Master Welder: Salary and Career Facts

Master welders know how to fit, solder and braze metals. For more details about formal and on-the-job training, industry certifications, job outlook and salary, read on. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Do I Need a Formal Education to be a Master Welder?

Some employers will hire and train you on the job if you have no formal education or experience, but most employers prefer that you have both. You can get trained in welding through community colleges, vocational schools, the military or private welding schools. Opportunities are available to earn vocational degrees, certificates or associate's degrees in the field. While certificates and vocational degrees focus mostly on welding techniques, associate's degrees may incorporate general education and business training as well.

Most of the skills taught in welding programs aim to use knowledge of metal composition and metal configuration to determine how much heat and which welding methods should be used. Welding programs might train you in mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, blueprint reading and shop mechanics. You could also learn about arc welding, plasma cutting, mig and tig welding, metal fabrication and oxyacetylene welding. Associate's degree programs may include training in entrepreneurship, human resources management, business development, office administration and accounting. Because welding programs feature mostly hands-on instruction, you typically cannot complete these programs online.

Do I Need Certification?

Certified welder (CW) designations are offered through the American Welding Society (AWS). Courses leading to this certification can often be taken at welding schools, and the tests must be taken at a registered AWS testing facility. During the test, you must be able to fit-up, assemble, position and join metals. This test cannot be taken online, and if you fail, you can retest at any time.

The AWS certification exam tests general welding techniques. Some employers require certification in specific techniques, such as robotic welding. Employers may also require their own certifications and many administer these exams in-house. In addition to certification and welding knowledge, employers typically value manual dexterity, good eye-sight, and strong mathematical and interpersonal skills.

How Much Will I Get Paid?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median wage for welders was $16.71 per hour in 2009 (www.bls.gov). The lowest paid welders made $11.26 per hour, while the highest paid earned upwards of $25.20. The highest paying industries for welders are spectator sports, natural gas distribution, paper and paper mills, electric power generation and pipeline transportation of natural gas.

What is the Job Market Like for Welders?

The BLS predicts the employment rate for welders to experience little or no change, and if it does change, it may decline 2% between 2008 and 2018. Increased automation and advancements in productivity and efficiency will contribute to the reduced need for manual welding. For this reason, the BLS also predicts job prospects will be better for those trained in the newest welding technologies.

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