Guide to A Welding Career
Table of Contents
A welding career can be lucrative with some welding jobs paying as much as $25 an hour. Also, 83% of people with welding jobs are offered medical benefits, a level that is higher than any other work sector (except government). Welders in Wyoming get the highest pay at $51,220 a year with an hourly mean wage of $24.62. (1) Most welding jobs are in the Chicago Metro, Houston Metro and LA metro areas.
6 of every 10 welding, soldering and brazing workers were found in manufacturing. Jobs
were concentrated in fabricated metal product manufacturing,
transportation equipment manufacturing (motor vehicle body and parts and
ship and boat building), machinery manufacturing (agriculture,
construction, and mining machinery), architectural and structural metals
manufacturing, and construction. Most jobs for welding, soldering, and
brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders were found in the same
manufacturing industries as skilled welding, soldering, and brazing
Attending A Welding School
Going to a welding school can be one of the funnest, and most lucrative decisions you’ll ever make in your life. Here’s what to expect when you attend a welding school.
While attending a welding school you will start with the basics of gas welding and cutting (oxy acetylene), and then move on to arc welding.
You’ll start by learning basic circuits, and how that applies to stick welding, MIG welding, and TIG welding. You’ll get real world, hands-on experience welding projects, and depending on the certifications you choose, you could walk out of school as a 6G pipe welder making over $100K per year.
Welding is used as a job skill or full time job in the following industries:
- Industrial sales
- Farm repair and fabrication
- Production welding
- Military careers
- Teaching welding
- Iron worker
- Skilled trades
- Auto Technician
- Artists and Metal Sculpting
- Entrepreneurs in welding
Employment estimate and mean wage estimates for Welding, Brazing and Soldering Careers
(May 2014 Data in the United States)
RSE is the relative standard error
Welding Career Outlook
Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to
grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all
occupations, but still optimistic if launching a welding career. Despite slower-than-average employment growth, skilled
welders with up-to-date training should have good job opportunities.
The median annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers was $37,420 in May 2014.
Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected
to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all
occupations. Despite slower than average employment growth, skilled
welders with up-to-date training should have good job opportunities.
The Economy and a Welding Career
major factor affecting a welding career is the health of the
industries in which they work. The manufacturing sector, which employs
the most welding, soldering, and brazing workers, is expected to
continue to decline as more manufacturing moves overseas. Because almost
every manufacturing industry uses welding at some stage of
manufacturing or in the repair and maintenance of equipment, this
overall decline will affect the demand for welders, although some
industries will fare better than others.
The construction industry is
expected to have solid growth over the next decade and an increasing
demand for welders. Government funding for shipbuilding as well as for
infrastructure repairs and improvements are expected to generate
additional welding jobs.
Automation Reduces The Number of Welders Needed
Pressures to improve productivity and
hold down labor costs are leading many companies to invest more in
automation, especially computer-controlled and robotically controlled
welding machinery. This will reduce the demand for some welders,
solderers, and brazers because many repetitive jobs are being automated.
The growing use of automation, however, should increase demand for
welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders.
Construction Will Help Employment
Welders working on construction projects or in equipment repair will
not be affected by technology change to the same extent, because their
jobs are often unique and not as easily automated.
Technology and Welding Careers
slower-than-average job growth, technology is creating more uses for
welding in the workplace and expanding employment opportunities. For
example, new ways are being developed to bond dissimilar materials and
nonmetallic materials, such as plastics, composites, and new alloys.
Also, laser beam and electron beam welding, new fluxes, and other new
technologies and techniques are improving the results of welding, making
it useful in a wider assortment of applications. Improvements in
technology have also boosted welding productivity, making welding more
competitive with other methods of joining materials.
The Outlook for Skilled Welders That Know The Latest Technologies is Bright
Welding is the most common way of permanently joining metal parts. In this process, heat is applied to metal pieces, melting and fusing them to form a permanent bond. Because of its strength, welding is used in shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing and repair, aerospace applications, and thousands of other manufacturing activities. Welding also is used to join beams when constructing buildings, bridges, and other structures, and to join pipes in pipelines, power plants, and refineries.
Anyone embarking on a welding career will use many types of welding equipment set up in a variety of positions, such as flat, vertical, horizontal, and overhead. They may perform manual welding, in which the work is entirely controlled by the welder, or semiautomatic welding, in which the welder uses machinery, such as a wire feeder, to perform welding tasks.
Types of Welding
There are about 100 different types of welding.
Arc welding is the most common type. Standard arc welding involves two large metal alligator clips that carry a strong electrical current. One clip is attached to any part of the workpiece being welded. The second clip is connected to a thin welding rod. When the rod touches the workpiece, a powerful electrical circuit is created. The massive heat created by the electrical current causes both the workpiece and the steel core of the rod to melt together, cooling quickly to form a solid bond. During welding, the flux that surrounds the rod’s core vaporizes, forming an inert gas that serves to protect the weld from atmospheric elements that might weaken it. Welding speed is important. Variations in speed can change the amount of flux applied, weakening the weld, or weakening the surrounding metal by increasing heat exposure.
Two common but advanced types of arc welding are Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) and Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding. TIG welding often is used with stainless steel or aluminum. While TIG uses welding rods, MIG uses a spool of continuously fed wire, which allows the welder to join longer stretches of metal without stopping to replace the rod. In TIG welding, the welder holds the welding rod in one hand and an electric torch in the other hand. The torch is used to simultaneously melt the rod and the workpiece. In MIG welding, the welder holds the wire feeder, which functions like the alligator clip in arc welding. Instead of using gas flux surrounding the rod, TIG and MIG protect the initial weld from the environment by blowing inert gas onto the weld.
Like arc welding, soldering and brazing use molten metal to join two pieces of metal. However, the metal added during the process has a melting point lower than that of the workpiece, so only the added metal is melted, not the workpiece. Soldering uses metals with a melting point below 800 degrees Fahrenheit; brazing uses metals with a higher melting point. Because soldering and brazing do not melt the workpiece, these processes normally do not create the distortions or weaknesses in the workpiece that can occur with welding. Soldering commonly is used to join electrical, electronic, and other small metal parts. Brazing produces a stronger joint than does soldering, and often is used to join metals other than steel, such as brass. Brazing can also be used to apply coatings to parts to reduce wear and protect against corrosion.
Being A Welder
Many Welding Jobs Pay Up To $25 An Hour With Medical Benefits
Skilled welding, soldering, and brazing workers generally plan work from drawings or specifications or use their knowledge of fluxes and base metals to analyze the parts to be joined. These workers then select and set up welding equipment, execute the planned welds, and examine welds to ensure that they meet standards or specifications. They are even examining the weld while they’re welding. By observing problems with the weld, they compensate by adjusting the speed, voltage, amperage, or feed of the rod. Highly skilled welders often are trained to work with a wide variety of materials in addition to steel, such as titanium, aluminum, or plastics. Some welders have more limited duties, however. They perform routine jobs that already have been planned and laid out and do not require extensive knowledge of welding techniques.
Automated welding is used in an increasing number of production processes. In these instances, a machine or robot performs the welding tasks while monitored by a welding machine operator. Welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders follow specified layouts, work orders, or blueprints. Operators must load parts correctly and constantly monitor the machine to ensure that it produces the desired bond.
The work of arc, plasma, and oxy-gas cutters is closely related to that of welders. However, instead of joining metals, cutters use the heat from an electric arc, a stream of ionized gas (plasma), or burning gases to cut and trim metal objects to specific dimensions. Cutters also dismantle large objects, such as ships, railroad cars, automobiles, buildings, or aircraft. Some operate and monitor cutting machines similar to those used by welding machine operators. Plasma cutting has been increasing in popularity because, unlike other methods, it can cut a wide variety of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium.
soldering, and brazing workers often are exposed to a number of hazards,
including the intense light created by the arc, poisonous fumes, and
very hot materials. They wear safety shoes, goggles, hoods with
protective lenses, and other devices designed to prevent burns and eye
injuries and to protect them from falling objects. They normally work in
well-ventilated areas to limit their exposure to fumes. Automated
welding, soldering, and brazing machine operators are not exposed to as
many dangers, however, and a face shield or goggles usually provide
adequate protection for these workers.
Welders and cutters may
work outdoors, often in inclement weather, or indoors, sometimes in a
confined area designed to contain sparks and glare. Outdoors, they may
work on a scaffold or platform high off the ground. In addition, they
may be required to lift heavy objects and work in a variety of awkward
positions, while bending, stooping, or standing to perform work
Although about 52 percent of welders, solderers, and
brazers work a 40-hour week, overtime is common, and some welders work
up to 70 hours per week. Welders also may work in shifts as long as 12
hours. Some welders, solderers, brazers, and machine operators work in
factories that operate around the clock, necessitating shift work.
Welding Career Training
for welding, soldering, and brazing workers can range from a few weeks
of school or on-the-job training for low-skilled positions to several
years of combined school and on-the-job training for highly skilled
jobs. Formal training is available in high schools, vocational schools,
and post secondary institutions, such as vocational-technical institutes,
community colleges, and private welding schools. The Armed Forces
operate welding schools as well. While some employers provide basic
training, they prefer to hire workers with experience or more formal
training. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical
drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy are helpful. An
understanding of electricity also is very helpful and knowledge of
computers is gaining importance, especially for welding, soldering, and
brazing machine operators, who are becoming more responsible for the
programming of computer-controlled machines, including robots.
Welding Programs For Veterans
The Wounded Warriors Family Support program has partnered with UAW-Ford to offer a free six week welding training program for veterans. Everything is 100% paid for including room and board, plus course tuition.
Training includes a number of welding processes such as GTAW, GMAW and SMAW and a number or positions and joints. Successful completion qualifies participants to take the AWS Certified Welder Test in the 1G through 4G positions. To learn more visit the Wounded Warrior Website.
welders become certified, a process whereby the employer sends a worker
to an institution, such as an independent testing lab, equipment
manufacturer, or technical school, to weld a test specimen according to
specific codes and standards required by the employer. Testing
procedures are based on the standards and codes set by industry
associations with which the employer may be affiliated. If the welding
inspector at the examining institution determines that the worker has
performed according to the employer’s guidelines, the inspector will
then certify that the welder being tested is able to work with a
particular welding procedure.
To maximize earnings it pays to add a certification to your welding career plan.
Welding Certifications offered by the American Welding Society:
- Certified Welder
- Certified Associate Welding Inspector
- Certified Welding Engineer
- Certified Robotic Arc Welding Operator
- Certified Welding Supervisor
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector
Welding Certifications offered by the International Code Council:
- Structural Welding Special Inspector
To launch a welding career, welding, soldering, and brazing
workers need good eyesight, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity.
They should be able to concentrate on detailed work for long periods
and be able to bend, stoop, and work in awkward positions. In addition,
welders increasingly need to be willing to receive training and perform
tasks in other production jobs.
Welding career advancement to more
skilled welding jobs require additional training and experience. For
example, they may become:
- welding technicians
Some experienced welders open their own repair shops as their welding career choice.
Welding Salaries – May 2013
Salary Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Annual Mean Wage of Welding, Soldering and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders by Sate – 2013
Welding Employment Opportunities by State
Every state is different when launching a welding career in terms of demand for skilled professionals. See the map below for employment by state.
Employment of Welding, Soldering and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators and Tenders by State, May 2013
Many welders belong to unions or received training through a union. The union is also a source of safety information and updates on welding technology.
Among these are the:
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
- International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
- Iron Ship Builders,
Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipe-fitting, Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
- The United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
- International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC)
- International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)
- Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA)
- United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA)
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC)
soldering, and brazing workers are skilled metal workers. Other metal
- Machine setters
- Tenders—metal and plastic
- Computer control programmers and operators
- Tool and die makers
- Sheet metal workers
and fabricators of electrical and electronic equipment often assemble
parts using soldering.
Information on careers and educational opportunities in welding is available from:
For information on training
opportunities and jobs for welding, soldering, and brazing workers,
contact local employers, the local office of the State employment
service, or schools providing welding, soldering, or brazing training.
See our guide to U.S. and International welding scholarships.
American Welding Society, 550 N.W. Lejeune Rd., Miami, FL 33126.
(1) Estimates for detailed occupations do not sum to the totals because the totals include occupations not shown separately. Estimates do not include self-employed workers.
(2) Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a "year-round, full-time" hours figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly mean wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data.
(3) The relative standard error (RSE) is a measure of the reliability of a survey statistic. The smaller the relative standard error, the more precise the estimate.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm.