How Long Does It Take to Become a Welder?
In most states, you can get started welding after a certification program as short as 7 months.
To make a start in welding, you only need a high school diploma or equivalent.
Some positions do not even require that.
Because welding is a skilled job, it can take some time working and doing on-the-job training to fully master different skills.
While you can get started right away from high school, your earning potential could be limited.
Further education can lead to higher future wages.
Some employers are willing to hire inexperienced, entry-level workers and train their way up but many prefer to hire workers who have already been through training or credentialing programs.
However, even entry-level workers with formal technical training often require several months of on-the-job training to master their skills.
The advantage of on-the-job training is that you are being paid to learn.
Certification programs, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees are also available to deepen or specialize your training in welding.
These programs vary in length.
The average certification program is 18 months but can be as short as 7.
An associate’s degree will typically require 2 years while a bachelor’s degree will require 4.
Each level of education unlocks greater earning potential and advancement opportunities.
What Is the Highest Paid Welding Job?
The highest paid welding job is underwater welder.
The top 10% of underwater welders make upwards of $93,000 a year.
An average underwater welder makes a mean hourly wage of $26.32 or $54,750 a year while the general welding average income is $36,000 a year.
Underwater welding is a specialization that requires training in diving, a physical exam, and often an AWS D3.6 welding skill.
The job involves fitting and rigging, underwater cutting with heavy equipment, non-destructive testing and inspection, and often underwater photography.
Underwater welding often involves travel, sometimes many months away from home.
Those willing to travel worldwide can often take advantage of more lucrative contracts.
Welding engineers and welding research scientists are the next highest paid welding jobs.
Their wages range from $50,000 to $100,000+.
Welding engineers have an extensive knowledge of engineering, metallurgy, materials, and physics.
They use this knowledge to evaluate, design, and examine welds.
They supervise and document welding operations in keeping with codes, contracts or drawings.
They maintain the integrity of the work on a worksite.
A Bachelor’s Degree in welding engineering or welding engineering technology is recommended.
A Master’s or Doctorate also helped.
Certifications include AWS Certified Welding Inspector and AWS Certified Welding Engineer.
Welding research scientists work with unique metal alloys where research and studies are conducted to develop new methods, solve problems, and generally improve the overall application of welding.
Research scientists typically work in a lab environment.
Minimum education is a Master’s degree in welding engineering, material science, metallurgy, etc.
A Doctorate in welding engineering, material science, or metallurgy is recommended.
What State Has the Best Welding Jobs?
Good, high paying jobs are available all over the United States and the world because of the widespread need for welding across many industries. On wages alone, Alaska is the place to weld.
Alaska has the highest annual mean wage – $67,330 a year with the Anchorage area reaching an annual mean wage of $71,000.
In the lower 48 states, Wyoming is the next highest annual mean wage at $60,960 followed by the District of Columbia at $60,780.
The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics projects higher than industry average growth for Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana between now and 2026.
For those now training or planning to train in welding, keep an eye on these states for future employment and wider job opportunities.
Do Welders Get Good Benefits?
Welding benefits can be divided into several categories: availability of work, amount of work, compensation and benefits packages, and flexibility or work/life balance.
- Availability of work is not a problem with welding due to the high demand for skilled workers. The unemployment rate for welders is on par with the national average.
- Most welders work full time and overtime is very common. Most manufacturing companies have two to three shifts working around the clock to maintain production. As a result, many welders may work evenings and weekends.
- Since welders are in high demand, many companies compete for welders with excellent compensation and benefits packages. The higher the demand for the specialization, the better the benefits package. Compensation and benefits packages can include paid vacation and holidays as well as retirement packages. Unionized and salaried positions have a higher chance of having these types of benefits. Working independently is an option in welding but comes with the added expense of buying your own health insurance.
- Retirement packages or pensions are not uncommon in the industry. 77% of union workers have a pension plan.
- While working evenings and weekends can potentially hurt work/life balance, the portability and high demand of welding skills often means the flexibility to select jobs that fit your lifestyle. Some positions pay you to travel for work while others allow you to stay close to home. The flexibility means you can find the best fit for you.
What Is the Annual Average Salary Welders Earn?
Welders generally make between $24,490 and $55,240 a year with a $36,000 national average.
Wages vary depending on the position, level of skill, and industry.
For example, entry-level positions generate between $21,000-35,000 a year while a certified welder makes between $30,000 and $70,000 a year.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, welding fabricators and robotic welding technicians average $33,000 to $36,000 yearly.
Those with more training such as boilermakers, welding inspectors, and educators make around $65,000 a year.
The higher skilled positions such as underwater welder and welding research scientist can make upwards of $90,000 a year.
What Is the Demand and Job Outlook for Welders?
Welding is necessary in nearly every industry and demand for welders is worldwide.
While the U.S. growth in welding jobs is at 6%, as fast as average, more and more highly skilled welders are retiring.
This means an expected rise in employment opportunities between now and 2024.
The nation’s aging infrastructure will call on the skills of welders to help rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings.
As technology increases and computers permeate nearly every industry, skills in the latest technologies will become more and more relevant.
Those who keep up-to-date with technology will remain in high demand.
Because of the portability and demand of the trade, those willing to relocate or travel will have greater job opportunities.
Job advancement is very common as welders gain on-the-job experience and earn specialized certifications.
Experienced welders can become supervisors or train to become inspectors.
Highly skilled welders can also open their own welding and repair shops.
What Kind of Education Do You Need to Be a Welder?
Most welders can get started with a high school diploma.
A college degree is not required for a career.
Welding allows you to get trained and start earning quickly.
However, different levels of education unlock different positions and levels of pay.
- A high school diploma or equivalent will get you started welding quickly. There is training nearly everywhere and many companies will let you learn on the job. For welders going straight from high school to work, make sure to focus on high school classes such as mathematics, shop, physics, computers, and mechanical drawing.
- Certification – most companies will pay the costs of training and certifications for their employees.
- Most welding positions require apprenticeship. It is easy to get started in welding but it takes time to perfect.Most positions require on-the-job training in order to obtain competency in the skills necessary to do the job. This is often in the form of one or two years of training on-the-job with experienced workers. Many manual skills will take years to master.
- Associate’s degrees typically take 2 years to complete and will cover a wide range of topics that will deepen your knowledge: welding, drafting techniques, fabrication, etc.
- A bachelor’s degree typically requires 4 years and goes deeper into metallurgy, engineering and welding computer programming. Those receiving a bachelor’s degree or higher typically go on to become welding supervisors, inspectors, instructors, or engineers.
- Higher degrees such as master’s and doctorate’s take additional time but unlock high earning potential. Those who complete master’s and doctorate’s degrees often go on to become welding engineers and welding research scientists (two of the highest paying positions in welding).
Is Welding a Dangerous Job?
In a word, yes.
However, there are many widespread safety equipment and procedures in place to ensure the job is as safe as possible.
Welding often involves working in inclement weather or confined areas indoors.
Welding is a physical job that often involves lifting heavy objects or working in awkward positions.
You may even work on a scaffold high above the ground.
Top welding hazards include exposure to fumes and gases, physical hazards, electric shock, and fire and explosion.
All hazards vary by industry and work site.
- Exposure to fumes and gases can cause serious health problems but can be controlled by adherence to industry best practices and U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.
- Physical hazards include falling objects, burns, eye damage and cuts. These occur in active work sites and by exposure to hot materials and the intense light created by the welding arc. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as heat-resistant gloves, goggles, masks, safety shoes, and other equipment reduces or eliminates these hazards. Appropriate PPE must always be worn.
- Electric shock can be prevented by following proper protocols such as equipment inspection, lockout or tagout procedures during repairs, and avoidance touching metal parts of the electrode holder with skin or wet clothing.
- Fire and explosion occur in the presence of flammable materials. Maintaining a clean working environment is vital to preventing accidents. It is also important to be well versed in the location of fire alarms, emergency exits, and fire extinguishers. Training in the proper use of a fire extinguisher is required.
It is important for welders and their coworkers to remain vigilant to hazards and potential threats to safety.
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stringent guidelines for personal protective equipment, handling of toxic and hazardous substances, and ventilation of fumes involved in welding.
Careful attention to these guidelines is taken at each worksite to ensure both legal compliance and maximum safety for everyone on the worksite.
What Jobs Can You Get as a Welder?
Since welding is used in nearly every industry, the types of jobs incorporating welding are diverse and varied.
You may work in a manufacturing facility, small repair shop, or shipyard.
- Structural steel welding jobs and ironworkers work on everything from skyscrapers to welding parts for a building in fabrication shops. Ironworkers are those who actually assemble the parts of large buildings on the worksite, often high above the ground.
- Factory shutdown welding occurs when a large factory, refinery or large-scale manufacturer shuts down completely or partially to expand, retool, or overhaul operations. These jobs require a lot of travel as they are on an as-needed basis all over the world. Due to the time-sensitivity of these projects, large numbers of welders are hired at a time and often paid highly.
- Underwater welding is a specialized type of welding that requires special training and additional certifications such as diving. It is a difficult job but pays very well. Underwater welders work underwater on oil platform construction, shipbuilding, or for salvage companies. Shipbuilding companies also employ welders who do not work underwater. Those positions are typically for large, long-term projects with high pay.
- Production welding jobs are in factories or assembly-lines. These jobs have a lot of range as you may be working on anything from large pressure vessels to welding brackets to beams or sheet metal. Higher-paying production welding jobs are at heavy equipment plants for companies like John Deere, Caterpillar, and Volvo.
- Boilermakers fabricate pressure vessels and custom plate work. These vessels are used as hot water boilers, storage tanks, and specialized parts for shipbuilding. They most often work in shops.
- Pipe welding and structural steel welding is common in natural resources fields such as oil and gas. Working in excavation and mining often involves the maintenance and repair of large, heavy machinery such as the teeth of shovels and bulldozers. You may work in the field or in a shop. Both fields sometimes include fabrication of parts as needed.
- Industrial maintenance welders are also found in large manufacturing facilities, factories and oil refiners. They work with installation of new machinery, ductwork, piping, and repair welding. Knowledge of basic electrical and pneumatics is helpful.
- Robotic welding occurs in large plants that manufacture the same product in bulk quantity like a vehicle plant. Welders are needed to maintain, program, and troubleshoot problems on the lines. This gives welders valuable, transferrable experience working with technology.
- Small shop welding occurs in small shops and repair facilities. The large variety of work means you will learn and utilize a wide range of skills you might otherwise not learn in a larger production setting.
There are many different paths and specializations in welding that can be customized depending on the certifications and training you choose.
Jobs are available across industries such as infrastructure, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, industrial, and natural resources.
Many jobs are also available in engineering, inspection, and education.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Welder?
Welding is a manual job that requires good vision and attention to detail.
Accuracy and quality are very important.
Many jobs require a test of welding skills to ensure the candidate has the ability necessary to do the job.
A welder needs physical dexterity such as a steady hand and the physical and static strength to lift heavy objects and maneuver in tight spaces.
Physical stamina is required.
Spatial-orientation skills are necessary for completing jobs.
Welders must be able to understand and follow verbal or written instructions step-by-step.
You also need to be able to concentrate on the same task for a long period of time without becoming distracted.
Personal skills such as dependability, concern for others, cooperation, initiative, and integrity are vital for maintaining a safe and efficient work environment.
Welders must be successful communicators in order to coordinate projects with others, verbalize problems and brainstorm solutions.
Safety is very important.
A welder must be able to understand and follow safety procedures as well as correctly use equipment.
The proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital for the position.
Problem sensitivity – the ability to anticipate when something is wrong or likely to go wrong – is an invaluable ability.
Welders are vigilant about safety, carefully monitoring themselves and others to make improvements or take corrective action.
Technical skills come from formal and informal training.
Ability to read blueprints, calculate dimensions, and interpret sketches is a must.
Welders should know how to use a brazing torch, robotic welding equipment, grinders, and metal finishers.
Most jobs include setting up machine tools, using lifting and control devices and fillet and butt weld gauges.
All welding jobs use a soldering iron and most use hand tools.
Knowledge of construction, metallurgy, oxy-fuel welding, design, and bonding are necessary for the job.
Excellent time-management and project management skills can lead to higher paying positions.
Additional helpful skills involve knowledge of computer software such as Scientific Software Group Filter Drain FD, OmniFleet Equipment Maintenance Management, various Computer Aided Design (CAD), and Microsoft Office – especially Microsoft Excel.
As robotics permeates more industries, computer skills become more important for the average welder.
- Vocational Training HQ https://www.vocationaltraininghq.com/traveling-welding-jobs/
- Careers in Welding https://www.careersinwelding.com/careers-in-welding/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes514121.htm#st
- Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm#tab-6
- Job Corps https://www.jobcorps.gov/train/382/advanced-manufacturing/153/welding
- Crom Weld https://www.cromweld.com/types-of-welding-jobs/#footnotes