Becoming a Welder: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A welder's average salary is about $49,000. Is it worth the training and education requirements? Check out real job duties and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a welder is right for you.
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Pros and Cons to Becoming a Welder

Welding occurs when metal parts have heat applied to them so that they melt and fuse permanently together. Below you can read about some of the pros and cons to becoming a welder.

PROS to Becoming a Welder
Different education paths available (formal education, job training, apprenticeship)*
Good job opportunities for skilled welders (due to expected increase in retirements)*
Best job opportunities in manufacturing, which is widely available*
Advancement and self-employment opportunities with experience*

CONS to Becoming a Welder
Work injuries possible (toxic gases, burns, muscle strain)*
Long work week*
Work can be subject to weather conditions*
Below-average growth in employment opportunities (only 6% increase from 2012 to 2022)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

By using electrical currents, a welder heats up one piece of metal to a point where it can bond with another piece. Depending on the metal you're working with, you'll apply a different level of heat. Steel is welded easier than titanium, for example. Welding is a physically demanding profession, requiring heavy lifting, bending and maintaining awkward positions to reach areas needing repair. It is important to keep in mind that your work duties can vary depending on the industry that employs you. For example, the equipment you use and work with is different if you're working in car racing instead of electronic manufacturing.

Salary Info

Welders were reported to make about $19.00 an hour, which amounts to an average annual income of around $40,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Welders who happened to be in the top ten percent of wage estimates earned over $58,000. Kansas, Connecticut, New York, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts were the top-paying states for welders. If you want to work in one of the top-paying industries as a welder, look for employment with electric power distributors, natural gas distributors, pipeline transportation, synthetic products manufacturers and the postal service.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Some employers provide on-the-job training, but many prefer to hire welders with formal training. Formal training for welders is available in some high schools as well as in vocational schools and community colleges. Many schools offer the choice of a one-year certificate program or a two-year associate degree program in welding technology. You can expect to learn about mechanical drawing, metallurgy, blueprint reading and shop mathematics in a welding technology program. Welding training is also available in the military. Those seeking higher education might continue on to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in welding engineering.

Certification

Although there are no official license requirements, many employers won't hire a welder who doesn't have certifications in welding. These certifications can be obtained from organizations like the American Welding Society (www.aws.org). Often times, you can take the necessary certification classes at a nearby welding school. Employers might be willing to reimburse welders for these certification courses. In some cases, employers might even offer internal certification exams.

What Are Employers Seeking in Welders?

First and foremost, employers want welders who are skilled in their trade. Many employers have expressed difficulty in finding skilled welders. Additionally, some employers want welders who are willing to relocate to a different part of the country or travel to certain areas for extended periods of time. If you're wondering what some real employers were asking for in welder applicants, just take a look below at some job postings from March 2012.

  • An alternative fuel company in California wants a welder with 3-15 years of experience on various stainless and carbon steel pipe installations. Candidate must be willing to travel and work on several projects at once.
  • In Ohio, a building construction company is looking for a welder with experience in various types of arc welding to perform set up and welding tasks. Candidate should be capable of transporting large components safely while working.
  • A manufacturing company in Alabama seeks a candidate with a two-year degree and one year of experience. Applicant needs to be able to use various hand-welding tools to weld seams and joints.
  • A filter business in Texas requests a welder who has five years of experience and is familiar with the PECO product line. Candidate must be able to use hand-held pneumatic tools and work safely as part of a team.

How to Stand Out as a Welder

Like with many occupations, welding training changes over time. By periodically taking continuing education courses in welding, you'll keep your skills sharper than welders who don't learn new training techniques. You can also keep up-to-date with the latest in welding technology. For example, automated and semi-automated machines perform many of the same tasks welders do, but these machines have to be operated and maintained in order to ensure a proper job is being done. By learning about these machines, you'll be a step ahead of other welders who aren't taking the time to learn about them. By keeping up on new technology and skills, you'll be able to show your motivation and dedication to welding.

Other Career Paths

If you decide that welding isn't for you but are interested in an alternative career that is similarly hands-on, you can become a machine setter. In this career, you prep the machines that are used to produce parts for appliances or other objects. Your duties also include testing the machines and making adjustments or repairs, if needed. According to the BLS in May 2011, a cutting, press and punching machine setter who works with metals and plastics earned around $31,000 on average, annually.

Another option to consider that involves some welding as well as other hands-on skills is working as a structural metal fabricator and fitter. You would help fit, align and cut parts made from metal to help create a final product like a toaster or a toy. Your duties might include riveting or welding some of the parts together. In May 2011, the BLS found that structural metal fitters and fabricators had average yearly incomes of about $37,000.

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