Do you enjoy working with your hands? Are you very focused and have good attention to detail? Then, you might make a good welder.
This is a very rewarding career choice with plenty of room for advancement. If you want to learn how to become a welder, it starts with understanding the job duties. Let’s look at what welders do and how you can enter into this career path.
Job Duties of a Welder
As a welder, you will be a skilled tradesman with the ability to join metals. You will likely work with stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and steel. Welders may work for many types of employers. They are commonly found in construction, shipyards, manufacturing, and the automobile industry.
The most common duties of a welder include:
- Positioning, securing, and retraining metal parts with clamps or clips
- Lighting the source of the flame
- Using a flame to weld the area
- Carefully controlling the flame and the materials being welded
- Evaluating the final weld for quality
- Maintaining welding equipment
They will also need to know how to stay safe in their work environment. For example, as a welder, you might work on bridges or aircraft. No matter where you work, it’s necessary to know how to keep yourself and the public around you safe.
How to Become a Welder in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Finish High School
You must complete high school or earn your GED to become a welder. As a tradesman, you need to be well educated, and it starts with high school. If your high school offers metal fabrication or welding classes, you should enroll and complete those courses.
Every course offered that has anything to do with welding or metal should be considered in high school. This will help you gain the foundation you need. Also, make sure to take and excel at math classes, such as algebra and geometry.
Science courses can also be helpful for those looking to become welders.
Step #2 – Earn a Degree or Certification
Becoming a welder will require a certification or a degree. However, you can complete a welding certificate program in six to eighteen months, depending on the program. You will take courses taught in a classroom and gain hands-on experience through a welding certificate program.
If you want a higher degree, you can complete a Welding Technology Associate Degree. This type of program will last about two years. Most of your courses will be in the classroom with some hands-on experience.
While you can earn a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering , this is the less likely route for welders. Instead, most welders will get a certificate or an associate degree. However, if you prefer a four-year degree, this is an option.
A diploma or certificate program will require you to earn 18 to 40 credit hours. However, if you choose the associate degree, you will need to earn 60 to 80 credit hours to get your degree.
Step #3 – Complete an Apprenticeship
You don’t have to get a degree or complete a certificate program to become a welder. Some welders will work as welding apprentices to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. This can help you gain hands-on experience and learn the best practices for welders.
An apprenticeship might also allow you to earn a paycheck while you’re training. This type of path can provide an excellent foundation for your welding career.
While a degree or certification isn’t necessary, many employers expect at least a trade school diploma in welding to enter into an apprenticeship.
Step #4 – Earn Specialized Welding Certificates
Gaining the right welding certificates can help you advance your career. Most of the certifications are available through the AWS (American Welding Society). Some of the most common include:
- Certified Welder – All you have to do is pay the $35 and pass the exam to become a Certified Welder.
- Certified Welding Inspector – You will need the right level of education and work experience to take the CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) exam. The cost is $850 for AWS members or $1,065 for non-members.
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector – With more experience and education, you can take the SCWI (Senior Certified Welding Inspector) exam. The cost is the same as the CWI exam.
- Certified Welding Educator – You will need to hold a valid welding certification, have a letter of recommendation, and hold a full-time or part-time classroom teaching job to become a CWE (Certified Welding Educator). The cost is $635 for members and $850 for non-members.
You may also gain employer certifications in a specific welding process, such as SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding), FCAW (Flux-Cored Arc Welding), or GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding).
The most important certification for new welders is the Certified Welder certification. Make sure you prepare for the test, and you pass it on the first try. With the right study guides and practice tests, you will be better prepared for the exam.
Several other AWS certifications are available, including:
- Certified Radiographic Interpreter
- Certified Welding Sales Representative
- Certified Welding Engineer
- Certified Robotic Arc Welding
Certifications can help you specialize and advance your career to a new level. Most certifications will take less than six months to complete once you have completed the necessary education and experience requirements.
Step #5 – Enter into Your Welding Career
If you want to make the most money possible as a welder, you want to choose the right career path. A pipe welder is one of the best-paying options, but the highest-paid welders are actually rather unique. They are underwater welders, and they can make as much as $200K per year, depending on the company and the location. This is a great welding career to consider if you can land the right job.
Other welding career options to consider include:
- Military Support Welders – Make at least $160K in this position.
- Industrial Pipe Welder – Make up to $100K working for the right company in the right location.
- HiTech Welders – Make around $47K on average.
- Sheet Metal Welders – Make around $45K per year on average
Finding the right entry-level job isn’t always easy as a welder. You may have to start in one industry and work your way into a higher-paying position over time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Welder
How much do welders make?
If you decide to become a welder, you can expect to make an average salary of about $46K per year. It’s common for welders to make around $20 per hour. After earning higher certifications and gaining experience, your average salary may go up to about $48K per year. Some welders even earn as much as $60K per year.
Your location will make a difference, too. Alaska is the highest-paying state for welders, with an average salary of about $63K per year. Louisiana, Washington, and Kentucky are the next three highest-paying states for welders.
The highest-paid type of welder is a pipe welder. This type of welder earns an average salary of nearly $60K per year. As a pipe welder, you will weld pipes for repairs in many industries.
The Scheduled Air Transportation industry and the Natural Gas Distribution industries are the highest-paying for welders. A welder can also make a very nice salary in the Electric Power Generation and Distribution industry.
How much does it cost to become a welder?
The cost will depend on the path you take. If you choose to enter a welding certificate program, expect to pay $3,500 to $20,000 to complete the program. Those seeking a welding technology associate degree will spend $6,000 to $55,000.
Are welders in high demand?
Yes. The welding industry has seen a huge shortage of qualified welders for decades now. The shortage is due to many retiring welders and others not being aware of this excellent career. It’s expected that welders will remain in high demand over the next decade or longer.
What type of welding is available for welders?
Commonly, arc welding is used in construction and manufacturing. However, depending on the industry and the job, welders may also use MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding or TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding. TIG welding requires a higher level of education than others due to the complex style.
Hyperbaric welding is also a common type of welding used underwater. This is another specialized type of welding used on ships, oil platforms, and pipelines. Oxyacetylene welding offers another type of welding you may use with various types of metal.
How can I earn a higher-than-average salary as a welder?
Going back to school to gain more education and certifications is the best way to earn a higher-than-average salary as a welder. It’s also helpful to pursue a higher-paying type of welding, such as pipe welding or underwater welding.
Finding the right career for you isn’t always easy. Maybe a four-year degree doesn’t excite you. However, if you enjoy working with your hands and fixing things, becoming a welder might be perfect for you. With the steps above about how to become a welder, you can enter into this career path. It may only take a few months of training, and you can earn a nice paycheck as a welder.
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