Did you grow up tinkering with building blocks or taking things apart to see how they worked? Do you enjoy working with your hands, fixing things yourself and constantly learning? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ you might be a good candidate for a career in welding.
Here, we’ll explain how entry level welding jobs can set you up for a secure and rewarding future and share the steps to take to get started to land your first gig in the welding field.
If you’re at the stage where you’re comparing different careers and trying to decide which direction to take your future, you’re no doubt wondering about one major factor: money.
So we’ll cut right to the chase: welders have the potential to earn in the six figure range, with many experienced professionals clearing the $100,000 mark and continuing upward from there.
Of course, this isn’t what you’ll be making right out of the gate. The average pay for an entry-level welder with less than a year of experience in the United States is around $18 an hour, or roughly $36,000 a year.
Still, that’s more than twice the national minimum wage and far more than you’ll make in other common entry-level jobs like retail or food service, so you’ll be ahead of the game income-wise even when you’re just starting out.
The longer you’ve worked in the field and the more credentials you’ve obtained, the higher your earning potential. The average pay for a certified welder specializing in TIG welding, for example, is $20 an hour, while the average pay for pipe welders is $25 an hour.
If you have a passion for adventure and love trying new things, welding jobs can keep life from being anything but dull.
Sure, you know about your standard welding jobs working in a shop or on a construction site (which are great options themselves), but did you know welders are employed on ships in the middle of the ocean, deep underground working on particle colliders, and in far-flung reaches of the globe on the front lines with our nation’s military? Or that welders work with NASCAR building race cars and NASA building spacecraft?
It’s hard to think of an industry where you can take a central skill like welding and parlay it into so many unique opportunities.
Humans have been joining materials using heat for centuries, and people have been making a living doing it since at least the 1800’s. Welders are in demand, and that won’t change for as long as we continue to innovate and build things with metal.
In manufacturing, for example, the year-over-year rate of new hires in the U.S. was so steep in May of 2020 that it beat out numbers for 2019, even in the face of a global pandemic.
The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation Foundation predicts that the manufacturing industry will grow faster than the general economy through 2021 due to more exports and increased capital growth.
A skills gap has further contributed to the demand for welders as fewer students attend vocational and trade schools than they have in past decades. All of this means pursuing entry level welding jobs will put you on a path to a long road of job security and advancement opportunities.
One of the most daunting things about entering the workforce is how long it can take to get started, and that’s doubly true when you have to put in four years obtaining a degree to even get your foot in the door. This is not the case in the welding field.
Very few entry-level welding jobs call for a college degree. In fact, some welders go their entire career without ever earning a single college credit.
This is not to say college courses can’t be valuable–depending what type of welding work you want to do, they can be helpful and for some high-level positions, required.
Still, the field is appealing for many young people because you can start working and earning money right away and complete your degree later if and when it’s needed. Some employers may even pay for your education.
We’ll talk more about what kind of courses to consider at the beginning of your career in the next section.
As we touched on earlier, jobs in the welding field are about as diverse as you can imagine. Not only do welders work in a range of industries, they also use numerous techniques and typically specialize in one or a few of them.
Familiarizing yourself with the different types of welding and welding jobs will help you decide what coursework you might need and the type of entry-level jobs you should pursue.
Some of the most common types of welding to consider as you do your research are shielded metal arc welding (also called stick welding), gas tungsten arc welding (also called tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding), gas metal arc welding (also called metal inert gas (MIG) welding), and flux cored arc welding.
Next up, it’s time to decide what, if any, courses you’ll take to set yourself up for success. You may be able to get by without formal coursework if you have a strong background working in welding-adjacent jobs, like in auto body repair or machine shops.
However, investing in some classroom training is a great way to learn the basics and get guidance from knowledgeable teachers about where to take your career.
First up we have vocational or trade schools. Most of these offer a dedicated welding program that takes between six and eight months and allows you to walk away with your welding certificate (more on certification in a minute).
Next up we have community colleges. Like vocational schools, these offer coursework in welding, but the course options are usually more expansive than a trade school and may cover topics like physical sciences and welding engineering. These are typically two-year programs where you’ll graduate with an associate’s degree in welding or a related area of study. These degrees can also position you well for a mid-career move to a management or supervisory role.
Finally, there are options that will allow you to learn on the job, like enlisting in the armed forces. Welders in the Army, Navy and Air Force go through a designated military welding course in addition to basic training, paid for by the government.
Your success in welding will depend heavily on your skill, so it’s important to get proper hands-on experience. Now that you’ve done the research and have a bit of an idea of where you might want to ultimately take your career, you can decide which entry-level jobs to apply for.
For example, if you one day want to work on oil pipelines, you might pursue an entry level job in stick welding, since this technique is commonly used by pipeline welders.
Similarly, if it’s your goal to one day become a welding inspector, you might apply for a job that involves working with blueprints so you can get comfortable reading and carefully applying their specifications.
Earlier we mentioned a welding certificate–what is this and how do you get it? A welding certification, also known as the Certified Welder credential, is an official credential that verifies your knowledge of and ability to perform welding techniques to their proper specifications.
As we mentioned, many vocational school programs culminate in getting your welding certificate.
But you don’t need to go through an official program to obtain this credential; all you need is to make an appointment and take the test at an American Welding Society (AWS) accredited testing site.
Having this credential is a prerequisite for many welding jobs and is the first step if you want to begin building up to the more advanced credentials that will help you earn increasing levels of job title and income.
If you’re ready to take action on the steps above, the next thing to do is to create a free worker profile with Surehand. Surehand is an online career management platform that connects employers with skilled workers who have the qualifications and experience they’re looking for. We also keep your certifications and skills list all in one place, so employers can see exactly what you can do and are qualified for.
Your Surehand profile is like your calling card for hiring managers. When they view it, they can see your skills, job experience, and what kind of opportunities you’re looking for. If they think you’d be a good fit for their job, they can get in touch right away. Think of it like a matching program for jobs and workers.
Create your free worker profile in just a few minutes by clicking here.
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