One of the best things about a career in welding is how many different kinds of paths it can present. As a welder, you can work indoors or outdoors, on land or at sea, work for a company or be your own boss.
If you enjoy stability and consistency, you can opt for a full-time job that keeps you close to home. But if you enjoy waking up somewhere new from one week to the next, welding offers plenty of opportunities to travel, and that’s what we’re going to cover here.
When it comes down to the job duties, being a traveling welder isn’t all that different from being a standard welder.
Your primary job function is to join pieces of metal and other materials using a variety of welding techniques. It’s the circumstances of the job, however, that set this career path apart.
As a traveling welder, your work will keep you on the road the majority of the time. Some traveling welders visit different states, while others fly around the world to different countries or even offshore locations. Some provide their own transportation, like via a work truck, while others have transportation arranged by their company.
Most traveling welders specialize in one particular niche, like building ships, repairing satellites, or working on pipelines.
Traveling welders are often the ones who are called upon when things go wrong–thus, their work frequently takes them to remote locations or difficult-to-access destinations where there’s not already an established welding crew onsite.
The nature of traveling welding work necessitates non-standard work hours, like overnights, weekends and holidays.
Rather than work a standard five-day, 40-hour work week, it’s non uncommon for traveling welders to work long stints of back-to-back shifts followed by several days or weeks of time off.
Being a traveling welder is a far cry from your typical 9-to-5. If you’re interested in a career path that will allow you to see the world while working in an ever-changing range of environments, a job as a traveling welder may be a great fit for you.
Salaries for traveling welders will vary widely based on experience level, type of job, industry and the locations they visit. The average salary for a traveling welder who works domestically is $60,170. Traveling welders who work overseas earn a bit more, with an average pay of $64,850 a year.
The first big factor that influences how much you can make as a traveling welder is your level of expertise. As you gain experience and expand your skill set, you can significantly increase your earning potential.
It’s not uncommon for the highest bracket of traveling welders to earn upwards of $100,000 a year. The more specialized your credentials, the higher salary you can command.
The next factor that will impact your earnings is the type of job you work. Most traveling welders work in one of three kinds of jobs: full-time as the employee of a company, as a contractor for a firm that outsources skilled labor, or self-employed as an independent contractor.
Generally speaking, your earning potential will be greatest in the latter group, since you can set your own hours and choose only the most lucrative jobs.
However, this type of job is the hardest to break into. You’ll need to spend years building a reputation and establishing the relationships that will allow you to land high-paying contracts.
Many traveling workers start out by working as an employee or contractor for someone else, then go into business for themselves once they’ve built up a solid resume of work experience.
Perhaps the most prominent reason for going into a career as a traveling welder is the opportunity to experience all kinds of different places. You’ll find welding gigs in all 50 states and in most countries around the world.
Traveling welders are in particularly high demand in places like the Middle East, where the energy industry has a big presence, and the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for 17% of total U.S. crude oil production.
Many traveling welders are business owners or independent contractors, meaning they work for themselves rather than being the employee of a company.
If you’re a hard worker who can juggle both your welding duties and the tasks associated with running a business, self-employment can be a lucrative option.
Being your own boss enables you to set your own hours, which might mean you work 60, 70, or 80-hour work weeks during select months of the year when the best jobs are available.
Many welders make their entire salary in a few months’ time going this route, then use the rest of the year for outside pursuits or a second job to further boost their earnings.
However, this also means you’ll need to be continuously on the hunt for your next job, developing contacts and making a case for why companies should hire you–time-consuming tasks that are handled by someone else when you’re an employee.
If you’re someone who gets bored doing the same thing day in and day out, you’ll find the diversity of the work to be a major upside of traveling welding jobs.
If you’re a traveling pipeline welder, for example, one month might take you to a remote location on the Trans-Alaska pipeline welding in sub-freezing temperatures. The next, you might find yourself working on a commercial construction project in the middle of tropical Miami.
This kind of work can be itinerant — moving from one job site to another — but a lot of welders find a sense of adventure in that. It can be a lot of fun to problem-solve, and figure out the best way to approach each project with the conditions you’re given.
If you’re looking to escape the routine of doing the same type of welding day in and day out, that might be something to consider.
How do the top earners in the field of traveling welding make so much money? Overtime, travel pay and per diems play a big role in boosting how much you can make.
In addition to your base pay, traveling welding jobs pay more for working long hours and some also cover your time spent in transit, like driving to and from the job site.
Each day, you’ll also get what’s called a per diem, which is a fixed payment intended to cover lodging, meals and incidental expenses incurred on the road. You might even be eligible for truck pay, an add-on to your hourly rate some employers pay you for using your own truck and equipment.
When you combine all these factors, it’s possible that your actual take-home pay will be several times the advertised hourly rate for a job.
The U.S. military has bases all over the world, and anywhere there’s a military base, you’ll find a need for welders. Military support welders may be members of the armed forces themselves or may be contractors employed by the U.S. government.
Traveling welders working for the military help with the building, maintenance and repair of facilities, heavy equipment, weapons, and vehicles. Because of the inherent risk involved with some military locations, the pay for these jobs can often be quite attractive.
While most military welders are actual service members trained in this specialty, there is some room for civilian contractors from time to time. But if you want to fully commit to being a military welder, enlisting is the way to go.
From oil and gas to shipbuilding, there are many applications where a weld needs to be completed under water. Underwater welders, also called commercial divers, have the interesting duty of tackling these jobs and many travel the globe doing so.
To become an underwater welder, you’ll need your commercial diving certification in addition to being skilled as a welder. You can get this certification through a commercial diving school in about six to twelve months.
The beauty of working as a traveling welder in the construction industry is that you can go where the jobs are. You’re not limited to one sector, but can pursue work in residential, industrial and commercial projects depending on your interest area and the availability of positions.
Construction welders create the structural framework for buildings, factories, roads, bridges, public works projects and more. They not only play a critical role in building our communities, but in developing infrastructure that’s safe for public use.
When it’s time to conduct inspections or make repairs on an industrial facility like a wastewater plant, the work may call for a complete facility shutdown.
In these cases, skilled and efficient welders are needed to come in and do the required work as quickly as is safely possible to minimize downtime and get things back up and running smoothly.
As such, these companies often pay a premium to bring in the best labor from outside the area. Traveling shutdown welders may work in chemical plants, fuel refineries, water and other industrial facilities, as well as in outdoor settings.
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