Master Welder: Salary and Career Facts

Want to know what it takes to be a master welder? We've researched the education requirements, career facts, potential salaries and job growth stats to help you decide if this is the right career path for you.

Career Information At a Glance

Welders are skilled tradespeople who use electrical currents to shape, cut and join metal components, often using a blueprint or predetermined design. They use their knowledge of chemistry, physics and shop mechanics to fit, solder and braze metals, either to make repairs to existing structures or to manufacture new ones. 'Master welder' is not a specific title, but it generally refers to a welder who has advanced knowledge of the trade and years of experience.

The quick-reference table below provides an overview of the skills, certifications and salaries for master welders.

Education Required High school diploma at minimum; some employers prefer those with some technical training
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Physics, chemistry, shop mechanics
Certification Certified Welder (CW) may be required through the American Welding Society (AWS)
Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% (for all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers)*
Median Salary (2018) $41,380 (for all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What's the Difference Between a Master Welder and a Welder?

There are no specific programs or certifications for becoming a master welder. Rather, the term typically refers to a welder with advanced knowledge of the trade and years of experience. However, Certified Welder (CW) designations are offered through the American Welding Society (AWS) and the AWS outlines the prerequisites for both entry-level and advanced welders. Advanced welders perform more complex tasks and possess a higher level of theoretical knowledge.

Do I Need 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?

While not required to work as a welder, certifications, such as the Certified Welder credential, may be preferred - or even required - by employers. 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 $19.89 per hour in 2018. The lowest 10% in the industry brought home $28,560 or less, while the top 10% earned $63,740 or more. Among master welders, specialty trade contractors earned the most and those in the manufacturing industry earned the least.

What Is the Job Market Like for Welders?

The BLS predicts the employment for welders to experience a small bump, increasing by 3% between 2018 and 2028. This is slower than the national average rate for all occupations. The nation's sagging infrastructure will require skilled welders who can repair and rebuild bridges, buildings and highways.