Welding processes are as varied as the products they create, and as a result there are dozens of diverse career paths in the field of welding. One of the most prevalent types of welding jobs is in metal inert gas (MIG) welding.
Here, we’ll explain the basics of MIG welding jobs, share how to break into the field and explore some of the best industries to work in if you’re looking to become a MIG welder.
MIG welding, also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), is a welding technique where an electric arc and shielding gas are used to join two pieces of metal.
In MIG welding, the electric arc forms between the workpiece and a consumable wire, or electrode. The metals of the workpiece and electrode are heated and the molten metal of the electrode is deposited into the weld joint, forming the weld.
MIG welding is valued for its versatility. It can be used on stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum of varying thickness, depending on the material. It can also be used to weld two different materials together, which is an advantage over other welding techniques.
Another benefit of MIG welding is that it’s fast. A MIG gun can run continuously for long periods of time, making it the welding process of choice for high-production applications. It also lends itself to being automated, which is an increasingly popular option in industrial applications.
MIG welding is a great career choice for those new to the field because it’s one of the easiest welding processes to learn. In fact, many compare the technique to using a “welding hot glue gun.”
While completing the precise MIG welds that you’ll need for professional applications takes a lot more technique than just pulling the trigger on a MIG gun, it’s true that it can be mastered faster than other welding processes.
MIG welding can be done with one hand, which leaves the other free to steady and manipulate the workpiece.
The average salary for a MIG welder in the United States falls within the $30,000 to $40,000 range. According to ZipRecruiter, the average MIG welding salary is $33,500 with the highest earning bracket making $43,500 or more.
Glassdoor estimates the average MIG welding salary at closer to $38,000, with $55,000 at the upper end of the earning spectrum.
Being a MIG welder often comes with access to company benefits, like employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement saving options. 83% of people with welding jobs are offered the option of healthcare benefits, a proportion higher than almost any other industry field besides the public sector.
Job growth for all welders is expected to hold steady over the next decade, growing at a rate of 3%, or about as fast as average for all occupations.
One of the best things about MIG welding is that it’s a great gateway job into a welding career. It’s comparatively easy to pick up, fast to get started, and there are many entry-level positions available.
Once you’ve mastered MIG welding, it’s easier to go on to learn other welding processes like TIG welding and stick welding.
The best way to advance your career–and your earning potential–as a MIG welder is to work in more niche applications and pick up more advanced skills. This will greatly expand the number and quality of job opportunities available to you. We’ll talk more about this when we get to certifications.
The most straightforward path to get started in MIG welding is to enroll in a welding program at a trade or vocational school. Such programs vary in intensity and range from six months to two years.
The coursework you’ll take in a formal welding program will familiarize you with the basic principles of welding and introduce you to a number of different techniques. If you’re unsure about what area of the field you want to go into, this is a great way to try your hand at many different processes to see which ones you like best and are good at.
Most welding programs culminate with the receipt of your welding certificate, which will help you get your first job. The two-year programs allow you to earn your associate’s degree.
Many technical schools offer night and weekend classes, which makes it an accessible option if you’re hoping to learn the trade of welding while working at the same time.
An alternative to trade school is the self-taught route. Many beginning MIG welders buy or borrow their own MIG gun and start practicing at home. There are endless videos and tutorials online meant to introduce you to MIG welding.
This might be a good route if you’re unsure whether you’re serious about pursuing MIG welding as a career or just want to try it out before committing to the investment of a formal program.
New MIG welders can gain hands-on experience by picking up side jobs from family and friends to become more proficient, then use that experience to apply for entry-level jobs, like in machine and repair shops.
Many MIG welding jobs call for you to have your welding certification–this is the credential we mentioned when discussing trade school. You can also get your welding certification independently by making an appointment and taking the test at an approved testing facility.
The Certified Welder credential is a performance-based program with no prerequisites; it tests your knowledge of procedures used in the structural steel, petroleum pipeline, sheet metal, and chemical refinery welding industries, so prior welding knowledge is a must.
Getting your welding certification will open the door to MIG welding jobs with reputable companies where you can build valuable experience.
Once you have your welding certification, how far you take your career and which direction you take it is entirely up to you.
If making more money is important to you, the next best step will be to pursue more advanced certifications, which will greatly increase your earning potential.
One such certification is that of Certified Welding Engineer (CWE). This credential verifies your ability to prepare instructions for the production of welded joints in compliance with all pertinent codes, specifications and fabrication standards–a critical role in the production of any welded item.
The average certified welding engineer earns $83,000 a year.
Another lucrative certification is that of Certified Welding Inspector (CWI). This prestigious credential certifies the highest level of workmanship, qualifying you to inspect welds for defects quality and conformance to specifications. The average annual pay for a certified welding inspector in the U.S. is $63,000 a year.
In addition to certifications, MIG welders can diversify their career opportunities by earning knowledge-specific endorsements, like structural steel, structural aluminum, and aerospace welding.
Six out of every ten welders work in the manufacturing industry. As we mentioned earlier, MIG welding is ideal for high-production commercial and industrial applications, like on assembly lines, so you’ll find many MIG welding jobs in the manufacturing field.
MIG welding is a commonly used process in the manufacture of fabricated metal products, ships and boats, machinery, and architectural and structural metals.
MIG welding guns are an ubiquitous fixture in auto body repair shops. The fact that MIG welding can achieve a strong weld on even the thinnest metals makes it one of the top techniques of choice for work on cars, trucks, trailers, bikes and recreational vehicles.
MIG welding is also used in automotive production since so many vehicles use aluminum as a primary component. Many automakers are switching from traditional MIG welding to laser MIG welding, which offers greater stability, deeper penetration and a lower cost.
Carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum are three of the most-used metals in construction, so it’s no surprise that MIG welders are in demand to work on building homes, office buildings, commercial facilities, bridges and infrastructure. Construction-related welding is less likely to be automated than in other fields like manufacturing, so this is another reason it’s a promising field for MIG welders.
According to Oxford Economics, the global investment in public infrastructure over the next 20 years should approach the $94 trillion mark, which means demand for skilled welders to work on roads, railways and public works projects is likely to remain high.
Maybe you’re juggling a job and a family. Maybe you’re in school to get your welding certification and holding down a job at the same time. You have a lot on your plate–don’t waste valuable time searching through endless posts for a MIG welding job. Instead, use Surehand.
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