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Welding Career Overview

At a welding school, you can learn the process of connecting pieces of metal permanently.

It may sound simple, but in reality, it requires high skill levels.

With formal welding training, you can work in a range of areas, including aerospace technology, shipbuilding, or auto manufacturing.

Welding is also used in the construction where welders connect beams and structures in bridges, buildings, and more.

It means that welders have a broad range of employment opportunities.

There are numerous welding methods, and through your training, you will learn about the most commonly used.

They include TIG, MIG, arc welding, brazing, soldering, etc.

In a welding school, you will also learn a variety of techniques, such as horizontal, vertical, flat, or overhead welding.

You will also learn the difference between automated, semi-automated, and manual welding.

Welder Career Information

Welding is a specialized trade requiring refined technical knowledge and skill.

This is a vital trade for a variety of industries, which includes auto and electronics manufacturing, repair and maintenance of wind turbines and pipelines, construction of buildings and bridges, etc.

While it might be not well-known, welding is involved in almost every item of service we rely on in our everyday lives.

It is a key craft for everything from maintaining roads and constructing ships to building computers.

Therefore, welding can be a versatile career choice.

This is a broad field that relates to a wide range of trades, such as HVAC, construction, and plumbing.

Overview

Generally, welding is a process of permanently joining metal pieces by applying heat.

In this process, metal melts under the torch that produces high heat levels.

To bond the parts, various types of metal fillers are usually used.

This technology is used in a range of applications from delicate electronics production to heavy industrial manufacturing and even artistic metal sculpting.

Welding includes more than 100 processes, which require different tools, materials, and techniques.

Besides, each of these processes is used in various environments and should be studied individually.

The following are the most common types of welding:

Gas Metal Arc (GMAW)

This is a common process known as Metal Inert Gas or MIG welding.

It is done by automatically feeding a consumable metal electrode and shielding gas through the torch nozzle.

The electrode in this process is also the filler.

When the torch operates, an arc is created by a direct current, which melts the electrode, fills the joint, and joins the metal pieces.

GMAW is typically used for jobs that require large amounts of welding.

It is a rather quick process and most commonly used in construction, auto repair, and high-production manufacturing.

Gas Tungsten Arc (GTAW)

This is another common process in welding known as TIG.

Unlike GMAW, GTAW requires more time and the use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode, and the filler should be applied manually.

This process is considered to be difficult, but it can be applied to make exceptionally precise and strong welds.

This process required lower heat, so it’s suitable for thin and delicate materials.

Because of this, it is usually used in military, aerospace, nuclear, aviation, and other highly technological industries.

Shielded Metal Arc (SMAW)

Shielded metal arc welding is also known as stick welding.

This is another common process of welding.

In it, welders use a flux-coated consumable electrode, which is applied manually to make welds.

This process is considered easier to carry out than many others and is also inexpensive.

On the other hand, it is known as the “less-clean” method since it exhausts a lot of smoke, “slag” (burnt flux), and metal splatters.

This process is usually used for repair and construction as well as one-off welding jobs.

Flux-cored Arc (FAW/FCAW)

This process is the subset of GMAW and uses the same equipment but different type of electrodes.

The primary distinction of the FAW method is that the flux is in the center of the electrode instead of the shielded gas source.

This makes this welding method suitable for less-than-ideal environments such as construction sites or ships, where the weather can interfere in the process or surfaces may not be easily pre-cleaned.

Submerged Arc (SAW)

This method is usually performed in automated scenarios.

The electrical arc should be entirely covered by a layer of granular flux.

It protects from sparks, splatter, fumes, etc.

With the SAW method, welders can’t actually view the weld, that’s why it is more suitable for automated cases.

It is also suitable for welding of very thick metal pieces and requires minimal skills.

Plasma Arc (PAW)

The PAW method is similar to GTAW.

The difference is that to generate a precise plasma arc to create a concentrated source of heat, plasma gas is added to shielding gas and the tungsten electrode.

This method is considered more efficient than GTAW, as it provides increased control and is usually used for deep welds.

Similar to GTAW, it is often used in highly specialized fields like electronics or aircraft manufacturing.

Soldering and Brazing

These techniques are not all the way welding, but they also use filler and heat for joining pieces of metal.

The difference between brazing and soldering lays in temperature.

The temperature used for soldering is lower than for brazing.

Besides, the difference between these two methods and welding itself is that soldering and brazing don’t melt the base metal pieces.

The filler holds them together.

Soldering and brazing are used in a wide range of areas from plumbing to jewelry to electronics.

They are often picked because they don’t have the potential to damage the base metal.

Job Description

A welder can perform a wide array of tasks using various technologies and tools to complete projects of different types.

They may include:

  • Cutting and trimming metal materials using saws, shears, torches, and other tools.
  • Inspecting and maintaining tools and equipment.
  • Calculating dimensions and measuring materials to be welded.
  • Operating automated systems.
  • Reading and interpreting blueprints, sketches, and other specifications.
  • Creating invoices and reports charting materials used, time for labor, and more.
  • Explaining designs to clients and working with clients to devise plans.
  • Repairing existing holes and cracks in preparation for welding.
  • Choosing the type of weld and calculating the number of materials needed.
  • Performing quality control (including weld and structural inspections).
  • Selecting and preparing appropriate equipment for metals and metal thickness.
  • Completing a daily log and accident report (when necessary).
  • Turning on and monitoring gas flow to ensure the proper level of flame.
  • Coordinating with other trades professionals to complete projects.

With the diversity of the profession and the fact that welding overlaps with many trades, welders may have additional tasks, such as operating specialized automated machinery or surveying underwater projects.

Typical Job Titles

Not all welders are known as “a welder”.

There are some other job titles that can define the position:

  • Assembler.
  • Robotics technician.
  • Welder-fitter.
  • Steamfitter.
  • Boilermaker.
  • Machine operator.
  • Materials engineer.
  • Fabricator.
  • Structural ironworker.
  • Sheet metal worker.
  • Metallurgist.
  • Pipefitter.

How to Get Started in the Field

Additionally to programs offered at trade and technical schools, colleges, and even universities, there are other routes you can take to follow this career.

Formal education isn’t always required.

However, without one, you may have limited job opportunities since welding certification (or some other related education) is typically a job requirement.

If you are still in high school and decided to pursue this career, you can start taking shop-type classes, such as metal fabrication, welding, and any other courses related to the field.

You should also pay considerable attention to science and math.

These courses may not be sufficient for an entry-level position, but with them, you can better explore the practice and gain a clearer understanding of what is involved in the trade.

Certificate, diploma, and associate degree programs in welding and related fields are offered at many technical and vocational schools, and career colleges.

Besides, bachelor’s and graduate degree programs in metallurgic engineering and other disciplines that require a high level of knowledge and technical skills are offered by some universities.

Those who want to work in a hands-on position can take a general program that teaches welding technology necessary to earn a certification in fundamental processes.

If you are pursuing a specialized career, such as underwater welding, you can enroll in a program aimed at the unique field of your choosing.

Another great option is taking general welding training and supplementary courses.

On the other hand, you can join a local union to start an apprenticeship program.

In apprenticeship, you can both learn and earn at the same time.

Apprenticeship programs combine classroom education with hands-on training and are designed to prepare candidates for welding certification.

Despite the education path you choose, getting a job comes down to certification preparation.

Many employers require formal education, additionally to certification.

However, most employers pay attention to the credentials earned through weld testing and the qualification tests, which are a part of a hands-on interview.

Choosing a Program

To choose the right program that meets your needs, you should start with defining your area of interest in the trade.

You can ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your goals:

  • Which industries that employ welders are most in-demand where I live?
  • Are there certain specialty areas that I want to focus on (e.g., pipe welding, structural welding, etc.)?
  • Do I want a career that will allow me to travel abroad?
  • Is there a specific sector that I’m driven toward (e.g., transportation, energy, etc.)?
  • How much time am I willing and able to commit to training?

Additionally, you want to research prospective programs and schools to find out:

  • What credentials you will graduate with.
  • Whether the school offers an American Welding Society (AWS) certification.
  • What specific welding classes are included in the curriculum.
  • How much the program costs.
  • What the school’s job placement rates are.
  • How long the program will take to complete.
  • Whether or not the school/program is accredited by a recognized body such as the American Welding Society’s Schools Excelling Through National Skill Standards Education (SENSE).

Length of School

Education requirements are unique for different jobs.

So, based on your career goals, you can spend several weeks to several years obtaining your education.

Certification

While certification isn’t always required to get a job, it may be essential to work in some geographic locations.

Many employers require certification through such organizations as AWS.

However, they usually also perform their qualification testing.

Additionally, depending on a school and its program, certification preparation or on-site testing may be included.

Certifications can include both specialized and general welding process that may involve various materials and positions.

Additionally, to meeting the requirements of employers, certification is useful for:

  • Employers to easily verify your credentials.
  • Demonstrating a consistent and current level of skill and competence.
  • Enhanced recognition and respect in the field.
  • Showing that you possess a solid understanding of proper codes and techniques.
  • Ensuring that you have up-to-date safety knowledge.
  • Helping you earn a better wage.

Types of Certification

You can earn certification through a variety of organizations recognized by the industry, but the AWS is the most prominent one that certifies welding professionals.

You can earn one or more of the AWS qualifications:

  • Certified Welder.
  • Certified Welding Engineer.
  • Certified Welding Supervisor.
  • Certified Robotic Arc Welder.
  • Certified Welding Inspector.
  • Certified Welding Fabricator.

To earn certification through AWS, you may have to meet various requirements, which can include:

  • Passing a vision test.
  • Obtaining membership in the AWS.
  • Successfully passing one or more AWS-administered examinations.
  • Performing on-site weld tests (including the fit-up, assembly, and positioning of a weld).
  • Providing proof of work and education experience.

Besides AWS credentials, you can obtain specialized certifications through other organizations, such as:

  • American Petroleum Institute (API).
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
  • American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

What Welder Training Can Teach You

Every school has a different curriculum, but generally, the programs may cover:

  • Metallurgy (the science of metals).
  • Protective equipment use and maintenance.
  • Manual welding processes.
  • General safety guidelines and protocols.
  • Welding symbol interpretation.
  • Material selection and use.
  • Gas and thermal cutting techniques.
  • Shop mathematics.
  • Blueprint reading and drawing.
  • Material handling and lifting.
  • Equipment set up and maintenance.
  • Flammable and combustible liquid and compressed gas handling.
  • Automated technologies and programming.
  • Weld inspection methods and quality control procedures.

Salary

The Occupational Employment Statistics program estimates that:

  • The top 10 percent of earners were paid $63,740 or more.
  • The average wage for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in May 2018 was $44,360 annually.

Professionals that perform highly specialized welding (e.g., underwater) can expect even higher salaries.

Besides, this data doesn’t include the difference between professionals with certifications and without, which is essential since the certification can increase the earning potential.

Locations that offer the highest pay include Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Alaska, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Job Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48,800 new jobs per year on average will become available between 2018 and 2028.

The positive career outlook for welders is driven by several factors:

  • The increasing need for new types of energy resources and infrastructure.
  • An aging infrastructure that needs rebuilding and repair.
  • An existing workforce that contains a high number of individuals nearing retirement.
  • Advances in manufacturing technologies such as automated welding systems.

Besides, the job outlook is most positive for those who are willing to relocate to areas with the highest demand.

Areas with strong transportation, manufacturing, and energy sectors offer the best job opportunities.

Since welding skills are beneficial for a variety of areas, demand will increase in a wide range of industries.

That means that if the hiring rates decrease in one field, you can find work in another one.

For example, you could easily switch from shipbuilding to construction.

Workplace

Welders can work in a wide range of industries, including:

  • Automotive.
  • Shipbuilding.
  • Bridge-building.
  • Aviation and aerospace.
  • Oil and gas production.
  • Defense.
  • Building construction.
  • Mining.
  • HVAC.
  • Wind, solar, and nuclear energy.
  • Electronics.
  • Manufacturing.
  • Computer engineering and robotics.
  • Road construction.

Benefits of the Jobs

Shortage of skilled workers:

Due to various factors, the industry is facing a shortage of qualified workers.

It means that there may be more opportunities available for skilled professionals.

Wide range of specialties:

With welding being used in various industries, professionals can pursue different specializations, such as fabrication, underwater welding, or high-tech manufacturing.

Innovative technologies:

The technology advances rapidly, so professionals can access various virtual tools, automated systems, etc.

Earning potential:

With high demand and other factors, the earning potential is quite impressive, especially considering that welders don’t need a bachelor’s degree.

However, the degree can increase the earnings even further.

Green collar appeal:

Welders are essential to various avenues of the energy field, which is focusing on renewable energy sources development.

“Green” careers are offered in such sectors of clean energy like solar, wind, etc.

Challenge and excitement:

Many people start working in the field for adrenaline.

Many workers find the job exciting and challenging with the intricacies of the job, unique job settings, etc.

Opportunity for travel:

With the demand for specialized welding services, welders can benefit from opportunities that span the globe.

Welders who wish to travel can take jobs abroad to work in oil rigs in exotic destinations or coastal ports.


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