Welders utilize heat to weld or join different types of metals together. There are different techniques to do so and welders choose the best techniques for the situation. TIG, MIG or Arc welding are some techniques used to weld metals together. Welders also monitor, adjust and maintain welding equipment. Welders work with molten metal and use welding machines to assist them in their line of work. Welders provide metals for all sorts of work. Some examples are ship manufacturing, airplane factories, bridges, buildings, and factories. Some unique areas that welders are involved in are building components of racecars, medical equipment and even the cell phones you carry in your pocket. Chances are, if something contains steel, a welder was probably involved in some capacity.
70% of the workforce is in manufacturing.
Commercial welders – Typically work on commercial high rises, shopping malls, schools and other large structures. They also work in high places so it is definitely not for someone who is afraid of heights. Commercial workers may sometimes work on artistic projects.
Industrial Welders – Typically work for the government or military. Their work sometimes takes them overseas. They will take on big projects such as the construction of airports, rail stations, plants and large factories. They also work on bridges.
Ship Welder/Underwater Welder – Mainly work on building ships. They make ocean liners and oil tankers. They can work on military or luxury ships. Some work underwater and work on shipwrecks, submarines and other underwater projects. A diving license is necessary if you are going to work underwater.
Welders need to have knowledge on the different types of metals as different techniques may be required for different metals. Welders read electrical schematics and blueprints so this knowledge is crucial to succeed in the field. AutoCad is a common software that is used, so taking a course in AutoCad would be helpful. Computerized Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is another helpful software to know. Welders also work with computerized equipment. Some welding is being automated so these skills are necessary in order to remain a competitive candidate in the field.
Good hand eye coordination is necessary as you are always working with your hands. It is important to be able to keep your hands steady and use the tools that are required for the job. You also need to be able to inspect the welds you do to make sure they meet certain standards. Critical thinking skills will aid you on the job as sometimes you have to figure out how to make things work with what you have. Welders also work with all types of tools, so knowledge and experience with each tool is required for the job. Welders work with electrical welding machines so knowing how to operate these machines is required.
Certifications can be completed in as little as 6-12 weeks. A certification isn’t necessary but it is definitely helpful when looking for work. If you plan on becoming an inspector or working with computerized/automated equipment, a certification is necessary. They are offered at vocational/technical schools or community colleges. Apprenticeships are another way where you can learn the skills to become a successful welder.
Apprenticeships typically last 3-4 years. As you achieve milestones, your pay will increase. Sometimes additional classroom instruction will be required on top of the regular work.
Community colleges and trade schools offer courses that will help you learn and gain skills that are valuable for the career.
Commercial welders generally tend to work inside. They will be working on construction sites, so the area will be dusty and require safety gear. They sometimes have to work in high environments so this is another thing to consider about the career. Sometimes you may have to work in tight spaces. Lifting heavy objects or tools may also be required.
Industrial welders work on complex projects. They may work inside or outside depending on the project. They may have to work during bad weather conditions. They will work around other heavy-duty equipment such as cranes and forklifts. Being aware of your surroundings is very important for safety as accidents can happen if you don’t pay attention. Industrial welders may face tight deadlines. Some projects may be very long and can last years.
Ship building/underwater welders can work on the dock or on the water. Underwater welders will have to dive and have to weld while underwater. Weather conditions can get very bad at sea. The environment may also be very dark.
Regardless of what type of welder you are, safety is always a priority. The job is not easy on the body, so it is imperative that you take care of yourself. Some older welders may have issues with their eyes or skin if proper precautions aren’t adhered to. Construction environments are usually dusty so this is another thing to consider before becoming a welder as having a dust allergy may make it difficult for you in this line of work. Welders will have varying schedules depending on the job or project. If there are tight deadlines, you will get overtime and get paid extra as a result. You may have to work overnight at times.
Welding is a very rewarding career. There are many growth opportunities. You have the option of becoming an inspector after you gain some experience. Despite automation, welders who learn how to use computerized equipment and software will be safe as welds have to be inspected by humans. As with many physical jobs, it is extremely satisfying to see your final work. There is work all over the country. In some areas, welders are in high demand and make extremely good money. You are also able to open up your own shop, however less than 10% of welders have their own shop or are self-employed.
There are dangers involved with the career. Injuries can happen and it is tough on the body. Welders can work in bad weather conditions and tight spaces. Safety is extremely important. Fumes and gases are hazardous to your health. Fire and explosions are something to watch out for as they happen from time to time. Underwater welding is the toughest on the body and can lead to issues with hearing, muscle aches and cognitive issues. Another issue is that there are more welders in cities and this causes the pay to be less in these areas.
Total Employment: 47,330
Mean Annual Wage: $47,480
Median Annual Wage: $42,580
Top 5 Highest Paying States
Annual mean wage
Top 5 States with Highest Employment
Annual mean wage
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)
Overall, welding is a great career that pays well. Qualified welders are hard to find in some areas and these areas provide opportunities for money and career growth. Even though automation is changing the industry, inspectors and people who handle the equipment will always be needed. New structures are always being built, so welders will be in demand. It is a skill that can be used all over the world. Welding is a great career for someone who likes a physical job that also requires being creative at times. It is also good for someone who likes working with their hands and using various tools.
Helpful Links and References:
The website above has a lot of detail on the welding profession and is something you should read if you want to learn more about the career.
The American Welding Society
The American Welding Society has a lot of resources on the welding profession. This is the website you use to register for the welding certification exam. Stay up to the on the profession, keep up with the latest news and much more.
This book gives a lot of insight into the welding profession. Learn even more about what is required in order to become a welder and learn about what you will experience as a welder. This book will equip you with the knowledge to get started on your welding career.