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Welder How to become, career path, income potential

Do you like putting things together? Are you handy with tools and machinery? Do you have excellent attention to detail? If so, a career as a welder might be a perfect choice for you. 

Welders operate various types of machinery, equipment, and tools to manufacture and repair metal structures, parts, and products. They work in a wide range of industries, including construction, manufacturing, and automotive. Welding requires keen attention to detail and the ability to interpret designs, blueprints, and schematics. Welders must adhere to all safety procedures and maintain welding equipment and machinery in proper working order. 

Welders need to plan layouts, measure parts, and test and inspect welded surfaces to ensure the stability and strength of the finished product. They also must follow guidelines to meet company and client requirements. As a welder, you must always follow safety regulations and wear protective gloves, masks, and shoes. 

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is in need of strong and hardworking welders who will help us fulfill orders for our customers. We are looking for someone who is able to take accurate measurements, decide which equipment to use, and then properly use it to build according to a blueprint. Primary responsibilities will include setting up and operating welding processes while achieving and maintaining established quality and productivity standards. Your work is crucial to our success, so if you are reliable, have a great work ethic, and will arrive on time, you would be a great candidate for this position. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Examine blueprints and sketches 
  • Maintain equipment and machinery
  • Weld components in various positions 
  • Operate various machinery following safety protocols

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or equivalent required
  • Technical or on-the-job experience as well as certifications preferred

Required skills and qualifications

  • Physical stamina and strength 
  • Manual dexterity
  • Knowledge of technical and mechanical terminology, processes, and equipment 
  • Detail-oriented and able to handle potentially hazardous conditions
  • Ability to comprehend instructions, drawings, and blueprints 
  • Thorough understanding of welding processes 

Preferred qualifications

  • Pass 6G Butt and Tee Branch welding tests
  • Must test for API 1104 certification
  • Ability to read and interpret blueprints and mechanical drawings
  • Understanding of API 1104 certification standards and procedures

Typical work environment

Most welders work outdoors in all sorts of weather. They often work high off the ground and may be asked to lift heavy objects or stand in uncomfortable positions. For these reasons, welders must take preventative action by wearing protective clothing. This can be an extremely grueling environment, especially during intense summer and winter seasons.

Typical hours

Welders work during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, in a manufacturing environment. Many may work outside and risk hazardous conditions and injury. It is not uncommon that you will be asked as a welder to work overtime as projects run behind on deadlines.

Available certifications

There are many certifications available to increase your experience, knowledge, and opportunities in the welding field. Companies are looking for a reliable and certified welder, so several institutions offer different certifications to help. Check out the following: 

  • Certified Welder (CW) Program – This program tests welders on their knowledge of the course of action for welding structural steel, petroleum pipelines, sheet metal, and chemical refinery welding industries. These tests must be taken at an AWS-Accredited Testing Facility. There are no prerequisites and certification credits are transferable. This program offers welders the opportunity to learn and obtain new skills for different types of welding work. 
  • Certified Associate Welding Inspector (CAWI) – This credential allows young welders to work alongside a Certified Welding Inspector to inspect if welding work interests them. Once achieved, the certification is valid for three years. This credential allows someone to gain the hands-on experience they need to become a Certified Welding Inspector, while still having someone with even greater experience at their side. There will be a fundamentals exam on information such as destructive testing, fabrication in math, and safety in welding, as well as a hands-on portion of the examination.
  • Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) – A CWI is able to inspect a weldment and determine whether or not it is acceptable according to a specific code or standard. They will ensure the quality of work and that a weldment is built safely. Certified Welding Inspectors handle qualification records and must be detail-oriented, as they may catch mistakes that previous inspectors may have missed. This is a prestigious credential and is highly regarded because of the experience and knowledge required. The exam is a 3-part exam including a fundamentals portion, a practical exam, and an open-book exam using the codebook.

Career path

The first step to becoming a welder is to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. Employers may prefer job candidates with technical or on-the-job experience as well as welding certifications. Welders have the opportunity to advance to positions such as welding engineer and robotic welding technician as they gain more experience. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 51-4121

2020 Employment418,200
Projected Employment in 2030452,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 8% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift34,100 increase

As technology advances, the applications for welding continue to grow and therefore, will increase the demand for welders. The American Welding Society is a great resource for aspiring welders, offering certifications and opportunities for education and professional development.