How to Become a Welder in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a welder. Learn about training requirements, certification, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Welder Do?

Welders use specialty equipment to heat and bond metals together. As a welder, you may work in industries such as construction and manufacturing. You'll use tools including torches and clamps during the welding process. You'll need to be able to read blueprints, calculate dimensions and examine pieces for defects.

The table below also tells you about employment statistics.

Training Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program; apprenticeship or on-the-job training acceptable for some positions
Education Field of Study Welding
Key Skills Manual dexterity, physical strength, attention to detail, troubleshooting
Certification Certification is generally optional, but may be required by some employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (for all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers)*
Median Salary (2015) $38,150 (for all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Welder?

A welder is a skilled worker who uses a precise application of heat to melt, mingle and join two pieces of metal. You might weld steel structural beams used in buildings and bridges, pipes used in refineries, and pipelines, panels and beams used in cars, or components used in machinery. Your duties in the welding process include positioning and securing metal parts with clamps, bolts or other restraints; igniting torches; applying a torch to welding area; monitoring welding process to prevent overheating or other mishaps; and examining welds for defects.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

The American Welding Society advises that you strive for a well-rounded education in high school (www.aws.org). Take shop, math and science courses, in addition to welding if your school offers it. High school welding courses acquaint you with standard oxy-acetylene welding technology and the use of assorted metal-shaping equipment.

Step 2: Undergo Training

Employers might be willing to train you on the job, but most prefer applicants who have some formal instruction. Training is available in the military and through certificate and associate's degree programs at community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and private academies.

Certificate programs may cover specific welding technologies, such as oxy-acetylene, gas tungsten or gas metal arc welding, or a broad set of technologies. Most associate's degree programs provide broad coverage of multiple technologies and topics such as blueprint reading, drafting, metallurgy and site safety. Many associate's degree programs include an internship.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

Building construction, infrastructure projects, machinery manufacturing, general purpose manufacturing and the automotive industry are some of the areas where you could apply your welding skills. In 2014, about 397,900 people worked as welders, cutters, solderers and brazers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Figures for welders alone weren't available. From 2014-2024, employment was projected to rise four percent to around 412,300. Productivity-enhancing technologies will constrain demand for your services. Demand is likely to be strongest in the manufacturing sector. The BLS reports that the median annual salary was $38,150 as of May 2015.

Step 4: Consider Certification

Many employers have internal certification programs, but for a performance-based credential with no educational prerequisites, the American Welding Society's Certified Welder (CW) is your main option. The CW exam tests your ability to perform welding procedures used with sheet metal, petroleum pipelines, structural steel and chemical refineries. To remain certified, you submit a maintenance form every six months that verifies your continued employment as a welder.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Through accumulated experience and further training, you can open up a wider set of career options. If you have managerial talent and can obtain financing, you could open your own shop. Earning a bachelor's degree will qualify you to become a welding engineer. Other possibilities include welding instructor, welding inspector or site supervisor.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Careers that typically require similar education and training to welders include those of assemblers and fabricators as well as machinists. Machinists operate machines to produce instruments, tools and metal parts. Assemblers and fabricators work for manufacturing businesses and are responsible for assembling and sometimes installing products.

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