Have you ever considered working as a Welder? If you haven’t, you should surely look in to it. The road to working as a welder is fairly smooth. With some education and practice, it will be possible for you to get in to welding in almost no time in comparison to other trades out there. Get started today in one of the best in demand professions out there.
|Quick Facts: Welders, Brazers, Solderers and Cutters|
|2015 Median Pay (Annual)||$38,150|
|2015 Median Pay (Hourly)||$18.34|
|Entry Level Education||At Least a high school diploma or GED|
|Recommended Education||Post-secondary education (certificate or degree)|
|2014-2024 Projected Outlook||4% growth (slower than average)|
|2014 Number of Jobs||397,900|
|2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains||14,400|
What does it take to work as a Welder? Do you have to go to school? These questions and more are answered on this page. We have exhaustively researched the best ways to get started, how you can make a worthwhile profession and everything else you need to know to get in to the welding field. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions just drop us an email.
What is a Welder?
The job of a Welder is one of the ancient professions that are still greatly needed in the modern age. For thousands of years the need of those who have been trained in the craft of permanently joining two pieces of metal together have been at the forefront of innovation and industrialization. Today craft of welding has included the joining of plastics and glasses along with metal through flame-cutting, soldering and brazing techniques.
Nearly 50% of all products has some form of welding performed on them from automobiles, ships and bridges to computers, smartphones and videogame consoles. Products that have been welded can be found inside, outside, underwater and even in outer space. Pretty much most activities of our daily lives deal with something that has been welded in one way or another.
Working as a Welder can be considered a bit of a dream job. In today’s growing economy along with planned improvements in our nation’s infrastructure, the profession of welding has become indispensable. With a little bit of training and some hard work, today’s welder can find work in most industries and employment sectors.
How to Get Started as a Welder
Quick Info: Path to Working as a Welder
• Shop classes
• Be sure to take math, science, physics and computer classes too
• Graduate from high school or get a GED
• Earn an associate degree from an accredited vocational school or community college
• Find training through an apprenticeship program
• Enlist in the military to serve your country and learn how to weld
• Must pass certification exam to work
• You will need to prove your welding skills via live demonstration in front of board of examiners
• You can earn optional specialized certifications to improve employability
Those looking to work as a Welder should know that they will have to undergo a certain amount of education. Welding used to be one of those jobs you could just learn through on-the-job learning or strictly through an apprentice program. Times have changed a bit as an increasing number of employers are looking for people who have gone through some post-secondary education. Schools offering Welder programs can provide you with a great foundation and skill set necessary to compete for the best jobs in the industry.
Most people who are planning on becoming a Welder as a profession start the initial education in high school. As you can guess, metal shop classes are a great way to get a feel for welding. But it is also classes in mathematics, science, physics and computers are important to learn about too. Even a class in technical drawing or blueprints can be very helpful to aspiring welders.
Even though in some places you can start a welding apprenticeship in the 10th grade, completing high school is another important step. Earning a high school diploma or passing the GED (General Educational Development) test will offer you more opportunities in this competitive field. Plus, graduating from high school should give you the ability to attend a vocational school for proper training.
Once you have completed high school and taken stock of your traits, you will want to enroll in a Welder program. You have a few different ways you can get the training necessary, so the choice is up to you on which method best fits your goals. We are going to break down each of the more common methods including the pros and cons of each one. We will also give our recommendation on which type of welding school we feel is the best for a long future in this industry.
If you are looking to get an edge on your competition and possibly see more employment opportunities, then a formal Welding program is what you should look for. These programs are held at any number of vocational or trade schools and community colleges. Most likely there is one near you.
Before you enroll in a vocational school you will want to decide what type of degree or certificate you want to pursue. Most aspiring welders aim for the certificate program, which can sometimes be completed in a few weeks. However, if you are thinking of ever owning your own business or working in a supervisory role, you may want to consider getting your Welder associate’s degree. An associate degree in welding can take roughly 2 years or more to complete.
Even though the curriculum may vary from school to school, the core classes will be roughly the same. You will have a chance to learn about arc, gas and resistance welding as well as plasma cutting and TIG welding at most schools. Some of the courses you will most likely cover include blueprint reading, shop math, mechanical drawing, physics and chemistry. If you are pursuing an associate’s degree you should consider taking some electives in business finance and management to help round out your experience.
Almost every welding program is set up to provide maximum amount of time gaining experience via hands-on training. Sure there will be some courses in classrooms but you will find a lot of your time is working in the shop learning the tricks of the trade. In the welding shop you become more familiar with the tools you will use and how to use them safely. Safety is one of the top topics discussed in these programs.
After you have graduated from a vocational school you will want to find an apprenticeship program. Most vocational schools and community colleges have placement centers and resources to help you find one. The requirements for apprenticeships can vary from state to state so it is best to check with a local union to find out the exact requirements that you will need to meet.
- More rounded instruction
- Potentially more employment opportunities
- More employers looking for educated employees
- Up to two years of college
- Cost of tuition
- May have to commute or relocate if no schools near you
If you want to jump straight in to the welding profession or currently do not have the money or attitude to go to a vocational school, you can try to get in to an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships are one of the oldest methods of learning a trade by working with and being instructed by an experienced Welder. The quality of education people would get from apprenticeships depended greatly on who served as their mentor. Nowadays, there are regulations put in to place by state and federal to help ensure a more consistent standard for this kind of instruction.
Typically an apprenticeship is a paid position in which the apprentice works a 40 hour weeks that is split between on-site experience and classroom work. The yearly breakdown of a welding apprenticeship is 2000 hours a year for on-the-job learning and 144 hours of classroom instruction per year. It normally takes at least four years to complete.
Classroom instruction for welding is usually held in a union hall or in an employer’s workplace. In the classroom you will learn many of the same subjects as you would have by going to a vocational school. Some courses may include basic chemistry, metallurgy, blueprint reading and math. Each topic or course is taught in 25 hour blocks.
The other 2,000 hours a year are on-site instruction. Apprentices work under the direct supervision of journeymen or master Welders. It is here that those in the apprenticeship program learns how to do the job by hands-on learning. Some of the things apprentices are taught are gas and arc welding, metal cutting and safety measures.
- Paid to learn
- No tuition cost
- Train under experienced welders
- May be harder to get in to
- Possibly less employment opportunities
- Can be let go if you can’t keep up
U.S. Armed Forces
Another option for those who want to work in the Welding industry is enlisting in the military. If you are interested in joining the service then this may be a perfect way for you to get the right instruction. You will not only get an opportunity to serve your country but also receive marketable skills in an industry that is still on the rise.
The four big branches of the U.S. military do offer instruction on working as a Welder. This instruction consists of both classroom and on-the-job learning. The length of time it takes to complete Welder courses is dependent on the specialty. Plus it is very possible to get more advanced training by proving yourself and overall need. Some of what you will learn will include sheet metal layout, duct work, metal cutting, heat treating and care for the equipment.
Besides some great experience for welders, the military affords you opportunities that you may not get to experience otherwise. Traveling around the world, living in exotic locations or building a network of friends that can come in handy later. All of this plus you will helping to protect your family and the nation.
- Full pay while you learn
- Can leverage GI Bill for further education
- See the world
- Four year enlistment
- May be deployed to dangerous areas
- Can’t decide to quit and go home
|One of the biggest trends in this industry is that more employers are looking for employees who have had some form of post-secondary education. Our opinion is that if you plan on welding to be your long-term profession, you should seriously consider going to a vocational school or a community college and pursue an associate’s degree. Not only should this give you a bit of advantage when it comes looking for a Welder job but also you may learn the skills in case you want to eventually open your own business or move in to a management position.
If school is not something you like or if you don’t have the money, then you might consider a four year stint in the military. The instruction you can get while enlisted in the armed forces is excellent. You get paid to learn and along with all of the other benefits that is given to those in the military.
Once you have completed your education and apprenticeship you will need to qualify to become a Certified Welder. This is done through a live demonstration of your skills in front of a board of examiners. The most popular certification exams are given by the American Welding Society (AWS) but there are certifications by other groups such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
It is important that you get certified as a welder to work in the industry. Competition for jobs can be tough but with the right education, skills and certification it can become a bit easier. Plus, every Welder must be certified in order to find employment.
Where Can I Find Welding Schools?
Welding schools can be easy to find or a little more difficult, depending which method of instruction you are looking to start. Vocational schools and enlistment in the military are probably the two easiest to get started in. An apprenticeship may be more difficult to obtain depending on where you live and your competition for open spots. Let’s look at the easiest ways that you should do to get instruction to work as a welder.
A quick search on the internet will show you a wide range of vocational schools and community colleges that offer instruction in the art of Welding. You should find that most trade schools offer preparation to work as a Welder. There is most likely a school near you offering this instruction so you will not have that far of a commute or you might not have to relocate.
When comparing schools you will want to select one that has met the standards of a quality education. Look for accreditation from such groups as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) or the Council on Occupational Education (COE). You can find out which schools have any of these accreditations by checking on their website, the organizations website or asking the admissions office from the school.
You may have to meet certain requirements for entry in to a vocational school. Typical requirements include having a high school degree or a GED and being at least 18 years old. Some schools may require further prerequisites such as completing a placement exam or taking certain general studies courses. Contact the school’s admission office for a list of any requirements that must be met before enrollment.
Most vocational schools and community colleges are eligible for financial aid. You may also qualify for scholarships in addition to financial aid. You should contact the bursar’s office at the school to find out more details.
Apprentice programs can a bit tricky to get in to since most programs have limited amount of space for new students. The best way to find an apprenticeship program, in our opinion, is by going down to the local United Association (UA) office and fill out an application. The UA is the national Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Techs and should have a union office near you. Another place to look is the Department of Labor Employment and Training website (ETA) to find apprenticeships in your state.
After you fill-out the application you could be chosen to take an apprentice test. Once you have passed this exam you will called in for an interview. This interview combined with your test scores will place your name on a list of possible apprentices. Now you have to just wait until they call you again so you can start your coursework.
In order to be accepted as a Welder apprentice you will need to be at least 18 years old, have a high school degree or a GED and be either an American citizen, permanent resident or have the proper work visa. You do not have to have any previous schooling. However, some post-secondary education can possibly be helpful on moving your name up the list of applicants.
If you want to serve your country while gaining the necessary skills to work as a Welder, you will need to enlist in one of the military branches. You can find out more information on the armed services and the type of training you will receive by contacting your local recruiting office or by visiting one armed forces websites. Currently the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines offer welding training.
You will need to qualify for welding classes by earning a high enough score on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude test (ASVAB). This exam is a made up of a number of categories such as general science, mechanical comprehension, verbal expression, math and word knowledge. The exam is given prior to enlistment and serves to help the armed forces find the right spot for you and your place in the service.
There are some prerequisites that you must meet in order to enlist in the armed forces. These requirements include:
- Have a high school degree or in some cases a GED will work
- Must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien
- Must be at least 17 year old – 17 year olds need parent consent
- Pass a physical exam
Are There Any Online Welding Schools?
Believe it or not, there are online welding schools but most of these classes may not be what you are expecting. As you already know, Welder courses and degree programs are mainly hands-on learning which you really won’t be able to get via the internet. Typically the online courses are noncredit and used for continuing education to keep certification.
However, there are some online welding schools that do provide courses that can be counted towards an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Basically these online classes are the same type you would receive as part of the classroom experience at a traditional school. Some of the classes that you can find through online schools include:
- Introduction to Welding Materials
- Blueprint Reading
- Welding Techniques
Online welding schools can be a great way for some people to get a start in this field. Especially those who want to learn a new trade but may have other responsibilities that make full-time school a tough proposition. Online schools give students the opportunity to study anywhere with an internet connection as well as learning at their own pace and providing a flexible schedule so they can fit in the classes to their busy lives.
Online welding courses can be very helpful but you can’t start in the field through these classes only. We do want to emphasis that aspiring welders need to have hands-on experience that can be learned through text books or online classes. Joining a Welder apprentice program or contacting a local trade school so you can take the hands-on portion of the program is highly recommended.
If you are already a certified Welder, online classes can offer big potential for your success. Unlike those just starting out, there are some big benefits of online classes to help further your education and skills in the welding arts. Learning the newest techniques or furthering your opportunities are all possible. It might also be a way to become a welding inspector.
How Long Do Welding Classes Take?
Welding classes could be completed in six weeks or more for a certificate program or two years or more to get your associate’s degree. It really depends on what your long-range goals are as a Welder. We do recommend that you at least get an associate’s degree to help maximize your potential growth and have possibly more employment opportunities. Plus, an associate’s degree in welding may provide you a bit of an edge when signing up for apprenticeship programs since you are showing that you have a commitment to the craft.
What Does it Take to Work as a Certified Welder?
All the instruction you have gone through in school and the apprenticeship has led up to this moment when you need to get certified as a Welder. Once you have completed all of your education you will need to sign up for the Certified Welders Test through the American Welding Society (AWS). By passing this exam you will become a certified welder (CW) which can open up a number of employment opportunities.
The CW exam is a hands-on demonstration of your abilities. You will be given a specific task that you will need to show the examiners that you can complete in front of them within a state length of time. You will need to follow the procedures as planned out and follow the type of weld that you are being test one. The good news is that you will know that day if you have passed. If you have failed, you will need to reschedule a make-up exam but if you pass, you will receive your certificate that day.
Before you take the CW exam, you will want to do a few things first to prepare. We have put together a short list of what you should do prior to going to the testing site.
- Get a copy of Welding procedures that will be tested on from AWS
- Practice a lot!
- Even if you feel you have down, practice more so you feel confident you could do it in your sleep
- Take the exam
Note that AWS certifications are valid for six months at which times you will need to send in maintenance forms. These forms are going to be signed by your current employer. They should provide proof that your skills are up to standard.
There are plenty of other certifications that you can earn which can improve your employability. Check out the list of the certifications on the AWS website. Some of the certifications you can earn include:
- Robotic Arc Welding
- Certified Welding Inspector
- Structural Welding Code for Aluminum
- Certified Welding Fabricator
- Certified Welding Supervisor
Other sources of certifications is through American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Petroleum Institute (API). The ASME offers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Certification which can be useful for those working on boilers. Through the API you can earn certification for welding gas and oil pipelines.
What Are Some Personality Traits of a Welder?
Prior to starting any sort of education regimen you will need to do a quick self-examination of your traits and personal habits to make sure you are not wasting your time. The traits we’ve listed below are considered some of the more helpful qualities necessary to do the job.
- Detail oriented
- Physically fit
- Good dexterity
- Able to concentrate for long periods
- Problem solving
- Good eyesight
- Visualization of concepts
- Team player
What is a Welding Job Description?
Welders have a number of duties they must perform to do the job right. Sure, they are tasked with joining metal parts permanently by fusing the metals together but else do they do? Here is a list of some of the most common jobs associated with the welding profession.
- Look at and study blueprints, spec sheets and sketches
- Plan the job by making calculations of dimensions
- Position and lay out all parts
- Cuts out material or piece to be worked on
- Creates templates to help make work easier and to align the parts
- Makes an inspection of the parts, materials and structure
- Ignites torch or starts up the power supply
- Safely operates equipment
- Monitors and controls heat during the welding to avoid overheating or distortion of materials
- Clamps down parts
- Inspects gap allowances, angles and grooves
- Helps remove rough spots
- Examines finished product to ensure it was done correctly
- Maintains equipment
What is the Outlook for Welders?
Welding is an age-old trade that will not be going away anytime soon. The current projections listed by the Department of Labor project a growth of 4% new jobs through the year 2024. This will mean that we will see an increase of 14,400 jobs over the next decade.
Even though this projection is slightly slower than the average of all occupations, there is still room for improvement in the field. If the federal and state governments get serious about repairing the nation’s infrastructure such as the bridges and roadways, the demand for welders should increase dramatically. Infrastructure improvement and repair has been high on the list of priorities for some time.
What is the Median Welding Salary?
Working as a Welder can be both gratifying and profitable. The current copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the annual median Welding salary to be $38,150 or $18.34 a year. However, this number does not take in to affect that most welders can easily work overtime which will boost pay.
The median salary presented is not a guarantee of what your salary will be. Your salary may be higher or lower. There are a number of factors you should consider when trying to figure out what your pay could be. Some of these factors include:
- Company you work for
A recent article by MSN Money states that due to the lack of skilled welders, some in the industry working in the right sector can make upwards of $100,000 a year or even higher. This is mainly due to the lack of new students coming in to the field and creating a shortfall of available workers. Those attending a welding training school may be able to take advantage of this shortfall of skilled workers by having a clear and working knowledge of the latest technologies.