Many glaziers learn the trade by working as helpers to experienced
Job opportunities are expected to be good.
Nature of the Work
Glass serves many uses in modern life. Insulated and specially
treated glass keeps in warmed or cooled air and provides good
condensation and sound control qualities, while tempered and laminated
glass makes doors and windows more secure. In large commercial
buildings, glass panels give office buildings a distinctive look
while reducing the need for artificial lighting. The creative
use of large windows, glass doors, skylights, and sunroom additions
makes homes bright, airy, and inviting.
Glaziers are responsible for selecting, cutting, installing,
replacing, and removing all types of glass. They generally work
on one of several types of projects. Residential glazing involves
work such as replacing glass in home windows; installing glass
mirrors, shower doors, and bathtub enclosures; and fitting glass
for tabletops and display cases. On commercial interior projects,
glaziers install items such as heavy, often etched, decorative
room dividers or security windows. Glazing projects also may involve
replacement of storefront windows for establishments such as supermarkets,
auto dealerships, or banks. In the construction of large commercial
buildings, glaziers build metal framework extrusions and install
glass panels or curtain walls.
Besides working with glass, glaziers also may work with plastics,
granite, marble, and other similar materials used as glass substitutes,
as well as films or laminates that improve the durability or safety
of the glass. They may mount steel and aluminum sashes or frames
and attach locks and hinges to glass doors. For most jobs, the
glass is precut and mounted in frames at a factory or a contractor’s
shop. It arrives at the jobsite ready for glaziers to position
and secure it in place. They may use a crane or hoist with suction
cups to lift large, heavy pieces of glass. They then gently guide
the glass into position by hand.
Once glaziers have the glass in place, they secure it with mastic,
putty, or other paste-like cement, or with bolts, rubber gaskets,
glazing compound, metal clips, or metal or wood moldings. When
they secure glass using a rubber gasket—a thick, molded rubber
half-tube with a split running its length—they first secure the
gasket around the perimeter within the opening, then set the glass
into the split side of the gasket, causing it to clamp to the
edges and hold the glass firmly in place.
When they use metal clips and wood moldings, glaziers first secure
the molding to the opening, place the glass in the molding, and
then force springlike metal clips between the glass and the molding.
The clips exert pressure and keep the glass firmly in place.
When a glazing compound is used, glaziers first spread it neatly
against and around the edges of the molding on the inside of the
opening. Next, they install the glass. Pressing it against the
compound on the inside molding, workers screw or nail outside
molding that loosely holds the glass in place. To hold it firmly,
they pack the space between the molding and the glass with glazing
compound and then trim any excess material with a glazing knife.
For some jobs, the glazier must cut the glass manually at the
jobsite. To prepare the glass for cutting, glaziers rest it either
on edge on a rack, or “A-frame,” or flat against a cutting table.
They then measure and mark the glass for the cut.
Glaziers cut glass with a special tool that has a small, very
hard metal wheel. Using a straightedge as a guide, the glazier
presses the cutter’s wheel firmly on the glass, guiding and rolling
it carefully to make a score just below the surface. To help the
cutting tool move smoothly across the glass, workers brush a thin
layer of oil along the line of the intended cut or dip the cutting
tool in oil. Immediately after cutting, the glazier presses on
the shorter end of the glass to break it cleanly along the cut.
In addition to handtools such as glasscutters, suction cups,
and glazing knives, glaziers use power tools such as saws, drills,
cutters, and grinders. An increasing number of glaziers use computers
in the shop or at the jobsite to improve their layout work and
reduce the amount of glass that is wasted.
Glaziers often work outdoors, sometimes in inclement weather.
Their work can, at times, result in injuries as they work with
sharp tools and may need to remove broken glass. They must be
prepared to lift heavy glass panels and work on scaffolding, sometimes
at great heights. Glaziers do a considerable amount of bending,
kneeling, lifting, and standing during the installation process.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Glaziers learn their trade through formal and informal training
programs. To become a skilled glazier usually takes 3 years of
both classroom and on-the-job training. There are a number of
different avenues that one can take to obtain the necessary training.
One of the ways is to obtain a job with a contractor who will
then provide on-the-job training. Entry-level workers generally
start as helpers, assisting more experienced workers. During this
time, employers may send the employee to a trade or vocational
school, or community college to receive further classroom training.
Some employers offer employees formal apprenticeships. These
programs combine on-the-job training with related classroom instruction.
Apprenticeship applicants usually must be at least 18 years old
and meet local requirements. The length of the program is usually
3 years, but varies with the apprentice’s skill. Because the number
of apprenticeship programs is limited, however, only a small proportion
of glaziers learn their trade through these programs.
On the job, apprentices or helpers, will start by carrying glass
and cleaning up debris in glass shops. They often practice cutting
on discarded glass. After a while, they are given an opportunity
to cut glass for a job and assist experienced workers on simple
installation jobs. By working with experienced glaziers, they
eventually acquire the skills of a fully qualified glazier. On
the job, they learn to use the tools and equipment of the trade;
handle, measure, cut, and install glass and metal framing; cut
and fit moldings; and install and balance glass doors. In the
classroom, they are taught about glass and installation techniques
as well as basic mathematics, blueprint reading and sketching,
general construction techniques, safety practices and first aid.
Because most glaziers do not learn the trade through a formal
apprenticeship program, some associations offer a series of written
examinations that certify an individual’s competency to perform
glazier work at three progressively more difficult levels of proficiency.
These levels include Level I Glazier; Level II Commercial Interior/Residential
Glazier or Storefront/Curtainwall Glazier; and Level III Master
Glazier. There also is a certification program for auto-glass
Some skills needed to become a glazier include manual dexterity,
eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance.
The ability to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately
also is required. In addition, a good work history or military
service is viewed favorably by contractors.
Advancement generally consists of increases in pay for most glaziers;
some advance to supervisory jobs or become contractors or estimators.
For those who would like to advance, it is increasingly important
to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish in order
to relay instructions and safety precautions to workers with limited
understanding of English; Spanish-speaking workers make up a large
part of the construction workforce in many areas. Glaziers may
advance to glazier supervisor or general construction supervisor
positions. Others may become independent contractors. Supervisors
and contractors need good communication skills to deal with clients
and subcontractors and should be able to identify and estimate
the quantity of materials needed to complete a job and accurately
estimate how long a job will take to complete and at what cost.
Glaziers held 49,000 jobs in 2004. Almost two-thirds of glaziers
worked for glazing contractors engaged in new construction, alteration,
and repair. About 1 in 10 glaziers worked in retail glass shops
that install or replace glass and for wholesale distributors of
products containing glass.
Job opportunities for glaziers are expected to be good as some
employers report difficulty in finding qualified workers. In addition,
employment is expected to grow about as fast as average for all
occupations through the year 2014.
Employment of glaziers is expected to increase as a result of
growth in residential and nonresidential construction. Demand
for glaziers also will be spurred by the continuing need to modernize
and repair existing structures, which often involves installing
new windows. Homeowners also are preferring rooms with more sunlight
and are adding sunrooms and skylights to houses. Demand for specialized
safety glass and glass coated with protective laminates is also
growing in response to a higher need for security and the need
to withstand hurricanes, particularly in many commercial and government
Like other construction trades workers, glaziers employed in
the construction industry should expect to experience periods
of unemployment resulting from the limited duration of construction
projects and the cyclical nature of the construction industry.
During bad economic times, job openings for glaziers are reduced
as the level of construction declines. However, construction activity
varies from area to area, so job openings fluctuate with local
economic conditions. Employment opportunities should be greatest
in metropolitan areas, where most glazing contractors and glass
shops are located.
In May 2004, median hourly earnings of glaziers were $15.70.
The middle 50 percent earned between $12.08 and $21.58. The lowest
10 percent earned less than $9.73, and the highest 10 percent
earned more than $30.36. In May 2004, median hourly earnings in
the foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors industry,
where most glass shops are found, were $16.10.
Glaziers covered by union contracts generally earn more than
their nonunion counterparts. Apprentice wage rates usually start
at 40 to 50 percent of the rate paid to experienced glaziers and
increase as they gain experience in the field. Because glaziers
can lose time due to weather conditions and fluctuations in construction
activity, their overall earnings may be lower than their hourly
Some glaziers employed in construction are members of the International
Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
Glaziers use their knowledge of construction materials and techniques
to install glass. Other construction workers whose jobs also involve
skilled, custom work are brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons;
carpenters; carpet, floor, and tile installers and finishers;
cement masons, concrete finishers, segmental pavers, and terrazzo
workers; sheet metal workers; and painters and paperhangers. Other
related occupations include automotive body and related repairers
who install broken or damaged glass on vehicles that they repair.
Sources of Additional Information
For more information about glazier apprenticeships or work opportunities,
contact local glazing or general contractors, a local of the International
Union of Painters and Allied Trades, a local joint union-management
apprenticeship agency, or the nearest office of the State employment
service or State apprenticeship agency.
For general information about the work of glaziers, contact:
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, 1750 New
York Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20006. Internet: http://www.iupat.org/
For information concerning training for glaziers, contact:
National Glass Association, Education and Training Department,
8200 Greensboro Dr., Suite 302, McLean, VA 22102-3881. Internet:
Associated Builders and Contractors, Workforce Development
Department, 4250 North Fairfax Dr., 9th Floor, Arlington, VA
22203. Internet: http://www.trytools.org/
Source: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition