How To Become A Welder

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Welders play a critical role in our society, yet the job usually goes unnoticed by ordinary people. These men and women are vital to everything from the construction of bridges to the manufacturing of machines. They ensure that everything in our infrastructure meets proper safety regulations. Without welders, buildings, highways, and cars would fall apart immediately, so it is a very important occupation.

In this article, we will go over a welder’s education, salary, working environment, and employment forecast. So let’s begin!

What Exactly do Welders Do?

Welders are responsible for cutting and joining metals together or repairing damaged metal components found in machinery or construction projects (buildings, bridges, highways, etc.). To do this, they use tools that emit high heat and therefore require a great amount of precision. 

Because the tools that they use are so dangerous, welders have to abide by all types of safety precautions. Welding is a delicate art, so you must also have an incredibly steady hand and great attention to detail. You must also be very familiar with the different types of metals and their properties, whether they be steel, copper, or aluminum. 

Welders are a necessity in all forms of modern industries, including automotive, shipbuilding, industrial maintenance, and robotics. Some industries are incredibly specialized and will require additional skills and knowledge. Some of them include:

Aircraft / Aerospace Welding: These welders are responsible for manufacturing and repairing helicopters, jets, and commercial aircraft.

Underwater / Maritime Welding: You will be responsible for connecting plastics and metals that have to be water and oil-tight and will sometimes perform their duties in open water.

Engineering / Construction Welding: Welders in this area will focus on the projects necessary for our strong infrastructure, such as dams, bridges, water supply systems, and both residential and commercial buildings. 

Oil Rig Welding: These welders maintain and repair the equipment used to drill for coal, gas, and crude oil. Many oil rigs are located in the Gulf of Mexico.

Where Do They Work?

As a welder, even though many times you will have solo projects, you will generally be working as part of a team. So you can expect support and camaraderie from others. You will also have to travel frequently because, as stated earlier, welders are needed everywhere. Welders work a standard week of 40 hours, but you should expect there to be overtime on occasion. This will be determined based on the project you are working on as well as the region you work in. 

A welder can work in a variety of environments, from outdoors at construction sites to inside buildings, garages, or repair shops. You might be asked to work in extreme heat or cold, as well as in wet or humid conditions. This could be made even more uncomfortable by the required use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including hard hats, gloves, hearing protection, and toe safety shoes. 

This occupation also regularly exposes you to all sorts of elements, such as electricity, fire, loud noises, various chemicals, and strong fumes. You might also have to spend long periods standing, bending, walking, and reaching.

Other duties for a welder might include:

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints and plan layouts
  • Inspecting welded metals and surfaces to make sure there are no flaws
  • Proper maintenance of equipment to ensure they are safe to operate
  • Maintaining time records and safety reports
  • Complying with all safety and health regulations

Is it the Right Job for You?

One of the most important traits you will need as a welder is patience. You might have to spend a long time focusing on only one spot. Even after you finish, you will need to thoroughly examine the work that you have done for any errors. It cannot be overstated that welders have to be adept at following directions, especially safety instructions. This is not only for their protection but also the protection of their coworkers. Always remember that you will be part of a team. 

Even though you will be working with all types of machinery, a welder’s most important tools are his own hands. This job requires a great deal of dexterity as well as accuracy, healthy vision, and excellent coordination. You must also be very detail-oriented and able to spot flaws or problems in the project as soon as possible to minimize risks and delays. 

Here are some other important traits you will need if you would like to pursue this career:

Proficient reading skills: You must have the ability to read certain items like technical documents, blueprints, and drawings

Ability to follow safety regulations: Each welder must ensure the safety of tools, equipment, machines, and products while working on the job

Physical strength and stamina: Welders are required to lift heavy objects and also spend long periods of the day in uncomfortable positions

Adaptability: Due to the nature of particular projects, welders may have to continue working on a project during both day and night shifts while also enduring different indoor and outdoor environments

Excellent coordination skills: You must always have a steady hand when dealing with powerful tools and also understand two- or three-dimensional blueprints so that metals are fitted properly

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What Kind of Education Should I Get?

Most employers will require you to have a high school diploma or its equivalent (GED) to become a welder, as well as some type of technical training. Like many other technical jobs, some employers might care more about your actual work or training experience than your education level. There are also some certification programs you can complete to expand your knowledge and increase your hiring potential.

Training

Welder training is available at certain vocational or technical institutes. There are also private schools that specialize in welding. During this training, you will get hands-on experience in the craft of welding. You will also take classes in math, electricity, shop mechanics, and blueprint reading.

These types of technical school training programs generally last between six to 18 months. Many potential welders decide to combine their high-school diploma with technical training. Most employers decide to hire those who take this route, but you can also try to find a welder apprenticeship program. If you’re lucky, you can find an experienced welder willing to take on when you are entry-level and provide you with training. 

Whichever route you choose, you can become a welder in far less time than it takes to go to a college or university and obtain a four-year degree. 

Certifications

There are two popular certifications that you can obtain to expand your knowledge of welding. You can then leverage your knowledge to increase your earning potential.

Firstly, you can receive your certification from the American Welding Society (AWS). It can provide you with higher employment demand as well as better job security. There are also several different categories where you can continue to grow in your field, which include becoming certified as a welding inspector, a resistance welding technician, or a robotic arc welder. 

The next certification is from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). 

Acquiring this will demonstrate your proficiency to perform welding duties up to industry standards. Similar to getting certified by AWS, it can also lead to higher pay, increased marketability, and career advancement. 

It should be noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will require all welders to complete a training program that focuses on electrical safety due to the risk of electric shock. 

Schools, Location, and Tuition

Below is a list of technical schools and institutes specializing in welding programs. Many of these schools offer hands-on training, financial assistance programs, and flexible class schedules with morning, afternoon, and evening classes available. 

Also, keep an eye out for schools that can help you get employed once you have completed the course. Tulsa Welding School claims to have an employment rate of 89% post-graduation. So not only would you receive all the necessary training, but also a near guarantee to be gainfully employed once finished. 

This list is not exhaustive, so be sure to do your due diligence and perform your own research before choosing the right school for you.  

School Name / Location / In-State Tuition / Out-of-State Tuition

Tulsa Welding School / Tulsa, OK / $16,195

Hobart Institute of Welding Technology / Troy, OH / $14,870

Georgia Trade School / Acworth, GA / $10,750

Midwest Technical Institute / Springfield, IL / $13,400

Triangle Tech / Pittsburgh, PA / $18,443

Elite Welding Academy / Butler County, OH / $16,968

Byers Technical Institute / Buena Vista, VA / $13,440

Arclabs Welding School / Anderson County, SC / $16,400

Oklahoma School of Welding / Del City, OK / $19,000

Southeastern Welding School / Jacksonville, FL / $8,400

Courses

  • Welding Blueprint Reading
  • Introduction to Metalworking Safety 
  • Welding Math
  • Pipe Layout and Welding
  • Welding Metallurgy
  • Allied Cutting Processes
  • Structural Welding
  • MIG & Fluxcore Welding
  • Arc Welding and Plate Welding Processes
  • Shielded Metal Arc Welding

Career Overview for a Welder

Overall employment for welders is projected to grow by 2 percent from now until 2031. There will be about 47,600 openings each year during this period, mainly due to some welders leaving the workforce and others retiring. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“The nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to help rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings. These workers also will be in demand in manufacturing plants that produce metal parts and products like transportation equipment.”

Bridges, highways, and buildings must always have constant maintenance, which is very good news for a welder. It is also important to pursue your certification to become more of a specialist in your welding craft and to separate yourself from the hiring pool. 

How Much Will I Get Paid?

Per the BLS, in May 2021, the median annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers was $47,010. Those welders in the top 10 percent of earners receive over $63.660. Benefits provided to welders generally include health insurance and paid vacations. 

If you would like to become an oil rig worker, your average annual salary would be $75,955.

The five best states with the highest demand for welders are: Texas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Below is a list of the same five states as well as the average hourly and annual wages:

Texas: $24.31 / $50,560

California: $25.22 / $52,460

Ohio: $21.48 / $44,670

Pennsylvania: $23.20 / $48,250

Wisconsin: $23.97 / $49,850

The Welder: Job Summary

As a welder, you have access to employment in nearly all of the major industries. Whenever you see a building or any type of large infrastructure, you can be sure a welder has been employed there. 

Remember that you can take your pick in terms of industry, which can include automotive, shipbuilding, oil rigs, aerospace, and construction. This means that you can choose a position that is right for you and work in the environment that you prefer. 

This job is not a walk in the park, however. Keep in mind that you will have to work in a large variety of environments, whether they be cold, hot, dry, or wet. There will also be hazards everywhere, like electricity and fire, so safety will always be your number one concern. 

Pros:

  • High level of job security due to welding always being in demand
  • Possibility of working in a large variety of industries and environments
  • Ability to start your training right out of high school
  • Certifications available to help advance your career
  • Great for people who love to work with their hands

Cons:

  • Must work in hazardous environments with exposure to elements like electricity and heat
  • There is a measure of health risk since you will come in contact with dangerous chemicals and fumes.

If you have already graduated from high school or earned your GED, you can start your career as a welder right now. Start looking for a welding institute near you and choose a school with a price that’s affordable. 

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