Becoming A Welder

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A welder joins things together with metals. There are a variety of processes welders use to complete their jobs. There are also quite a few different career options that welders can get into that can touch land, sea, sky, and everything in between. Welders keep our nation’s structures, both old and new, standing proud and tall. Welders are needed in a variety of different industries; qualified welders can go from one field of work to another. If welding is a career option you’re considering, read on to find out why welding is a good career choice.

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What is a Welder?

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” - Charles Dickens

Depending on what industry you’ll work in will determine your scope of work. However, one thing welding has in common across all industries is that heat is used to fuse metal parts together. Tools, processes, and types of metals will vary as there are more than 100 actual processes welders use, with the most common type being arc welding. Welders need to have an in-depth understanding of blueprint readings and specifications so that they can accurately determine what is involved in their project.

Focus and determination are key elements necessary to being a successful welder. They need to be extremely detail-oriented to assess the necessary repairs accurately, and to catch the change in the flow of the liquid metal being used to join parts. They should have higher than average manual dexterity and physical stamina, as well as physical strength. Think about it, as a welder you are sometimes stuck in one position, holding heavy equipment, for extended periods of time. You need to be able to sustain that without fail, or the project may flop.

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An Extreme Shortage of Certified Welders

Students are graduating from four-year colleges and having a hard time finding jobs. In the welding industry, there is a massive shortage of qualified welders. Since 1988, the number of working welders has decreased by half, and that number is shrinking rapidly. The main reason for this shortage of welders is that the sum of those retiring is not equal to those entering the workforce. Welding is being underrepresented and yet welders are necessary to our nation’s infrastructure.

By 2020, the shortage of skilled welders is estimated to be 300,000. Based on the supply and demand, welders wages will go up because of how badly they will be needed. The job market will become so competitive that it will force employers to up wages just to bring a skilled welder on board. So, it appears that now is the perfect time to consider welding as a career.

Read about: highest paying trade school careers

Facts About Welding School

To become a professional welder, you must first either graduate high school or obtain your GED. After that, the requirements may vary by employer. Some will offer apprenticeships and training programs. However, most employers suggest, at the very minimum, a trade school diploma in welding. If you’re still in high school and considering going into the trade of welding, it is strongly suggested that you take all the shop classes your high school offers, along with loading up in math and science classes. And, consider finding a job opportunity at an auto body shop or anywhere you can learn about welding through a professional.

Trade or vocational schools offer diplomas in welding and community colleges offer associate’s degrees in welding technology. Through both types of courses, you will take physics, chemistry, blueprint reading, metallurgy, mechanical drawing, and shop math. You’ll also learn the essential art of heating and shape various metals, which welding is based upon. There will also be plenty of hands-on opportunities which will not only teach but give you the necessary exposure to experience, as well.

Finding the Right Welding School

“Folks can make a lot more by learning a trade than they might with with an art history degree.” -President Barack Obama

Choosing a welding school doesn’t have to be an impossible chore. One way to help make your decision easier is to go to a local company that employs welders and find out where they went. Maybe ask them some questions about their school experience, while you’re there. If doing that is out of your comfort zone, that’s ok. There are other steps you can take such as visiting the American Welding Society’s website to see what schools they recommend in your area or wherever you are choosing to go to school.

Other things to check out when school searching is whether they are accredited, what their graduation rate is, and what their job placement program is like, assuming they have one.

You may also want to consider setting up a time to do a classroom visit, to see what you’re getting into! While you’re snooping around, notice the machinery. Is there enough for each student? Are they in decent condition? Ask the students; they’ll tell you what their experience is. Keep in mind; some people don’t like going to school, no matter what program they are in, so they might have a negative attitude toward it. Therefore, asking a few different students their opinions will give a better idea.

Three of the largest welding schools are Tulsa Welding School, Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, and Lincoln Welding Training.

 

How Much Does Welding School Cost?

There are a couple of different ways to obtain your welding education. Formal and informal apprenticeships are decent options. And, there is the trade school or community college option, as well.

Apprenticeships can be free or have a nominal cost, roughly $1,300 and will last 3-5 years before you’re ready to go on your own. A four-year bachelor’s degree in welding technology will cost between $40,000-$100,000.

The two more traditional ways to become a welder are through either a diploma or associate’s degree programs. One of the main differences between the two programs is that an associate’s degree will include general education courses with the credits needed for graduation varying depending on the school. Diploma or certificate programs focus on welding, period. However, with an associate’s degree, you have the option of continuing to receive a bachelor’s degree in welding technology.  

 

Diploma/Certificate

Associate’s Degree

Costs

$3,500-$20,000

$6,000-$55,000

Additional Costs

School supplies, housing (if needed): up to $10,000

School supplies, housing (if needed): up to $10,000

Length of Ed.

3 months - 2 years depending on program

2 years going full time

Credit Hours

18-40 credit hours

60-80 credit hours

Of course, educational costs and their supplemental costs depend on which school and where it’s located. It is possible to receive scholarships and financial aid to offset the cost of the welding education, so it’s important to discuss options with the financial department of the school. Find out more about financial aid. The American Welding Society offers quite a few scholarship opportunities, and you can learn more about them on their website.

Becoming Certified As A Welder

Not all states require welders to be certified. However, to be more employable, certification is highly recommended. Certification verifies to potential employers and customers that the welder has the skills to complete the necessary tasks. It provides a level of reassurance to employers that their work reputation isn’t at stake. Certification also means a larger paycheck and better job advancements for you, the certified welder.

There are quite a few different certifications available to welders and, depending on what kind of welding work the welder is looking to do will determine which certification is needed. They cost between $275-$1,100 depending on which certification is being pursued.  

American Welding Society: The AWS offers nine different areas of certifications. You can get certified as a welder, a welding instructor, or in certified robotic arc welding. Becoming a member of the AWS will lower the prices of the certification exams.

The CWI is iconic at a national and international level. The career of Certified Welding Inspector is rewarding and ensures the highest level of quality artistry. To qualify as a certified welding inspector you must pass a vision test and have a combination of qualifying education and work experience. Certified Welding Inspector is one of the busiest and most diverse careers in welding. A CWI is expected to handle qualification records, oversee nondestructive testing and make sure proper materials are available during tests. They must also inspect the pre-welding environment, monitor the welding process and inspect welds.

Minimum Education

Minimum Work Experience

Associate or higher degree in engineering technology, engineering, or a physical science

3 years

High school diploma plus two or more years engineering / technical school courses

3 years

High school diploma plus one year engineering / technical school courses or more of more years of vocational education

4 years



High school diploma or approved high school equivalency diploma

5 years

At least 8th grade

9 years

Less than 8th grade

12 years

Senior Certified Welding Inspectors are similar to Certified Welding Inspectors but they are at a more advanced level. They have a better understanding of advanced NDE topics, quality systems, and procedure qualifications. Applicants must have a minimum of 15 years work experience with direct relationship to welding or with direct involvement in two or more areas of welding inspection.

Experience Requirements

Design - Have the tasks in creating and preparing documents for welding and following the criteria

Production - Planning, control and supervision of welding materials, procedures and operations

Construction - Create tasks of welding manufacturing or process

Quality Control - Supervision of measurement of weld process and review of programs and vendors

Quality Assurance - Review programs and vendors and conduct audits of vendors

Examination - Testing of welding process and the visual process or evaluation

Repair - Repair defective welds

Welding Educators understand the welding process, instruction plans and evaluate students who are taking a welding process class. They understand the basic requirements of becoming a certified welder and the welder qualifications. They can read drawings and examinations, prepare records and develop reports.


Qualifications

Complete the Certified Welding Process Application

Teach full or part time in a classroom

Have a valid welder certification

Written recommendation from a teaching supervisor

Certified Radiographic Interpreters assess welding related indications and procedures on radiographic film and related media. The program will help you learn proper film exposure, image quality and follow the AWS, API, and ASME codes.  Certified Radiographic Interpreter learns properties of x and gamma radiation, photographic assets, radiation safety principles, calculations, application to welds, welding technology and effects of equipment from radiographs.

Qualifications

Must pass an eye examination

Valid high school diploma or GED

A minimum of 40 hours of training in radiographic

At least 1 year of experience as a company certified individual in radiographic interpretation or performance.

Certified Welding Supervisors can save up to $17,000 per welder per year. They increase quality and production, reduce welding costs and maximize profits and increase safety. Certified Welding Supervisors overlook welders work and the process to increase productivity and improve quality welding throughout a business.

Certified Welding Sales Representative must understand what new technologies that can improve the quality of the welding process. They must be knowledgeable of the welding process and its dynamics. They help with technical support and guidance to those that need an appropriate application of welding technology products. They must know about the five arc welding process, brazing and soldering, cutting, welding terminology, ventilation and electrical requirements for power sources.

Qualifications

HIgh school diploma or GED

At least 5 years of experience in welding equipment, sales or supplies

At least 2 years experience along with a training certification for welding processes

Certified Welding Engineers are familiar with written instructions and codes of the welded joints process and production. They also are familiar with specifications, standards and other rules of the assembly process of welding. Their job begins before production of welding and continues through the production process.

Certified Robotic Arc Welding is an essential in today's manufacturing plants. Robot Arc Welding is the production of high-quality welds in a shorter cycle time.  Robotic welding has been recognized as the most widespread industrial application  robotics worldwide. High temperature, high current, molten metal, spatter, and other factors involved in arc welding can interact with the sensors. Robotic Arc Welding can be a difficult job but the  overall program can be highly rewarding

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers: For welders who work with boilers and pressures, this certification ensures they know the codes and are qualified to work in this industry. A membership to the ASME hosts a plethora of benefits.

Looks at the overall design, fabrication, assembly and inspection of a boiler and pressure vessel during construction.

The Nuclear Material Organization helps provide materials and services to the nuclear power industry.

Nuclear Component type helps ensure persons or organizations performing quality assurance functions of identify quality problems, recommend or provide solutions through departmental channels, assure future processing, delivery, installation and satisfaction of conditions. They must also make sure that ensure design specifications are available for all components, are adequate and available to the ANI before fabrication begins.

Nuclear Quality Assurance helps organizations supply items or services that provide safety for a nuclear facility.

 

Is the leading standard on how to design and build equipment for the production of biopharmaceuticals and personal care products industry. This process helps with high levels of hygienic requirements.It incorporates current best - practices for enhancing a product's safety.

Applies to stationary vessels used for storage, accumulation, or processing of corrosive or other substances. Pressures should not exceed 15 psi internal or external above any hydrostatic head.

American Petroleum Institute: Part of the gas and oil industry since 1989, the API certification program oversees the welding codes for pipelines and a certification through them ensures the industry of the welder’s proficiency. Reduce the fees of the certification exams by becoming a member of API.

Pressure Vessel Inspector helps improve management control of process unit operation, repair, and maintenance. It helps reduce the inspection of delays and provides a continued high level of safety through the experienced inspectors.

Education

Years of Experience

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

No formal education

5 or more years

The piping instructor helps provide a continued high level of safety, improve management control and reduce production delays.

Education

Years of Experience

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

No formal education

5 or more years

Above storage tanks Inspector inspect the safety and quality of tanks. They also repair damaged tanks and help assist state and local government regulations.

Education

Years of Experience

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

No formal education

5 or more years

Tank entry supervisors must have knowledge of aboveground petroleum tanks and construction. They must have knowledge of ventilation, tank decommissions isolation, work permitting, emergency response and tank recommissioning.

Education

Years of Experience

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

High school diploma or equivalent

4 years

Pipeline inspectors should be knowledgeable about general onshore pipeline construction inspection, inspector responsibilities, personnel and general pipeline safety and environmental and pollution control.

Pipeline Inspection

Years of Experience

Plus Education

3 years

Any or no education

2 years

BS or 2 year degree in technical, engineering or technology discipline OR 2 years of military service in a technical role

 

General Oil & Gas Inspection

Years of Experience

Plus Education

3 years

BS or 2 year degree in technical, engineering or technology discipline OR 2 years of military service in technical role

4 years

High School, GED or no education

 

Non-Inspection Pipeline Experience

Years of experience

Plus Education

4 years

BS or 2 year degree in technical, engineering or technology discipline OR 2 years of military service in technical role

5 years

High School, GED or no education


General Oil & Gas Industry

Years of Experience

Plus Certification

4 years. At least 1 year of Pipeline experience

AWS
NACE
API
ASNT

6 years

AWS, CWB
NACE

API
ASNT


Other Heavy Industry Experience

Years of Experience

Plus Education

Plus Certification

5 years

BS or 2 year degree in a technical, engineering or technology discipline

N/A

8 years

Any or no education

AWS, CWB
NACE

API
ASNT

Corrosion and materials certification are highly specialized inspectors, corrosion engineers, chemical engineers and other professionals across the petrochemical industry.

Education

Years of Experience

Experience Required

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

No formal education

5 years

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

Welding Inspection and Metallurgy certification are highly specialized inspectors, welding engineers, metallurgist and other professionals across the petrochemical industry

Education

Years of Experience

Experience Required

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

No formal education

5 years

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

Risk-based Inspection is quickly becoming one of the industry’s most premier instruments and preferred methods of control. Engineers and other professionals across the petrochemical industry have a higher understanding of this field.

Education

Years of Experience

Experience Required

BS or higher in engineering or technology

1 year

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

2 year degree or certificate in engineering or technology

2 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

High school diploma or equivalent

3 years

Any experience in petrochemical industry

No formal education

5 or more years

Any experience in the petrochemical industry

Refractory personnel is open to applications with any experience in petroleum and petrochemical industries. Must be knowledgeable in installation, inspection, testing and repair of refractory linings.

Source inspector fIxed equipment is open to applicants with any experience in the petroleum and petrochemical industries. The source inspector has been defined as the individual responsible for examining fabricated and manufactured equipment and materials and confirming the supplier's quality management system.

Source inspector electrical equipment will cover inspection of electrical material from junction boxes, control panels, electrical systems, transformers, switchgear, motor control centers and electric motors.


Electrical Inspector

Years of Experience Post-Graduation

Education

5

High School / GED

2

Min 2 years technical degree in electrical discipline

1 ½

BS - Any other engineering

½

BS - Electrical Engineering (4 years)

 

Non-Inspection Electrical Experience

Years of Experience Post-Graduation

Education

7

High School /GED

3

Min 2 years technical degree in electrical discipline

1 ½

BS - Any other engineering

½

BS - Electrical Engineering (4 years)

General Inspector With Some Electrical Experience

Years of Experience Post-Graduation

Education

8 years of experience and two must be in Electrical

High School / GED

5 years of experience and one must be in Electrical

2 year Technical Degree

4 years of experience and one must be in Electrical

2 year Electrical Technical Degree

3 year of experience and one must be in Electrical

BS - Any other Engineering

Source Inspector Rotating Equipment is the second certification in the source inspector suite. This certification, developed within the industry experts, focuses include pumps, gears, compressors and turbines.

Employment Outlook and Salary

Welding will experience a slow employment growth of 5 percent through 2026. Sure, this is slower than most other occupations but do not be discouraged if you’re thinking about going into welding because there is still a high need for welders as our nation’s infrastructure ages. Most welding jobs are found in the manufacturing sector with a concentration in transportation equipment, fabricated metal products, agricultural, mining, and farming machinery, and architectural and structural metals manufacturing. Welders who aren’t up to date in their training will find it hard to find a job because of how competitive the job market will be.

Welders earn a median annual wage of $39,390. The lowest 10 percent made $26,800 while the top 10 percent brought in more than $62,100 annually. Pay is determined by various measures such as skill, which industry the welder is in, and the size of the company.

Top Paying States For Welders

STATE

SALARY

Alaska

$70,940

District of Columbia

$59,560

Hawaii

$58,179

Wyoming

$57,380

North Dakota

$52,210

 

Top Paying Industries For Welders

INDUSTRY

SALARY

Electric Power Generation

$73,970

Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

$72,000

Natural Gas Distribution

$71,620

Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil

$64,660

Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Mills

$62,120

 

Top 5 High Paying Career Options For Welders

Job Title

Salary

Military Support Welder

$160K minimum

Industrial Pipe Welder

$50K-$100K depending on location/company

Underwater Welder

$55K-$200K depending on location/company

HiTech Welder

$47,000 depending on location/company

Sheet Metal Welder

$45,070 depending on location/company

Steel and Iron Worker

$37,420 depending on location/company

Now, more than ever, our country needs qualified welders. It’s a fantastic career choice, filled with a variety of different career options and salaries. Whether you’re looking to change your career or you’re just starting out, welding could be the perfect fit for you.

Read more:  Golden From The Shoulder To The Holder: Become A Welder



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