If you’re looking for the answers to all your pressing questions about welding jobs and how to get them, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the different types of welding jobs, the education and experience you need to land those jobs, and the benefits of a career in this in-demand profession.
With a high earning potential and unlimited career opportunities, welding is different from other lucrative careers in that a college degree is not a requirement. Whether you’re looking to see the world, lead a team, run your own business, do work you’re passionate about or a combination of all of the above, a job in welding can make it possible.
Welding is a process through which two materials are joined together via a mix of heat, pressure, or both, typically with the addition of a filler material. The materials being joined are known as ‘parent’ materials while the material used to join them is known as the ‘filler’ or ‘consumable.’
Welding is most typically used to join metals, but it can also be used on some plastics and even wood. The type of materials being joined and the properties of those materials will determine the most appropriate type of weld to use.
Welding is different from brazing and soldering in that in most types of welding, the base metal is melted. These other lower-temperature techniques do not melt the base material.
The applications for welding are numerous and nearly universal. Welding quite literally holds our world together. It’s used to join parts in machines like cars and planes. It’s used to support the structures we live and work in.
It forms the foundation for the infrastructure that serves our lives, like bridges and wireless towers. The modern world (and the innovations that led up to it) could not exist without welding.
As much as welders help make everyday life possible and advance technology, they also help keep us safe. The integrity of a structure or a product depends in large part on the quality of its welds, so welders are directly responsible for ensuring that the products we use don’t harm us and that our structures are safe for us to live and work in.
A career in welding can take you all over the world or set you up for a reliable, established career in the locale of your choice. Before we talk about how to get one of these promising welding jobs, let’s first cover a few of the most common types of welding positions available to you.
A welder does the hands-on welding work we touched on above, using one or more welding techniques to join materials together.
There are more than 100 different types of welding processes a welder might use, but a few of the more common types are arc welding, MIG welding, TIG welding, and stick welding.
Despite the many different techniques available to welding professionals, the average welder typically specializes in a certain area, like one type of welding, one industry, or one material.
Welding is a great job if you like to work with your hands away from the stereotypical 9-to-5 desk job in an office. Welders may have the opportunity to work nonstandard hours, like early mornings or nights, and work in different environments, like outdoors and on job sites. Some welders even work under water!
Rarely does a welder work alone. Most operations involve a team (or multiple teams) of welders working under a series of supervisors. Once you’ve mastered the craft in your chosen area of welding, you can work your way up to being a welding supervisor.
A welding supervisor coordinates and oversees each welder on a specific project. The supervisor monitors job progress and ensures the operation stays on schedule and within budget while maintaining all necessary safety standards and fulfilling the relevant job requirements. Depending on the company, welding supervisors may also do some welding work themselves.
If this position is of interest to you, a credential like Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS) offered by the American Welding Society (AWS) can help demonstrate your proficiency and land jobs with increasing levels of responsibility.
With an eagle eye for codes and standards, a welding engineer develops the processes and procedures an organization will use to complete welding projects safely and precisely. In addition to having a broad knowledge of welding techniques and their application on different materials, a welding engineer must have a firm grasp on physics and engineering concepts.
A welding engineer plans and supervises welding operations, reads and interprets welding codes, trains teams of welders and documents an organization’s welding activities. AWS’ Certified Welding Engineer (CWE) certification will be of interest to welders hoping to follow this career path.
As the name suggests, a welding inspector is responsible for examining and analyzing the welds between materials. They’re looking to determine whether the weld is sound and if it conforms to all pertinent specifications.
To do this, a welding inspector performs a combination of visual and hands-on inspections using a variety of inspection techniques. As with welding, it’s common for an inspector to specialize in a certain technique or material.
Welding inspectors are involved at all stages of a welding project, from reviewing the standards and inspecting the parent materials to supervising the welding process and checking the completed product.
The Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) credential from AWS is a highly regarded certification that demonstrates your commitment to quality workmanship and proficiency in the methods of welding inspection.
One great thing about a career in welding is that if you’re an ambitious person, the job can take you as far up the ladder as you want it to. Dedicated welders can go on to become project managers, operations managers, and even run their own companies.
If you began your career as a welder without a college degree, this may require going back to school to obtain one. But again, what you get out of this career path is all about what you put into it, and the salaries are lucrative at the top.
There are some pretty incredible jobs available in the welding field. Some welders live on cruise ships and take care of the onboard welding while traveling to all of the ship’s exotic destinations. Others travel with NASCAR pit crews and build high-speed cars from the ground up. These are just a couple of the more unique opportunities available to welders.
While you can find welding positions in nearly any industry, here are a few where you’ll consistently find a large need for welders and related roles.
Whether it’s the skyline of the Big Apple, a sports stadium that can hold 100,000 people or a bridge that’s trafficked by tens of thousands of cars a day, welders no doubt had a heavy hand in creating it.
Structural welders and fitters work hard to build, maintain and repair our nation’s buildings, roads, power plants and other critical infrastructure we use in daily life.
Have you ever stopped to consider how many individual parts go into a 747 jet? In case you haven’t, the answer is six million, and the vast majority of them are made of metal. Putting all of these parts together is like completing the world’s largest and most complex jigsaw puzzle; it requires millimeter-specific precision, expert handling and you guessed it–a whole lot of welding.
Jets aren’t the only thing welders build; the transportation industry needs welding professionals to fabricate cars, trucks, trains, ships and spacecraft, all of which help us get from one place to another, whether that’s across town or to a faraway body in space.
In 2019, the electronics market in the U.S. had an estimated size of $310 billion. Electronics are among the many mass-produced consumer goods that welders help to create. In fact, approximately 60% of all welding jobs are manufacturing based and half of all products made in America require welding to assemble.
Production welders and fabricators merge science and technique to fuse the often-tiny parts that make up these products using various welding processes combined with the help of machines and robotics.
If you crave adventure, perhaps working closely with molten metal in far-flung destinations like the Middle East will be up your alley. Oil and gas welders build pipelines, work on rigs and operate in the oil fields, drawing some of the best salaries in the business in the process.
The so-called “green-collar” field of renewable energy is also an emerging sector, with skilled welders needed to work in and on ethanol production facilities, natural gas pipelines, and nuclear power plants.
The U.S. military requires welders to maintain its aircraft, tanks and weaponry. One advantage to becoming a military welder is that you don’t need any prior experience; when you enlist in the Army, Navy or Air Force, you’ll take their welding course in addition to basic training. However, having prior welding experience can expedite the process.
From there, you can be considered to become an Allied Trade Specialist, a type of machinist who performs and supervises metal fabrication and repair. Military welders can go on to obtain the highly coveted job of Allied Trades Warrant Officer or use their GI benefits to pay for credentialing through AWS, which will serve you in a future career outside of the military.
The big question you’re probably wondering about is, how much will I make as a welder? The fact is, just as with welding career opportunities, your salary will come down to your level of dedication to advancing your proficiency in the field.
You can take an entry-level welding course and settle for a low-paying, monotonous welding job. Or, you can spend time figuring out which area is most interesting to you, double down on sharpening your skills in this area, and become an essential part of a team you love while being compensated as highly as a doctor or lawyer. Your earnings can be further multiplied if you’re willing to work in dangerous conditions or faraway places.
Here are a few examples of some of the best paying welding jobs:
Of course, you won’t start right out of the gate in these highly skilled positions. So what can you make as an entry-level welder?
According to the latest data from ZipRecruiter, entry level welders working domestically earn between $20,500 and $42,500 a year, with the average salary being $31,255. Welding specialists who have accrued a few years of work experience earn an average of $48,346 a year.
Your pay will be commensurate with your experience and credentials, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
The welding industry in the United States has been growing at an annual rate of about 6% annually. The market is expected to reach $48 billion by 2026, driven by increasing manufacturing activities worldwide.
One interesting thing to note about the welding industry is the opportunity that exists for younger workers. Baby boomers are retiring in droves, with an estimated 10,000 members of the post-World-War-II generation leaving the workforce every day. That pace is expected to continue through 2030.
Baby boomers were much more likely than their more modern counterparts to seek out careers in skilled trades like welding, which leaves many analysts predicting a labor shortage over the next decade.
If you’re interested in a vocation that builds practical skills and that has a demonstrated history of sustained demand for workers, pursuing a career in a trade like welding can be a rewarding professional choice.
Welding jobs can come with a lot of flexibility for those who want it.
First, there’s the flexibility within your job itself. Many welding jobs offer non-standard work shifts, like early mornings, nights and weekends, which can be ideal if you’re balancing your career with other commitments outside of work.
Some positions work four ten-hour shifts rather than the standard five-day workweek, which leaves your weekends more open to travel and other pursuits.
Then there’s the flexibility across the field as a whole. If you specialize in a certain type of welding, you can transfer your skills between industries. The same goes for specializing in a certain material.
If you’re adept at welding structural steel, for example, you could find work in construction, energy and shipbuilding. If you specialize in MIG welding, you might build cars or manufacture computer components.
Next, let’s talk about travel. If you want to live somewhere unique or have a job that takes you all over the country and even the world, a career in welding can do that for you.
Welding jobs, both permanent and temporary, can be found pretty much anywhere where industry exists. Some of the most common industries for welders working overseas include shipyards and oil and gas.
There are also many welding jobs where your job is literally done in transit, like the cruise ship job we mentioned earlier or working for a rail company.
Some jobs are what’s known as ‘per diem,’ where you’re paid by the day. This gives you a lot of control over how much and when you work.
In addition to traveling on the job, welding skills are highly transferable between locations. This makes it more conducive to relocating than many other jobs, which is a plus if you have a spouse whose job requires frequent moves.
When you’re first getting familiar with the welding field, all of the requirements can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t get discouraged! Once you get a handle on the education requirements and become familiar with the credentialing process, you’ll see there’s a deliberate structure that helps welders demonstrate their expertise to employers while ensuring the highest quality of work is performed.
One of the biggest selling points for entry-level welders is that you don’t need a four-year degree to get started. A high school diploma is not always a necessity, either, though some jobs will require it or its equivalent.
Welding-related coursework at a community college or vocational school can help you get a head start on the skills you’ll need in your first welding job. Classes in welding fundamentals, welding safety, welding techniques, metallurgy, blueprint reading and metal fabrication are all good options.
Completing the required coursework can earn you a welding proficiency certificate or associate’s degree.
If you intend to pursue advanced certifications or you have your sights set on a management position, going for a four-year degree in a major like welding technology or welding engineering will serve you well and advance your job prospects.
The experience requirement for entry-level welding jobs will vary by company. Some will accept previous jobs in related areas like construction or equipment repair as sufficient experience, while others will prefer you have direct experience working in a welding shop.
In many cases, employers will be looking for you to have a specific credential, like AWS Certified Welder. This is a performance-based certification program that does not require any prerequisite coursework. To become a Certified Welder, you’ll need to pass an exam covering one of four QC7 standards at an AWS accredited testing facility.
For more advanced welding jobs, you’ll need more advanced certifications. These require a combination of classroom work and experience in addition to passing an exam. We’ll talk more about these certifications next.
There are a number of organizations that offer welding certifications globally, like the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) and the Certification Scheme for Personnel (CSWIP). The most widely used credentialing body in the United States is AWS.
AWS offers nine certification categories that help professionals certify their skills as welders, welding inspectors, supervisors and educators. These credentials open the door to taking on more responsibility, working on more advanced projects, and ultimately making more money.
AWS’ full offering of certification programs is as follows:
In addition to the certifications above, you can further expand your knowledge with AWS endorsements. These are supplemental credentials that demonstrate your expertise in a set of rules governing a certain area of welding.
Endorsements can help you win highly specialized jobs or qualify to work with clients that must conform to precise specifications, like the aerospace field.
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