What is a welder?
A welder is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in fusing metals together. Welding is a fabrication process that uses high heat to melt the parts being joined and often involves adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint. Welders use various welding techniques such as arc welding, gas welding, or resistance welding
Welders play an essential role in various industries, contributing to the creation of structures, vehicles, and equipment. They’re integral to sectors such as manufacturing, construction, automotive, aerospace, and maritime, among others. Their work ensures the integrity and durability of critical infrastructures like buildings, bridges, cars, and ships. Welders are valued for their technical skills, precision, and critical role in maintaining and enhancing our everyday life and the world around us.
Duties and responsibilities
A welder’s responsibilities include reading and interpreting technical drawings and blueprints; selecting and preparing materials; setting up and operating welding equipment; performing welding techniques such as MIG, TIG, and stick welding; and inspecting finished welds for quality and accuracy. They must also maintain welding equipment, follow safety guidelines, and comply with codes and regulations.
Welders must understand their equipment, basic math, and how to read various construction documents. They should also have good physical dexterity and hand-eye coordination to manipulate welding tools and materials.
Welders work in various settings, including construction sites, factories, and repair and maintenance shops. Depending on a project’s requirements, they may work outdoors, in confined spaces, or high off the ground and need to lift heavy objects or stand in uncomfortable positions. Welders may also be exposed to extreme heat, fumes, and noise. The environment can be grueling during intense summers or winters, and the hazardous conditions require strict adherence to safety guidelines, such as wearing protective equipment.
Typical work hours
Welders typically work full time, although some may work part-time or on a project basis. They may be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays to meet project deadlines or accommodate work schedules. They may also need to travel or change priorities to adapt quickly to changes in project requirements or timelines.
How to become a welder
Becoming a welder involves acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge in welding techniques, safety procedures, and various welding processes. The process typically includes a combination of education, training, and hands-on experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma or GED
Most welding positions require at least a high school diploma or GED. High school math, science, and industrial arts courses can provide a solid foundation for a career in welding. If available, consider taking these courses or joining a vocational program for early exposure to welding techniques and practices.
Step 2: Attend a welding training program or trade school
After completing high school, enroll in a welding training program or trade school to gain the necessary skills and knowledge in various welding processes. These programs typically last a few months to two years and offer classroom instruction and hands-on training. Look for accredited programs through the American Welding Society (AWS) or other reputable organizations.
Step 3: Earn welding certifications
Welding certifications can significantly improve employability and demonstrate proficiency in specific welding processes. The American Welding Society (AWS) offers numerous certifications, such as the Certified Welder and Certified Welding Inspector credentials. Consider earning certifications for the welding processes and industries you’re most interested in, like pipe or structural welding.
Step 4: Gain hands-on experience through an apprenticeship or entry-level position
Hands-on experience is essential for developing welding skills and building a successful career. Seek apprenticeship opportunities or entry-level positions with local welding companies, unions, or organizations. Apprenticeships typically last 3-4 years and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing you to learn from experienced welders while earning a wage.
Step 5: Maintain safety and industry knowledge
Welding can be hazardous, so staying informed about safety practices and industry regulations is crucial. Continually update your knowledge of welding safety procedures, equipment maintenance, and relevant guidelines. Participate in ongoing training or workshops to ensure skills and safety knowledge stay current.
Here is a sample of some of the options available for continuing education:
- Udemy’s Understanding Welding Codes and Procedures highlights the industry standards that govern best practices for weld inspection, training, and documentation.
- Consider enrolling in Reading and Reviewing Welding Documents to understand Welding Procedure Specifications (WPS) and Procedure Qualifications Records (PQR).
- Udemy’s Online Training on Welding Inspection focuses on becoming an inspector for refineries, power plants, and offshore platforms.
Step 6: Advance your career through specialization and experience
As you gain experience, consider specializing in a specific type of welding or industry to increase earning potential and career opportunities. Specializations can include underwater welding, aerospace welding, or robotic welding. Continuously improving and staying updated on industry trends will help you excel in your welding career.
How much do welders make?
The compensation for a welder can vary based on several factors, including experience, education, geographic location, industry, and company size.
Welders may receive additional compensation through bonuses, profit-sharing, and other incentives, which can significantly affect their overall earnings.
Highest paying industries
- Electric Power Generation: $68,950
- Natural Gas Distribution: $65,650
- Aerospace Manufacturing: $58,640
- Rail Transportation: $55,550
- Heavy and Civil Engineering: $51,860
Highest paying states
- Alaska: $69,540
- Hawaii: $61,320
- District of Columbia: $58,874
- Wyoming: $56,720
- Washington: $56,100
Types of welders
Welders can specialize in different areas that align with their interests. These specializations can be tied to specific industries, types of welding, or aspects of the welding process. In this career guide section, we will explore some different kinds of welders, shedding light on their unique responsibilities and areas of focus. There are many more specializations than just what is listed here; however, these are some of the more common ones
A MIG (metal inert gas) welder handles welding metal pieces together, such as mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum using a MIG welding machine. An electric arc heats the metal, and a wire electrode fills the joint with molten metal.
A TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding machine uses a tungsten electrode to heat metal and a filler rod to fill a joint with molten metal. This specialty’s welding typically involves working with stainless steel, aluminum, and copper.
A stick welder uses a machine containing a consumable electrode coated in flux to heat steel and create weld joints, typically for construction and repairs.
Proficiency in MIG, TIG, and stick welding is required for pipeline welding. The transportation of gas, oil, and water via pipelines often occurs in remote locations. Typical employers include the oil and gas industry, whose welders must know pipeline safety regulations and be comfortable working in less-than-ideal conditions.
Welded joints must meet the required standards for safety and quality. During inspections, welds are visually inspected, and non-destructive testing techniques like X-ray and ultrasonic testing are used. A key component is maintaining records of welding procedures and materials. Collaboration with other members of the welding team ensures that work meets project specifications and requirements.
Top skills for welders
A welder is responsible for joining and fabricating metal parts and structures using various welding techniques, such as MIG, TIG, or stick welding. A welder must have strong technical, physical, and problem-solving skills to excel in this role.
Welders need knowledge about various welding materials, tools, and equipment. Proficiency in technical skills and the ability to read blueprints, schematics, or other technical documents are required.
Good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and the ability to work in various positions and heights are essential. Strength and stamina are needed to handle heavy metal parts and equipment.
Welders use problem-solving skills to identify and respond to potential welding issues and challenges, including identifying defects and implementing solutions to improve quality and efficiency. This includes thinking critically, evaluating options, and making informed decisions based on available information.
Attention to detail is vital for weld accuracy, identifying issues, and resolving technical defects. Following standards and best practices and maintaining accurate procedural and material records help to ensure success.
Finally, welders must be adaptable and work well under pressure. Multiple welding projects and tasks coincide, so it is important to prioritize work and be available for urgent issues outside regular business hours if necessary. Commit to the profession by participating in ongoing professional development, learning evolving technologies, and staying current with the industry’s best practices.
Welder career path
You typically need a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the field and may want to consider a trade or vocational school that offers specialized training. Entry-level roles include working as a welder’s helper or assisting more experienced welders in a shop or on job sites. As a welder gains experience, they may advance to a more senior welder role, work on larger or more complex projects, or move into a specialized area such as pipe welding or structural welding.
Welders may also advance into management roles and oversee the work of other welders or collaborate with cross-functional teams to ensure successful project delivery. As technology evolves, new specializations such as robotics welding are available. Additional advancement may include becoming a welding supervisor or engineer or moving into related fields such as metal fabrication or manufacturing.
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Position trends and outlook for welders
As technology changes, welding applications continue to grow, increasing the demand for welders. The American Welding Society is an excellent resource for aspiring welders, offering certifications and opportunities for education and professional development.
One key factor affecting welders’ job outlook is the demand for their services in various industries, including manufacturing, construction, and transportation. As the economy continues to grow, the need for welders increases.
Another issue affecting the job outlook is the need for skilled trade workers. With the retirement of older workers and a shortage of younger individuals entering the trades, there is a growing need for skilled workers across various industries, including welding. This results in increased demand and job security for welders.
Advances in welding technology impact the job outlook for welders as well. New technologies and techniques, such as automation and robotics, are changing how welding is performed and are affecting the number and types of jobs available. Welders who can adapt and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies will be in high demand.
Employment projections for welders
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for welders is projected to grow by 1% through 2032. However, welders who are highly skilled and able to adapt to new technologies and techniques may have better job prospects.
To succeed in this field, welders should have strong hand-eye coordination, physical stamina, and attention to detail. They should also have a high school diploma or equivalent and have completed welding courses or apprenticeships. Some employers may also require welders to be certified.
Welder career tips
Develop technical skills
As a welder, you’ll need to be proficient in the technical skills required for welding, such as welding processes, welding equipment, and welding safety procedures. Consider taking welding, metallurgy, and materials science courses to develop your skills.
Build a strong knowledge of metalworking
Welders must have a solid fundamental understanding of metalworking to select the appropriate welding technique and filler material for a specific project. Develop a deep knowledge of metal properties, metalworking techniques, and welding codes and standards to help you make informed welding decisions.
Foster a professional network
Building a professional network lets you stay up-to-date on industry trends, expand your knowledge, and connect with potential clients or employers. Consider joining professional organizations like the American Welding Society (AWS) or the International Association of Welding (IAW). Attend industry conferences or networking events to meet other professionals in the field.
Professional associations and networks for welders:
- American Welding Society (AWS)
- International Association of Welding (IAW)
- National Center for Welding Education and Training (Weld-Ed)
- Women in Welding (WiW)
- Welding and Joining Society (WJS)
Strengthen your communication skills
Welders need to communicate effectively with clients, contractors, and team members. Develop strong communication skills, such as active listening, technical writing, and public speaking, to help build rapport and trust with others.
Stay up-to-date on industry trends
The welding field constantly evolves, with new technologies and best practices emerging. Staying current on industry trends and developments is essential. To stay informed, subscribe to industry publications, attend conferences and webinars, and participate in online forums and discussion groups.
Continuous learning is crucial to keeping up with industry trends and regulations and developing new skills. Consider pursuing additional certifications or advanced degrees to demonstrate your expertise and stay competitive in the job market. Look for opportunities to attend workshops, webinars, and other training events to improve your knowledge and skills.
Where the welder jobs are
- General Electric
- Huntington Ingalls Industries
- Lockheed Martin
Top job sites
- American Welding Society
What are the most common welding processes a welder should be proficient in?
A welder should be proficient in a variety of welding processes, including Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW/MIG), Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW/TIG), and Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW). Familiarity with other processes, such as oxy-fuel welding, submerged arc welding, and plasma arc welding, may be beneficial depending on the job requirements.
What are the essential safety measures a welder should follow?
Welders must adhere to strict safety measures to protect themselves and others. These include wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as welding helmets, gloves, and protective clothing; ensuring proper ventilation; using fire-resistant materials and fire extinguishers; and following proper lifting and handling techniques. Welders should also be knowledgeable about hazards such as fumes, gases, and radiation.
What certifications are available for welders, and are they necessary?
Several welding certifications are available through organizations like the American Welding Society (AWS), Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB), and European Welding Federation (EWF). While not always mandatory, obtaining certifications can demonstrate a welder’s competence, knowledge, and commitment to their craft, making them more marketable to employers.
What are the typical industries that employ welders?
Welders work in various industries, including construction, shipbuilding, automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, manufacturing, and infrastructure development. They may work on pipelines, bridges, buildings, vehicles, and machinery.
What is the difference between a welding engineer and a welder?
A welding engineer specializes in designing, planning, and optimizing welding processes, while a welder is a skilled tradesperson who performs the actual welding tasks. Welding engineers typically have a higher level of education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in welding engineering or a related field, and may work in research, development, or quality control.
What is the importance of welding codes and standards in the welding profession?
Welding codes and standards, such as those established by the American Welding Society (AWS) or International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ensure that welded structures are safe, reliable, and high quality. Compliance with these codes and standards is crucial for the integrity of the welded product and the safety of those working with or around it.
How can a welder advance in their career?
Welders can advance by gaining experience, obtaining specialized certifications, and pursuing further education or training. They may progress to welding supervisor, inspector, instructor, or even welding engineer roles. Additionally, welders can explore related fields such as non-destructive testing, robotics, or metallurgy.
What is the role of a welder in quality control and assurance?
Welders play a crucial role in quality control and assurance by ensuring their work meets the required specifications, codes, and standards. They must maintain high craftsmanship, verify that materials and equipment are in good condition, and perform regular inspections. In some cases, welders may collaborate with welding inspectors to address potential issues or defects.
What is the significance of welder qualification tests, and how often should they be taken?
Qualification tests evaluate a welder’s skill level and ability to produce high-quality welds that adhere to codes and standards. These tests typically involve producing a visually inspected welded test piece that undergoes destructive or non-destructive testing. The frequency of qualification tests depends on the specific industry, project, or employer requirements. Welders may need to requalify periodically, but some qualifications remain valid indefinitely as long as the welder maintains continuous employment and demonstrates consistent skill.
What are the key traits and qualities of a successful welder?
A successful welder should possess a strong work ethic, attention to detail, and the ability to work well under pressure. They should be skilled at problem-solving, have good hand-eye coordination, and be able to follow instructions accurately. Effective communication and teamwork skills are essential for collaborating with tradespeople and professionals on projects. Finally, a commitment to safety and quality is necessary for success.