How to Become a Welder
A welder is a skilled professional who specializes in joining metal pieces. The pieces that are joined have to have a certain level of strength and durability. To achieve such quality of work, the right amount of knowledge and skill are both needed. Welders can work with metals such as brass, aluminum, steel, and stainless steel.
Welders create, design, and build things. Industries that employ the services of a welder are manufacturing, building construction, automobile, shipbuilding, and other areas like oil and gas and industrial works. So, welders can have a pretty wide-ranging career path.
The average annual salary of a welder in the US is $41,380. In terms of the hourly wage, the average is $19.7. However, those wages can be bumped up by about 10% with certifications and a few years of experience. Some of the main responsibilities of a welder are:
Securing and positioning metal parts properly using clamps and clips.
- Igniting the source of the flame.
- Controlling the flame and the temperature of the metal being welded.
- Using the flame adeptly to weld the metal parts as per the specifications necessary.
- Carefully examining the welded area for safety and durability.
- Cleaning the welding equipment after use and storing/maintaining it for longevity.
Steps for becoming a welder
High school Education
In order to become a successful welder, you first need to earn a high school diploma. High school education is a bare minimum for having good prospects of work. In fact, many high schools offer vocational courses in metal fabrication and welding.
Anyone who is interested in welding should seek out high school courses which are related to welding and take every course that can possibly help become a welder. Welding also involves mathematical calculations as well as a basic understanding of physics, chemistry, and metallurgy. Science and math courses will, therefore, be beneficial for any aspiring welder.
If there is an opportunity for getting hands-on welding experience, either as part of a course in high school or otherwise, then such opportunities should be actively pursued. Hands-on experience counts a lot in professions like welding.
High school education and experience through welding-related courses have two major benefits. First, it provides the student with a solid foundation which can be developed with further advanced studies. Second, it gives the student a chance to explore the field of welding and see if they really want to pursue a career in welding and be a welder for many years to come.
Certificate/Degree in Welding
After high school, students can complete a welding certification course. Normally, such programs last for anywhere between 6 months to eighteen months. They cost anywhere from $3,500 to $20,000 depending on the course contents and where it is being offered. These certification programs are face-to-face sessions in a classroom setting. They also have a practical component.
Another option is to explore a Welding Technology associate’s degree. This course is more involved and detailed. It can last for up to two years. The cost can range from $6,000 to $55,000. If you want something even more involving, then there is a 4-year Welding Engineering bachelor’s degree.
So, depending on the budget, time commitment, and your level of aspiration, you can start looking at various welding programs and courses when you are in high school. Planning out your education is a key factor in succeeding as a professional welder.
Apprenticeship for a welder is like an internship in any other field of work. It is a great opportunity to get real-world experience. The other side benefit of an apprenticeship is to make some money while learning the ropes.
An apprentice would normally work under a more experienced welder and learn the best practices of welding. Apprenticeships are a good way to build up work experience and show something meaningful on your resume. It also allows you to network with employees of a company and possibly set yourself up to get a permanent welding job at that company.
However, irrespective of whether your apprenticeship company invites you for a full-time job or not, an apprenticeship in an important way to start building a foundation in welding. This foundation can then be improved with time and experience.
Certifications for Specializations
After arming yourself with a degree/certificate in welding or even a high school diploma, you can then focus on a specific area within welding and get a certification for the same. This certification is different from the general welding degree/certificate which you get after high school. The certification is more like a specialization that can help you work in a specific position of a company’s welding department.
These certifications test a welder’s knowledge about the welding process and safety guidelines. The actual examinations for these certifications involve a written component and a welding skill component. Hence, the test is theoretical and practical in nature. You may be required to renew these certifications every six months or every year.
Welding certifications can help a welder boost earnings and improve prospects for getting employment opportunities. Most of these welding certifications are offered through the American Welding Society or AWS. The various certifications that you can gain are as follows:
- Certified Welder or CW: This is the cheapest and simplest of all the certifications. One has to go to an AWS accredited testing facility to take the examination. CW costs $35 and there are no specific requirements needed to take the exams.
- Certified Welding Inspector or CWI: If you like quality control, or simply want a more advanced certification than a CW, then you can look at CWI. It costs $850 for an AWS member. Non-members will have to pay $1065. Unlike CW, there are basic pre-requisites for a CWI exam. You have to have a certain minimum level of formal education and some work experience as well.
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector or SCWI: SCWI is one level higher than CWI. It is probably a good idea to work as a welding inspector and then go for a senior level certification. The requirements for this certification are similar to those of SCWI. One needs to show some formal education and work experience. Charges for the exams are the same as CWI, $850 for members and $1065 for non-members.
- Certified Welding Educator or CWE: If you like teaching, then the CWE is for you. You need to have a valid welding certificate and hold either a part-time or full-time job as a classroom teacher in order to apply for the CWE examination. You also need a letter of recommendation which establishes your ability to teach. Once you have all the pre-requisites in place, you can apply for CWE. Exam costs are $635 for members and $850 for non-members.
- Certified Welding Sales Representatives or CWSR: The last certification on this list is the CWSR. This certification is for someone who is interested more on the business side of things. There are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled for this exam. But, those requirements can be met in many different ways. Costs for the exam are $275 for members and $355 for non-members.
Some other certifications available that are worth mentioning are Certified Welding Engineer, Certified Robotic Arc Welding, Certified Radiographic Interpreter, and Certified Welding Supervisor.
Welding Industry Scenario
Welders are always in demand as long as industrial activity continues. Structures which get old need repairing as well. Welding is an important part of that repair/maintenance process. Hence, the welding job market is full of opportunities. It is estimated that welding jobs will grow at an average of 6% over the next few years.
In terms of job security, welding is fairly secure. There may, however, be a need to relocate or shift jobs in order to continue growing professionally as a welder. As welding is an on-site job, the location of work is important in this field of work. Sometimes, you might need to re-skill or take up certifications as outlined above.
Other aspects of welding as a career
Welding is a job that requires skill, creativity, and good technique. One has to enjoy creating things in order to be a good welder. Welding is a physical job and requires a person to be fit, have good dexterity, and steadfast hands. Hand-eye coordination is important as well.
A welder also needs to be detail oriented, as small details matter a lot when creating or repairing a part or structure. People’s lives may depend on a welder’s work. In terms of mental ability, a good perception of depth and strong spatial orientation is necessary to be a successful welder. Lastly, a welder has to be a good problem solver as there will be many instances where solutions are needed on-the-go.
In terms of the compensation among various types of welding jobs, pipe welding is the most lucrative. The average salary of a pipe welder is $58,998. Underwater welding is also a high-paying welding job which requires a lot of skill.
In terms of the state with the most welding jobs, Texas wins hands down. There are so many welding jobs in Texas that it is informally nicknamed as the welding jobs capital of the US.