ground if anything is forgotten.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion is possible to supervisory then managerial posts within specialist firms. A few experienced steeplejacks become self-employed.

There are increasing opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

The Association of Technical Lighting and Access Specialists,
4c St Mary's Place, The Lace Market,
Nottingham NG1 1PH
Tel: 0115 955 8818

Bircham Newton, King's Lynn,
Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577 577
Websites: (for careers advisers,
teachers and adults) and (for young people).

4 Edison Street, Hillington,
Glasgow G52 4XN
Tel: 0141 810 3044

National Construction College,
Bircham Newton, King's Lynn,
Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577 775

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