Welding is one of the fastest growing professions that comes with hands-on work, high pay ceilings, and the satisfaction of making a real-world difference every day. Welders are in high demand; in fact, the projected yearly growth rate for welders is predicted to be 8% between 2020 and 2030, which is higher than average for all careers(bls.gov). So if you’re considering welding as a future career? Great choice!
There are three traditional ways to becoming a certified welder: welding trade schools, community college, and welding apprenticeships. Each path comes with pros and cons. At the end of the day, the training you choose depends on your personal and professional goals. This article is focused on two of the most commonly chosen training paths: trade school and apprenticeship.
The Length of Trade School vs Apprenticeship
The biggest difference between welding trade school and apprenticeship is the length of training. Welding apprenticeships last an average of 3-4 years and require a minimum of 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of hands-on training per year. Welding trade schools take between 7 months to 2 years to complete. Many welding training courses can be completed in as few as 10 months.
The Flexibility of Trade School vs Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are very similar to a full-time job and are a full-time commitment. As an apprentice, your mentor will be in charge of your schedule and you will be expected to put in up to 40 hours of work per week with minimal scheduling flexibility. The good news is most jobs start early in the morning and finish in the early afternoon. Most welding trade schools offer flexible hours and some even include night classes to accommodate students’ busy schedules. This flexibility allows students to keep their day jobs while pursuing welding training.
Cost or Pay of Trade School vs Apprenticeship
As an apprentice, you get paid to learn. The wages vary depending on location and the company, but the industry average starting pay is usually close to a state minimum wage. As your experience level grows, so does your pay; however, due to the lengthy nature of most apprenticeships, it’s a relatively slow climb.
Welding trade schools cost anywhere between $5,000 and $30,000 depending on each school and location. The good news is, there are various scholarships, grants, and loans available to help with tuition cost for nearly every program. Welding trade school graduates generally land high-paying jobs right after graduation, compared to apprentices who tend to slowly raise their wage as their training progresses.
Welding apprenticeships do not normally offer a degree upon completion, but you may be able to use your experience as credit towards a degree in welding technology. Through your apprenticeship you will earn a certification, but your certification will be limited only to the line of work you’ve covered during your apprenticeship.
Most apprenticeships will cover the basic skills you’ll need to learn as a future welder, but overall your training won’t be as well-rounded as those who graduate from an accredited welding trade school.
Similar to apprenticeship, welding trade schools generally offer certification upon graduation. The biggest difference is, as a welding trade school graduate, you will be licensed to work in a variety of fields and learn not only hands-on skills, but the science behind every process.
For those who earn a degree in welding technology from a trade school or technical college, job advancement may come more quickly at some companies. Especially for those who specialize in a certain type of welding like robotic welding.
Welding Mentors vs. Instructors
The quality of education heavily depends on the teacher, and as an apprentice, you will be at the mercy of your mentors and the skills they’re able to teach you. Being a master of your skill doesn’t always translate to being a good teacher, but if you’re a quick visual learner, this might not play as a negative contributing factor during your training.
On the other hand, welding trade school instructors have years of industry experience, as well as extensive experience in teaching the skills you need to succeed in your future career. The instructors are also always available to assist with each project, making learning more convenient, thorough, and guided.
Apprentices are generally expected to acquire their own tools and supplies in order to train for the job. This step may seem costly, but there’s a big market for used equipment and your mentor will most likely have multiple cost-effective suggestions once you land your apprenticeship.
Most accredited trade schools provide all of the necessary tools and equipment for each project. This allows students to learn about different types of tools needed for each job and slowly build their own equipment base.
The Choice Is Yours
Regardless of the training path you decide to pursue, you will have great job prospects after graduation. Both apprenticeship and welding training schools offer a wide variety of career prospects and generally offer assistance with future employment.
Each path comes with its own pros and cons and has a lot to offer depending on each your goals, resources, and ambitions.
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