A career in welding is both stable and full of opportunities: there’s a high demand for welding skills all over the United States. In addition, fewer people are becoming craft professionals, so there’s never been a better time to enter the industry and demand high wages. Even better, a college degree is not required to be a welder. It’s a perfect option for those who prefer to learn a trade through creative exploration and hands-on projects instead of a four-year degree.
What Does a Welder Do?
In its most basic form, welding is the process of creating structures by joining two pieces of metal together using high heat. A typical day for a welder might start with reviewing blueprints, preparing materials, and putting on protective gear before starting on their projects. There are numerous techniques to weld metal. The most common methods use electricity, gas, or a combination of the two. Once the welder finishes the general build, he or she completes the process by smoothing out imperfections and applying any protective finishes or decorative touches.
Where Does a Welder Work?
Due to the broad use of metal in the industrialized world, a welder has a diverse number of work opportunities. The tasks completed during each welding job varies by industry, but require similar skills to complete. This gives welders the flexibility to explore or transfer into a wide range of fields. The majority of welding jobs are in manufacturing and construction, which can take place indoors, outdoors, or even underwater.
Some common projects welders work on are industrial maintenance, pipelines, railroads, bridges, power plants, buildings, aerospace applications, automobiles, and shipbuilding. Opportunities also await those who are willing to travel far and wide for work. There’s a community of welders known as “Road Warriors” who travel the world and take different welding jobs along the way. Road Warriors typically make more money than non-traveling welders and have an even greater amount of options for work.
How Do You Become a Welder?
You can’t build a career in welding overnight, but you’ll make plenty of money while you learn. Those with a high school degree or equivalent can become a welder for projects that are non-critical, most welding jobs have a level of complexity that requires both physical and technical skills gained through industry education and hands-on instruction. This training, along with building soft skills such as manual dexterity and physical strength, takes a few years.
Before starting a career in welding, research different welding options and find the position best suited to your abilities. This way, you have a better understanding of what training and education you need in order to reach your goals. You can earn your welding certificate by completing the required courses at a welding school or university in your area. You can then find an apprenticeship either through your school or by contacting local unions. Once the apprenticeship is complete, you will become a certified welder. From there, the company you were an apprentice for may hire you, or you can begin your job search.
Meet Dylan Larson: A Welder in Naples, Florida on what Welding has been like for him.
I needed some welding work done for a part on my boat. After speaking with him for a bit I found out he had a great story that needed sharing.
This is what he told me.
Let’s start with my dad is a welder, his brother is a welder, so it was in my cards you can say. Trade school is great, it was a valuable tool and is for most. But it wouldn’t be fair to say that having those two men around me my whole life wasn’t a blessing.
I left high school at 16 started working full-time delivering furniture for my uncle’s local company. With the money earned I enrolled in trade college night courses, welding courses. I excelled.
I was the first one there and last one to leave. Always eager to take on local projects that got dropped off to the instructor. I finished all the courses available. Even started assisting the instructor with teaching the new guys. Got a job at a local job shop at 19 as soon as I finished those courses at the local trade school.
Worked there a while, doing odd jobs whatever fabrication came through the door, also doing field work (structural steel) all over town. One day while at home I found my dad unconscious in the backyard sitting in a chair while taking a break from weed-eating the grass. His heart had stopped. Gave him CPR until EMS showed up. Fast forward down the road he received a heart transplant, but since my dad was a heavy equipment welder/service tech, working out of a service truck in the field, and his company shut down, he was also in need of a job.
We spent a few weeks shopping around for a service truck, found one and instantly got to work. Dad had been collecting his own tools and equipment for 30+ years in the industry, so everything was already all set to swap over to the new truck. I spent months working 7-330 welding in the “job shop” getting off work then heading straight home to pick my dad up and his rig, to then go weld into the night on broken heavy equipment.
There’s always construction out here, so I always have welding work on the digging equipment. My dad was still recovering from a heart transplant you see, so I needed to help get him on his feet until he was fully able to be back on his own safely in this Florida heat.
But my welding career helped launch my dad’s business start-up in his 50’s post heart transplant. He’s been booming ever since. Never even made business cards. Purely word of mouth, purely fieldwork from the bumper of a service truck.
Fast forward to present day, my boss just recently had to undergo unexpected surgery. Which led to him having to immediately leave the shop and start down a long road of recovery. I was left the reins of this massive company just like that! Quoting new work, writing up invoices, managing outside structural steel erections, managing all inside the shop fabrication, keeping the guys busy with work, answering the phones. Every damn thing. There’s not a single thing inside the shop and outside in the field that I can’t manage. Helped keep the doors open for this man. 9 years of experience now. Best decision I’ve ever made. Continually learning and growing with each passing year.
There’s no end to the knowledge climb in this game. Soon as you decide you know it all is the exact minute you freeze in time and get passed by all the hungry up and comers. Welding technology and fabrication equipment change every day. Constant innovations and new products keep you on the cutting edge. You have to stay ahead of the curve or get left in the dust.”
Dylan also mentioned he’s made anything from $22 an hour starting out to $85 an hour running his own business. What really stood out to me was his eagerness to get the work done. You can learn more about his story on his Instagram @precisionarcfab.
Is it Better to Become a Welder or an Electrician?
Many people looking to specialize in a trade choose between becoming a welder or an electrician. It can be a tough choice:
- Both of these fields offer a wide range of opportunities.
- No college education is required to become either, but both do require lengthy training courses and apprenticeships.
- Both fields also offer competitive salaries that differ based on location, experience, and specialization.
In sum, either one of these professions will make a great career. The path you choose ultimately depends on what field you find more interesting.
Why is Welding a Great Career?
A career in welding does not only give you access to a world of opportunities; it also allows you to pursue a lucrative career without paying for a college education. Additionally, countrywide trends show an even brighter future for welders. There’s an increasing movement toward green energy solutions that require welding skills such as solar panels, natural gas pipelines, and wind and water turbines. According to the American Welding Society, there’s also a shortage of welders projected to reach over 375,000 workers by 2023. This scarcity will increase welders’ demand, and their wages as well.