Welding is one of the most crucial areas of dozens of industries. However, it’s been well documented that there will be a shortage of over 400,000 welders in the next 4 years. It’s safe to say that there has never been a better time to learn how to weld than in the next decade. But what exactly are these career opportunities? There are dozens of different career paths that welders can follow, each with their own unique benefits and risks. Before deciding on jumping into this industry or becoming a certified welder, it’s important to understand what welding careers entail.
Welding Job Description
What does a welder do? At the most basic level, welders fabricate and join metal together using heat from welding machines. There are a number of different methods of welding that are used on various metals and in different industries. However, regardless of the type of welding or how it is used, the core duty of a welder is shaping and joining metal together. Welding jobs can be long-term, salaried careers, project-based, or contracted through other companies, depending on the type and the amount of work that needs to be done.
A large share of the welding jobs come from industries like manufacturing, mining, building, construction, automotive, marine and gas/oil. Some of these jobs are focused on building or repairing smaller structures or devices, while others work on pipelines, bridges, or ships. The complexity of the welding process varies widely, from small home workshop projects, all the way up to aerospace or underwater welding. Typically, as the complexity of welding jobs increases, salary will increase to match the risk that they are taking on. For instance, underwater welders garner higher pay because it is a far riskier job than working in a shop with a basic MIG welder.
Job Outlook for Welders
One of the first questions that people ask when considering learning to weld is simple…Is welding a good career? There are a lot of factors to consider, but in short, welding can be a very good career, depending on what you are looking for. There is high demand in the industry for welders and the jobs pay well, especially considering that it’s fairly easy to get into a career in welding, compared to other careers that require a lot more school or experience. You typically get a wide variety of jobs to work on, can work in multiple industries, can travel to take on certain jobs, and can easily start your own business or take on side work outside of your main career.
The American Welding Society says that demand for welders is set to increase over the next decade. Even as technologies change and more jobs welder types would have done in the past are being automated, there is still a need for people to operate machinery and there will always be demand for welded structures all over the world.
How much do welders make?
As far as salary, the average annual pay is around $40,000 per year, though that can be much higher for advanced or specialized work. While a lot of data you will see online says that entry level salaries are also around $40,000, they can have a minimum as low as $25,000, depending on your state and the welding career that you choose. However, the ability to move up fairly quickly with training, certification and experience makes it an attractive career for those who do not want to go to a four-year college.
What welding careers are there?
It’s clear that there is demand for a skilled labor force of welders, but what are some of these careers in welding? Here are eight of the more common jobs for a welder and a description of what they do.
- Welding Technician: Technicians are the most common category of welders and they typically work in a shop, lab, or travel in the field. Many times, welding technicians are working in manufacturing, building or maintenance and are adept at basic welding technologies like arc welding. Welding technicians make an average of $45,000 per year, with the high end at around $65,000-$70,000.
- Pipeline Welder: Often called pipeliners, these professionals are on the more advanced side as they must be able to work in the field welding at different angles and types of environments. They make between $50,000-$80,000 per year and will generally travel more than other types of welders since they are often building new pipelines or working on existing, active pipelines.
- Underwater Welder: Not only do underwater welders need to be familiar with welding technology and methods, but also have to be able to dive in various aquatic environments to perform welds. The training for this career includes not only welding certification, but also certification in commercial diving. This is one of the riskier types of welding career, so the pay is higher, with an average of $77,000 and some who make upwards of $100,000 per year.
- Welding Machine Operator: Also known as a robotic welding technician, these operators are responsible for using robotic or other welding equipment to manufacture metallic parts of products across a wide variety of industries. Salaries vary widely for welding machine operators, with an entry level similar to welding technicians, but a high end of over $100,000 per year.
- Welding Inspector: These professionals are responsible for testing and assuring the quality of work that others have done. It usually requires completion of an associate degree in welding program, as well as additional certification as a welding inspector through the American Welding Society. It takes a strong understanding of welding technology as well as attention to detail, but is safer than a lot of the other careers and commands higher pay (national average of over $60,000 per year).
- Fabricator: One of the more versatile welding careers, fabricators can work on a variety of things, from vehicles to golf clubs to everyday products that we all use. Fabrication careers require the least amount of training, but pay will increase with the completion of each certification program. This job is typically in a shop, though some fabricators get a fair share of field work if they are performing maintenance or repairs.
- Steel or Iron Worker: These careers are typically performed in the field working on welded structures like buildings, bridges, or large industrial equipment. It can be one of the riskier jobs in the field, depending on the project or technology. This largely vertical construction projects create a lot of high paying jobs for steel or iron workers and salaries well over six figures are common.
- Bonus – Other Welding Jobs: With such a wide variety, it’s hard to narrow the list down to only a handful. Other professions in welding include boilermakers, pipefitters, engineers, supervisors, educators, sales people, shipfitters, researchers, military support technicians, and more.
As you can see, there are many paths that you can take if you decide to get into a welding career. Welders can certainly make good money and there are plenty of jobs out there for those with the right skills. One of the great things about starting with a general welding program is that you can learn the technology and methods, then choose what certification or specialization you want to go after. Check out the American Welding Society’s certification programs, which provide education options that can help guide you to one of these paths.