Production Welder Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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The hourly wages for various types of production welders range from approximately $12.00-$28.00. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a production welder is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Welder Career

Production welders, which can include general welders, MIG welders and pipe welders, typically work in industrial environments, heating and fusing metal parts together for a variety of purposes. Here are some of the pros and cons of a career in welding:

Pros of Being a Welder
Option to learn new skills and types of welds throughout your career*
Good job prospects for individuals skilled in the latest technologies*
Opportunity to qualify for more senior positions with sufficient work experience*
Multiple certification options*

Cons of Being a Welder
Employment growth is slower than average (about 6% increase from 2012-2022)*
A lack of up-to-date training can decrease future job prospects*
Exposure to potentially dangerous work conditions*
Work in an industrial environment*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

While most welders find employment in production and manufacturing, welders can work in a variety of industries. The specific job duties and the equipment that production welders might use vary in accordance with the kinds of welding work that needs to be done. Welders can operate semi-automatic or manual welding equipment to fuse pieces of metal, using a variety of processes, including gas metal arc, gas tungsten arc, flux-cored art, shielded metal arc, plasma arc, submerged arc welding and resistance welding.

Welders also must be able to examine their own work, detecting defects and taking measurements in order to meet the specifications set out in schematics or blue prints. Some job duties may include using plasma, oxy-gas and arc cutters to dismantle metal objects, such as ships, railroad cars and automobiles. Welders must work in well-ventilated environments and understand how to ensure their own safety through the use of equipment such as respirators, welding shields and protective clothing.

Job Growth and Salary

Between 2012-2022, employment opportunities for welders is expected to grow only six percent. Despite sluggish job growth, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that welders should not have problems finding employment. The best job opportunities are expected for welders trained in the latest technology.

The BLS reported that the median hourly wage of welders was over $18.00 in May 2014, with the lowest ten percent earning just over $12.00 and the highest ten percent earning more than $28.00. Your pay rate can also vary with your level of skill and experience (www.bls.gov).

Education and Training Requirements

There are no mandatory educational requirements for production welders; some employers might hire inexperienced workers and provide them with on-the-job training. Other employers prefer to hire workers who hold certificates or degrees earned through formal training programs. Some employers require welders to earn certifications in specific skills, such as robotic welding or inspection. Some develop their own unique certification tests; others require or at least prefer workers to hold certifications from organizations such as the American Welding Society.

Skills

Welders must have particular skills and traits in order to be successful, such as the ability to focus on details for extended periods of time, competency in using a variety of welding equipment, knowledge of different types of welds and materials and the ability to read schematics. You must also be able to accurately assess your own work and take measurements; have good hand-eye coordination, eyesight and manual dexterity; and be willing to learn new skills and types of welds when necessary.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Production welding positions are open to individuals with a range of educational backgrounds and amount of work experience. Typically, employers are seeking workers with specific types of expertise, such as MIG and TIG welding, and highly value welding certifications that correspond with the specific employment duties. Employers also value the ability to read blueprints. Many jobs assess candidates through special welding tests. The following job postings were open to welders during March 2012:

  • A company in Texas was hiring full-time production welders to manufacture rail cars. This job required a background in structural welding, and candidates were expected to meet specific welding certification standards. This employer preferred workers to have at least six months of welding experience but was willing to substitute work experience for formal training.
  • A manufacturing company in Washington was looking for full-time welders with at least one year of MIG welding experience. Job duties included MIG welding mild steel of varying thicknesses. Candidates were required to be able to read blueprints and to pass a special welding test.
  • A company in Iowa was looking for an experienced MIG welder for full-time employment. This job required a high school diploma, 1-2 years of welding experience and the ability to lift up to 75 pounds.
  • A metal fabrication shop in Pennsylvania was seeking a lead welder for full-time employment. Candidates were required to be proficient in specific types of welding, including MIG, TIG, stainless steel and aluminum. Candidates were also expected to be able to work from blueprints and have experience with complex fabrication equipment, including jigs and fixtures.

How to Stand Out in the Field

In addition to work experience, there are two primary ways to stand out in this field: formal education and certification. Many vocational schools, technical schools and community colleges offer programs in welding; students can earn certificates and associate's degrees. In a welding program, you can take courses in specific practices, such as pipe, inert gas, arc and oxyacetylene welding, and also learn more general skills in reading schematics, computer applications and mathematics. Some programs can also certify students.

Get Certified

The American Welding Society (AWS) is the primary organization that grants professional certification to welders. Specific types of welds require different certifications. In order to earn a certification, you need to go a test facility accredited by the AWS and demonstrate your ability by completing the specific type of weld that you are earning certification in. Your weld will be assessed by an inspector certified by the AWS.

Alternative Career Paths

Machinist

If you do not like the idea of working directly with extremely hot materials, then you might want to pursue a career as a machinist. Machinists use machine tools, such as drill presses, grinders, milling machines and lathes, in order to produce metal parts. There are no mandatory educational prerequisites for becoming a machinist; many machinists learn their skills through apprenticeship programs and work experience. However, you can choose to learn machining through formal education, such as an associate's degree program. According to the BLS, the median hourly wage for machinists was just over $19.00 in May 2010, and the employment of machinists and tool and die makers was expected to increase by seven percent between 2010 and 2020.

Sheet Metal Worker

If you like many of the job duties involved in a welding career, but want to increase your chances of earning a higher hourly wage, then you might want to consider becoming a sheet metal worker. Sheet metal workers install, maintain and create products made from metal sheets, such as roofs, siding, railroad cars, restaurant equipment and rain gutters. Some might also work with plastics or fiberglass materials. Many sheet metal workers mass produce sheet metal products or do work that is related to the construction industry.

In order to become a skilled sheet metal worker, you will typically need four or five years of training; you can receive this training through a combination of on-the-job training experiences and formal education received through community colleges and technical schools. The BLS reports that in May 2010 the median hourly wage for sheet metal workers was over $20.00. Between 2010 and 2020, the employment of sheet metal workers is expected to increase by 18%.

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