Can Welding be a Career?

You might be asking yourself, are welding jobs really in demand?

Welders are always need, in a variety of fields. There are many welding careers available, some requiring certifications. Pay starts around $20,000 and some positions may even pay into the six-figure range. You don’t need a college education to become a welder.

If you want to know more about the job forecast for welding, keep reading! We’ll discuss what welding jobs are available, what certifications you might need, and what sort of pay you can expect from each position.

The World Needs Welders

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “need for welders is expected to grow by 26 percent by 2020.” Like doctors and lawyers, welders will nearly always be in demand. The world is becoming more industrial with each passing day and such growth requires the unique skill set welders are known for.

With this increase in demand, those who specialize in the fields of new construction, transportation, and pipeline will be richly rewarded. Other areas of opportunity include industrial shutdowns, ships, military applications, motorsports, and of course, underwater. GoWelding.org says it best: no matter what technology comes about, welders are the ones who make it a reality.

As you can see, there are many unique positions available if you know how to weld. With the advent (and popularity) of social media and photo- and video-sharing applications, it’s easier than ever to post welding ideas, projects, and feats. A video of you welding a custom project together might even sign your checks for the rest of your life. You never know!

Some consider welding a science. You have to know how the metals and gases are going to react, what combinations to use to achieve the best results, and a multitude of other variables that affect your end results. Like most trades, it’s possible move beyond what you’ve taught yourself or been taught. Certifications help you stand out in a crowd of applicants.     

Welding Certifications 

What welding certifications are out there? If you’re not sure, we’re going to highlight a few of the most common ones for you here. It’s always best to check with the company you’re looking to work for before signing up for any classes or programs. Some businesses might call it good with a simple welding test, while others will prefer certifiable results.

The main components to any welder’s basic skill set include competent welding ability, of course, along with proper safety training. Can you (a) weld and (b) be safe while doing it? Pass that first question and you’re on your way to the HR manager’s short list. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) says most companies turn away up to 60% of their applicants because they can’t meet these requirements.

 

Once you’ve checked off those skills, consider obtaining certifications relevant to the field you’re looking to get into. Most welders can earn certifications within 9 months, according to GoWelding.org. However, the best place to start is the American Welding Society.

Unfortunately, there is no “single welding certification that covers all types of welding.” Workers can be certified in many types of welding. Just because you can call yourself a “certified welder” doesn’t mean you’re necessarily qualified to perform all welding jobs. For example, you don’t need a doctorate to know CPR. However, if you’re operating in high-risk situations, more education is not only ideal—it’s often required. And for good reason.

Many welding certifications expire after 6 months. If you’ve been practicing and using your skills on the job, the certification testing should be as simple as a day’s work. Just know that the results you deliver will most likely determine if that work continues or not.

Common Certifications and Cost

There is a trio of welding certifications that GoWelding.org recommends for newcomers. The certifications include an AWS D1.1 3G and 4G SMAW combo, and a 3G MIG. Competency is key in welding, so having these 3 under your belt shows employers already that you’re serious about the trade.

With these tests come an associated cost. Many vocational schools will offer certification testing, at varying prices. Sign up usually hovers around $200. Test plates are relatively cheap at about $20 apiece, with pipes costing students about $30 each. Cost of test pieces also depends directly upon the type of metal. Obviously, the better-quality metal starts at a higher price. GoWelding.org notes that vocational schools are a great place to take your welding certification tests because you can theoretically take as many tests as you want during the length of the class. You just have to pay for testing pieces.

Like with all things educational, it’s best to shop around and see what certifications schools near you are offering. Talk with the resident welders there. See what certifications they recommend. Welders who can be versatile in their abilities tend to earn much more than those qualified in just one skill. So, diversity is never a bad thing when you’re learning to weld—so long as you can demonstrate your competency in each area.

Next up, we’ll discuss 3 common career paths most welders take. For the undecided, this is a great starting point. We’ll give you an idea of what kind of money you can make and where you’ll likely be working. The decision ultimately lies with you. 

Popular Welding Career Paths 

There are many specialties in the welding industry. These niches are a great source of profit for the select few qualified enough. We will only discuss a trio of general paths here, but research what you love to do further. There might be a career path there and you just haven’t seen it yet.

Manufacturing

One of the broadest industries to enter into, manufacturing spans everything from architectural to automotive to aerospace. Metals of varying kinds surround us in our everyday lives. The next time you find yourself in a building, consider what welding might have been done to make it possible. Welding impacts our lives on a daily basis—we just don’t always know it.

Many manufacturing welders work with complex machinery. Some certifications may be required, but they are individual to most positions, so check with your prospective company before spending any funds. With over 300,000 welders employed in the manufacturing industry, there’s a broad range of salary options. Annual pay will not only depend on the type of work, but also the region and specific manufacturing niche.

Generally, welders working in the manufacturing industry can expect to make between $40,000 and $60,000, again depending on location and type of work. Like many trade vocations, the more specialized, precise, and consistent a welder you can be, the more money you can potentially earn.

Industrial Pipe

Welders who can join pipes all day long are a great asset to many companies. Of high priority are speed, precision, and of course, safety. As with manufacturing, industrial pipes see much more wear and tear than typical components. Underwater welding could be considered to fit in this category. It is, however, more of a niche vocation than a standard career path.

WeldingSchoolsGuide.com recommends apprenticing in the specific industry you’re interested in if you want to weld pipe for a living. It’s possible to make a decent amount of money in industrial pipe welding, but the best money comes from traveling. Welders who wander can expect to make upwards of $50,000 a year.

Military Support

Working for the men and women who protect our country can be a rewarding experience. Welders are highly sought after for military applications. Time is a big factor. Everyone and everything need to be at the top of their game, combat or peace, so upkeep and maintenance are sure to keep any competent welder busy—and well-paid.

Welding for the army comes with its pros and cons. You’ll most likely earn a six-figure salary of around $150,000, but you’ll station with the army. After all, they are your biggest—and only—client. Welders of this type do take on some risk. Those looking to settle down with a family might do well to choose a safer career path but in times of peace, welders can make bank.

These are just a few examples of the types of welding jobs you can expect to find. Again, if you are interested in a particular field or company, approach both with a sense of curiosity and an open mind. Learn all you can and if you decide it’s the right path for you, take the leap! In this day and age, there’s nothing saying you have to choose a career and stick with it for the rest of your life.

So, we’ve talked about a few different options for welders, but what do welders really make? Your best bet to finding the answer to this question is to ask around. However, if you’re not too keen on prying into financials, take a gander at the numbers we’ve gathered below. They’re at least a ball park estimate for what you’re likely to earn.

Expected Salary for Welders  

The amount of money you make welding really depends on the type. There are a number of popular occupations to consider, though we don’t have space to discuss them all. Pay, of course, depends on the welding position you hold. And as with most fields, the more exclusive the required skill set is, the higher the pay.

The amount and type of certifications an applicant holds can often influence salary as well. Many jobs require up-to-date certifications and most only hire after an in-person welding test. These, among other factors, all add up to the figure you may see deposited into your bank account.

Though the numbers are a few years old, the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016, the median pay for welders neared $40,000 per year. With less than 5 years of experience under their belt, beginner welders can earn just under that, at about $36,000 annually. Hourly rates vary from $12.58 to $25.61. One of the biggest factors in this wage gap is the job location.

For example, more remote locations tend to post a higher pay rate. Alaska and Hawaii are great places to earn big money in welding, along with Texas. In fact, Louisiana boasts a salary higher than the national average. If you’re looking to travel the world and rake in some big bucks doing it, welding might be the right fit for you!

If you’re considering welding, take a look at the next section. We’ll discuss some of the questions you should ask yourself before signing up for any welding classes or registering for certifications. Because if you’re going to take welding from a hobby to a career, you better be sure you’re comfortable with the good and the bad of it all.  

Is Welding Right for You? 

Welding demands concentration, speed, and accuracy, among many other specific skills. Therefore, it’s not a job anyone and everyone might enjoy. Not sure if a career in welding is in your future? The best way to find out if welding is the right fit is to speak with experts in the industry. Find those around you who are welders and ask them questions about what they do and what inspired them to choose the career they did. You’ll probably hear the good and the bad, which will help you decide.

Another great way to experience what it’s like to work as a welder is to apprentice or even train for a day. Besides on-the-job experience, students will get to see what it’s like to turn classroom procedure into accomplishing real-world tasks. Welding as a profession isn’t simple. There are a lot of factors to consider and decisions to be made along the way.

Finally, those looking to weld professionally should also consider what positions are available in their area. While there are potentially many openings nearby, some welding careers require lengthy travel. Do you want to see the world? Or stay close to home? The choice is yours.

Those interested in a career in welding should learn as much as they can before making any big decisions. Stay informed about your future. And if welding is in your cards, we have only one word of advice: practice, practice, practice!

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