Welding keeps the world together and the economy moving. If its metal, you can weld it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bridge, plane, car, RV, roof, or building.
This trade is the backbone of the modern-day world. It plays an important role in keeping us safe and improving our quality of life.
There’s a high demand for these tradesmen. For every four baby boomers leaving the field, only one millennial enters. To make this job more attractive, most welding jobs pay very well and have nice benefits packages. There’s also plenty of opportunity for advancement.
What Makes a Good Welder?
The basic definition of a welder is someone who uses heat to join metal components together. This lets welders build or repair various products, even a custom metal building. It is the perfect occupation for individuals who:
- Like working with their hands
- Have an eye for detail
- Loves creating or building structures
- Can solve problems and think on their feet
- Have great hand-eye coordination
Good welders also have an affinity for math, especially trigonometry and geometry. These disciplines teach you how to measure angles and calculate their dimensions.
Basic decimal and fraction skills are helpful too. They help you understand blueprints. Blueprints explain a project’s scope and help you calculate material needs.
What Do Welders Do?
Every industry needs welders. The opportunities are endless. Welders can study basic fabrication, commercial metal roofing services, or advanced robotics. But, all welders know how to:
- Make sure every project is safe for consumer use
- Read blueprints
- Clean and store welding equipment
- Maintain the proper temperature of the flame
- Follow safety regulations and use the flame in a safe and responsible manner
What are the Benefits of Being a Welder?
Learning a trade gives you valuable skills to market yourself. You could start a commercial metal roofing service. Your income potential is practically limitless. Welding, in particular, offers a lot of benefits and versatility. But there’s more to this trade than that. Welding is a skill, science, and art. It offers practitioners versatility and freedom seldom seen in other career paths. Other benefits include:
- Welding skills are recession-proof: Every industry needs welders, so there are a ton of opportunities with lucrative salaries available.
- Endless opportunity: This career path holds unlimited possibilities for further specialization. Whether you stay home or hit the road as a traveling RV mechanic, you can make money wherever you are.
What Career Paths Are Available For Welders?
Welders can build just about anything. But, to be good, you’ll need plenty of practice and training. This is difficult when you don’t know what type of welder you want to be. For instance, there are some positions where getting a bachelor’s degree is a must.
It’s important to look at the specific responsibilities of the different fields. This step helps you figure out the path that aligns best with your abilities and strengths.
Some career paths include:
Shipfitter: They make approximately $45-90K every year
- Fabricate and layout materials for building and fixing ships
- Work for naval shipyards and private companies
- Build, maintain, and repair small boats, container ships, ocean liners, and icebreakers. Military shipfitters work on submarines, tankers, and aircraft carriers.
Pipefitters: They make approximately $52- 100K every year
Pipes are hard to weld, especially when in certain positions. So, pipefitters (also known as pipeline welders) are well-trained and versatile. Their expertise in pipeline services makes them the most skilled and in-demand welders. Their basic responsibilities include:
- Join and repair tubular products and metallic pipe components, like corrugated metal hoses
- Work on assemblies to build pipelines, structures, vessels, and buildings
- Use a variety of welding processes and equipment in different environments. This includes commercial plumbing companies.
Industrial welding inspector: They make approximately $51-95K every year
Welding inspectors are of vital importance to the industry and the world. They ensure the structural soundness and safety of welded products. This includes buildings, machinery, vehicles, and more. They also help with research and development.
Robotic welding technicians: They make approximately $36-65K every year
These technicians set up, maintain, and operate robotic welding equipment. They use these robots to fabricate metal parts or assemble them. They’re also responsible for designing, maintaining, troubleshooting, and programming the welding robots.
Boilermakers: They make approximately $36-80K every year
Boilermakers are well-versed in both welding and cutting equipment. They make, install, maintain, and repair structures that generate power and provide heat. They can also store oil, industrial chemicals, and other liquids.
Boilermakers can also use tools to fuse, separate, and shape metal components. They also build, repair, and maintain structures. These include:
- Blast furnaces
- Rocket boosters
Welding engineer: They make approximately $67-$95K every year
Welding engineers know the principles of engineering, metallurgy, physics, materials, welding, and standards. This ensures the integrity of welded structures, like custom metal buildings.
Welding engineers design, test, and analyze welds. They also use their knowledge to plan, supervise, and document welding operations. This ensures compliance with relevant codes, drawings, codes, drawings, or contracts.
Ironworker: They make approximately $40-100K every year
They’re sometimes referred to as Sky Cowboys. They erect and take apart metal frameworks for a variety of structures. These include stadiums, skyscrapers, bridges, and antennas.
- Erect the cranes and derricks used to construct these structures
- Install and maintain commercial and industrial structures. These include elevators, catwalks, ladders, fire escapes, fences, and railings. They even do metal roof replacement.
Ironworkers have a lot of options for job prospects. They can pursue ornamental welding, structural welding, or reinforcing welding. Some even make jewelry or work for jewelry stores.
Welding research scientists: They make approximately $73-100K every year
These welders work with unique metal alloys in fully equipped labs. Welding researchers solve problems and create new ways of working with new metals. This research is vital as it widens welding applications.
Welding fabricators: They make approximately $37-65K every year
These welders build or create usable products out of raw metal. They know how to shape, bend, cut, and weld these components together to make a final product. They handle all the tasks of the fabrication process from start to finish. Many fabricators also create custom motorcycles, cars, metal art, and more. Some are RV mechanics.
Technical Sales: They make approximately $60-95K every year
Technical sales representatives are the conduit between metal suppliers, distributors, and their customers. They inform all parties about new technologies in the welding industry. They’re the first to know about the innovative products and methods in the industry. In other words, they know which ones improve the reliability, productivity, and quality of welding processes.
Technical sales professionals also offer manufacturers valuable technical support and guidance. This ensures they have a full understanding of any new welding technologies.
Welding educators: They make approximately $43-95K every year
They’re also known as welding teachers, trainers, or instructors. They use their practical and conceptual understanding of welding to teach:
- Basic welding techniques
- Equipment setup
- Welding theory
- Reading blueprints
- Welding standards and codes
Welding supervisor: They make approximately $50-85K
Their jobs require knowledge of welding processes, economics, and management skills. This helps them plan, use, track, and deliver welding projects on time and within budget. Welding supervisors help increase product quality and productivity in the welding industry.
How to Become A Welder
Most welders need a high school diploma or GED to get their foot in the door. Here are some strategies to help you become the best welder possible:
High Schoolers: Start Early
Take advantage of any welding courses offered. It’s also important to take math courses, like geometry and trigonometry. Welding involves a lot of measuring and these classes will give you an edge.
Increase your Skill Set
The higher your skill and experience levels, the more you’ll earn as a welder. Many employers want to see the completion of accredited courses on your resume.
Going to welding school will teach you valuable in-demand skills. It’s a wise investment in your future.
A welding certificate training program takes anywhere from 6 months-2 years to complete. It all depends on the specific specialty you’re pursuing. Many community colleges offer this training as well.
Furthering your education will teach you valuable in-demand skills like:
- Welding Processes
- Different welding applications
- Reading blueprints
- Inspection and quality control
There are other benefits to receiving a formal education, even if you know how to weld. For instance, your teachers are welding experts. They know and understand the different welding techniques and the equipment used. Use their experience to fill any gaps in your knowledge. Proof of a comprehensive welding education makes you very attractive to potential employees.
How to Get Hands-On Experience
Once you receive your welder accreditation, it’s time to get some hands-on experience. There are two ways to do this; a paid apprenticeship or unpaid internship.
Apprenticeships let you shadow an expert in the field and complete work. This happens all under supervision. This training gives you a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of a welder.
Apprenticeship programs last anywhere between 1-6 years. Again, this depends on the industry and career path you’re pursuing. The great news is, your pay increases as you gain more work experience. Also, when your apprenticeship is over, chances are the company will hire you at full capacity. This option isn’t set in stone. You can also learn from the experience on your apprenticeship and apply it to a new position.
Getting Your Certification
You can’t look for an official welding job unless you get a welding certificate. Other benefits of formal certification include:
- Make more money
- More options career-wise
- Better long-term flexibility
Once you’re done with coursework and training, it’s time to get your welders’ certificate. It’s available through the American Welding Society (AWS) and their accredited testing facilities.
There are a lot of welding certificates to choose from, depending on your welding career path. The main one employers need is the basic welder certificate. This test has two sections, a written exam and one where things get hands-on. The score from the two determines your welding skill and performance.
You’re Almost At the Finish Line
Once you’ve gotten the necessary education, training, and experience, it’s time to look for a job. You can find many welding jobs online. Researching these positions is the best way to find the one that matches you best. Beat out your competition with these tips:
- Highlight your new skills in your resume and use specific examples
- Place the skills section in a specific section of your resume
- Use the same terms the employer used in their ad
When you follow these tips, it shows your potential employer you took the time to read their ad. This highlights several skills, like reading comprehension. It also shows them you’re invested in working for their specific company.
More Tips and Tricks
The best welders know how to embrace the challenges that lie before them. They remain committed to their goal and use helpful resources when they need a boost. Here are some tips to follow to get some skin in the game:
Some welding careers only specify that applicants need a high school diploma or GED. If you’re still in high school, take advantage of any welding courses offered. Math courses, like geometry and trigonometry, are important as well. They teach you all about angles and dimensions. These are two things every skilled welder knows intimately.
No matter how great a welder you are, there’s always something new to learn. Continue your education after receiving certification and getting a job. This will help you develop new skills and keep you up-to-date with recent innovations in the field. It can also qualify you for leadership positions.
The Bottom Line
Being a welder is a lifelong journey. As long as you keep a positive mind frame and you’re willing to learn, you’ll go far.