From the modern metropolis of Denver to the far-flung small towns of the Western Slope, colorful Colorado has a little bit of something for everyone. With a highly diversified economy and an equally varied natural landscape, the Centennial State has no shortage of things to do or unique jobs to pique your interest.
Economically, traditional industries like mining and agriculture take their place alongside contemporary mainstays like scientific research and information technology in the state’s commercial profile. Geographically, you’ll find mountains, valleys, rivers, plains and plateaus that lend themselves to a host of outdoor and recreational pursuits.
If you’re looking for a fun place to live with ample job opportunities, consider heading out west to Colorado to advance your welding career.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average welder in Colorado earns $24 an hour, or just under $50,000 a year. Career Explorer reports that Colorado ranks sixth in the nation for welding salaries. The top 20% of welders in the state earn $73,000 a year or more, while welders who are just starting out in the field bring in around $33,400.
Your earnings as a welder in Colorado will be influenced by the number of years you have under your belt and the type of welding career you pursue. The numbers above, for example, pertain to professionals who are strictly certified welders.
You can further increase your earnings by pursuing additional, more advanced credentials like becoming a Certified Welding Supervisor or Certified Welding Inspector through the American Welding Society (AWS).
Mining was by far the most prominent industry in Colorado during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The industry remains strong today, providing some 57,000 jobs to Coloradans and generating $7 billion of the state’s gross domestic product.
Colorado’s mining activities generate fuels, like coal; precious metals, like gold and silver; and practical materials like gypsum, limestone, molybdenum, which is used to make steel alloys, and sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda.
In the mining field, welders work on the infrastructure that keeps the mines safe for field teams, directly in the mines maintaining machinery and tools, and at nearby plants that process the mining products. Welding inspectors are also essential to maintain the integrity of welding related infrastructure.
Aerospace and aviation are two major employers in the Colorado economy. Denver International Airport, which is the largest in the U.S. by land area and the fifth busiest by air traffic, employs some 35,000 people, while United Airlines, which has a hub at DIA, provides jobs for another 5,000. Lockheed Martin, an aeronautics company that designs and manufactures advanced technology systems, employs 13,000 people.
Also, the Aerospace Corporation recently announced that they’re building a facility in Colorado Springs, specifically for their classified military projects, including for the newly-minted U.S. Space Force.
Welders in the aerospace and aviation fields use welding techniques to join parts, from the tiniest components of the controls in a space shuttle to the giant pieces of the fuselage of an airplane.
Attention to detail and knowledge of relevant industry codes are particularly key in this field. Welders working for aerospace companies, for example, must be well-versed in AWS D17.1, which outlines the specifications for fusion welding in aerospace applications.
AWS offers an endorsement–an additional credential–for this skill that can be added to a welder’s existing CWI or SCWI certification. This and other advanced endorsements can help you land lucrative welding-related jobs in aerospace, aviation and beyond.
Colorado has long been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, voters in the state passed a Renewable Energy Standard that requires electric utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. It was the first mandate of its kind in the nation.
Colorado ranks seventh among states in the U.S. for both total energy production and natural gas production, and the state’s electricity generated from renewable sources has more than doubled since 2010.
The clean energy sector is growing quickly and thus, is of particular interest for job seekers in Colorado. Between 2005 and 2016, wind energy grew from accounting for less than 2% of the electricity generated in the state to more than 17%.
Solar energy is also a promising area, with more than 450 solar companies providing some 6,000 jobs in the state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites welding as one of the best careers in solar power, with welders playing a role in plant construction, building solar panel mounting systems, and joining the massive structural beams that support said systems.
Government jobs are the second-largest industry segment in Colorado, ranking just behind trade, transportation and utilities. The state is home to more than 37,000 active members of the armed forces, many of whom are stationed among the state’s six military bases.
Various other government installations call the state home, including the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, and US Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver. Hundreds of federal employees also tend to the state’s 8.3 million acres of public lands.
Government organizations like those mentioned above, as well as states and cities, employ welders to work on critical infrastructure projects, like water systems and power grids. Welders employed by the U.S. military have a range of duties, from repairing and maintaining equipment to building roads and bridges to operating in combat.
If you’re willing to go through basic training–a requirement of being a military welder–you’ll be rewarded with access to a free education and the numerous other benefits that come with a job serving your country.
Manufacturing is another big business in Colorado, particularly that with a focus on emerging technologies. The state is home to nearly 6,000 manufacturing operations covering electronics, energy, biomedical, food and beverage and more. These exploits are responsible for an output of $23 billion worth of goods and account for more than 5% of the state’s labor force.
You’ll notice that many of the key industries in Colorado are closely linked with one another. For example, Ball Aerospace is a manufacturing company that engineers the telescopes used by NASA. Vestas manufactures state-of-the-art wind turbines and blades that power the renewable energy sector.
The Association of American Railroads, located in Colorado, also provides plenty of research and welding opportunities. As they continue to build full-scale rail facilities for testing purposes, this will open up even more welding jobs in the state.
All of this manufacturing, of course, requires welders who carefully assemble components, along with related professionals like welding engineers who help conduct the manufacturing operations as efficiently as possible and welding inspectors who ensure the finished product is safe for the end user.
Despite the oil and gas industry as a whole taking a hit from Covid-19, ZipRecruiter reports that the job market for oil and gas welders in Colorado remains active. The highest tier of earners in this profession brings in upwards of $90,000 a year.
Compared with the cost of living in Colorado, a single adult could easily make ends meet in the state, which would require only around $14 an hour to earn a living wage. At $90,000, you’d earn an average of $43 an hour, more than enough for your needs.
To qualify for most jobs in oil rig welding, you’ll want to be familiar with shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) and have at least two years’ prior experience.
For those who are willing to spend a bit more time on the education component of their career, a job as a welding engineer can be a profitable avenue to pursue. The average salary for welding engineers in Colorado falls between $72,000 and $87,000 a year, with the upper 10% of earners making more than $94,000.
To become a Certified Welding Engineer, you’ll need a combination of education and experience; the higher your level of formal education, the less practical experience you need, and vice versa.
A military support welder is a little different than a welder that’s part of the military. Instead, this role is someone employed by a company that’s contracted by the U.S. military for their specific expertise and willingness to travel. They do things like build pipelines, repair weaponry and work on military vehicles.
In the field of welding, you’ll find that the more risk associated with a job, the more it pays. That’s why military support welders who are sent to work in the Middle East can bring in earnings of $160,000 to more than $200,000 a year.
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