Most roofers acquire their skills informally by working as helpers for experienced roofers and by taking some employer-provided classes. Safety training is one of the first classes that a worker takes. Trainees start by carrying equipment and material, and erecting scaffolds and hoists. Within 2 or 3 months, trainees are taught to measure, cut, and fit roofing materials and, later, to lay asphalt or fiberglass shingles. Because some roofing materials are used infrequently, it can take several years to get experience working on all the various types of roofing applications.
Some roofers train through 3-year apprenticeship programs administered by local union-management committees representing roofing contractors and locals of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers. The apprenticeship program generally consists of a minimum of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training annually, plus a minimum of 144 hours of classroom instruction a year in subjects such as tools and their use, arithmetic, and safety. On-the-job training for apprentices is similar to that for helpers, except that the apprenticeship program is more structured. Apprentices also learn to dampproof and waterproof walls.
Good physical condition and good balance are essential for roofers, along with no fear of heights. A high school education, or its equivalent, is helpful, as are courses in mechanical drawing and basic mathematics. Most apprentices must be at least 18 years old. Experience with metal-working is helpful for workers who install metal roofing.
Roofers may advance to supervisor or estimator for a roofing contractor, or become contractors themselves.