Welding dates back thousands of years to the Bronze Age, though it really became refined with the advent of blacksmithing in the middle ages. Welding is used to heat and join metal together, making metal constructions possible in the first place. Welding practices and tools have greatly evolved over the ages as technology has advanced and projects have changed. Despite this evolution, however, welders still play an intricate part in modern infrastructure and other processes.
Welders are a skilled class of worker associated with cutters, solderers, and brazers. They primarily use welding tools to heat metal to bind them together, fill holes, and shape metal. Due to the hot nature of the tools, welding can be dangerous work and requires highly trained workers to properly do it.
Despite the importance of welding in our modern society’s construction and functioning, welders aren’t paid that much in reality, though their pay is decent compared to other physical workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average welder salary as of May 2017 is $40,240 per year.
The welding profession is almost entirely male-dominated, as are most related positions. According to statistics gathered by payscale.com, men make up roughly 97% of the welding industry.
What Welders Do
What welders are primarily known for is using specialized welding tools to heat metal until it’s malleable. This allows them to bind two pieces of metal together. They also fill holes, create seams, and straighten out indentations in metal. In addition to this, they also frequently perform the duties of cutters, solderers, and brazers. They can perform their work both manually and through using remotely controlled tools.
The work that welders do is largely used in construction, as they bind metal beams and other pieces together to create the bones of buildings, bridges, pipes, and more. The metal pieces they weld together are also used in cars and other heavy metal machinery. The work that welders do is everywhere we look, just covered up in a fancy package.
Lower-level welders will often stick to the more remedial tasks of binding large pieces of metal together in the same way multiple times, doing repetitive and less complex work.
Highly trained welders perform work with a much higher complexity level. They are responsible for reading and interpreting blueprints, determining from them how best to complete a project, and directing their team. They also often design projects themselves. Additionally, welders in position of greater dexterity perform welding projects that are on a physically smaller scale and therefore require more technical work.
Welders may work both in and outdoors. Indoor work usually takes place in a confined and controlled area to ensure that there aren’t any dangerous materials or distractions going on around the work. When working outside, welders sometimes must deal with inclement weather. They may not even perform their work on the ground—sometimes they are required to go up high on a scaffold into a construction project and do their welding there.
Due to its status as a job that requires physical labor, welding sometimes gets a bad rep as a profession to be avoided. Those that work as welders and are passionate about their work strongly fight against this. Welding is that rare career path that engages both body and mind, the position requiring the evaluating of blueprints and design alongside the satisfaction of working with their hands. The work that welders do also have real, tangible results. Welders are proud of their craft and love seeing their work in finished projects.
How to Become a Welder
Take Advantage of Welding Courses in High School
To first become a welder, you do not need a bachelor’s degree. Instead, as you obtain your high school diploma, you should make sure to take plenty of math and science classes. If your high school offers them, you should also take shop and welding classes to acquaint yourself with welding equipment and techniques. Some high schools also offer career and technical training, which is perfect if you’re considering starting a welding career.
Further Your Training Through Specialized Schools
If you’ve already completed high school and didn’t get that welding training in beforehand, don’t worry. There are a variety of ways that you can get training and certification. The military provides training programs, for one, and you can also go to a variety vocation, training, and technical schools in addition to community college.
Even if you did receive some training in high school, you should still further your education past it before actively pursuing a welding career. Some companies may provide training on the job, but most will want prior experience.
Get Some Experience!
Once you have some training under your belt, go out and apply it! Look for jobs in construction and infrastructure, or in machine manufacturing. Real-world job experience is the best form of education.
Advancing Your Career
You should consider getting a formal certification, which will increase your value as a welder. Some companies provide internal certifications, but you can also receive certification from the American Welding Society's Certified Welder Program.
In terms of career advancement, obtaining your bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field can allow you to apply your skills as a welding engineer, obtaining a leadership position and greatly increasing your welder salary.
The job outlook for welders is growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an estimated 6 percent increase for welder positions between the years of 2016 to 2026. This is roughly on par with the national average of the overall job market, which is expected to grow 7 percent.
So, if you’re interested in becoming a welder, now’s a decent time to do it. With the improving economy and aging infrastructure, more construction projects are being undertaken, therefore requiring more welders. Of course, to improve your shot of landing a job, try to get as much formal training and real-world experience under your belt before you start officially job hunting.
Welder Salary Range
While the average welder salary is $40,240, most welders receive a salary that falls within the range of $27,354 to $64,394. These calculations are based on a 40-hour work week. It is not uncommon for welders to work overtime and receive bonuses for contracted work.
By far the greatest factor in salary level is years of experience. Those with little to no experience starting out can’t be expected to make much, but with a few years under their belts, their pay will dramatically increase. Alongside this are the welder’s education and certification level. Those with higher education degrees and professional certifications will be worth a higher value to a company. With a bachelor’s degree, a welder may become qualified to work as a welding engineer, further boosting them to the top of the pay range.
Highest Welder Employment Levels by State
For welders and other construction workers in particular, where they’re located greatly determines whether or not they’ll find work. If you’re a welder or a prospective one, you’ll want to be in an area that has a lot of construction projects not just currently, but continuously on-going to ensure future employment. Some of the best areas to work in, therefore, will be states that have decent-sized metropolitan areas and are the most in need of new infrastructure.
Below, we’ve listed the five states with the highest number of employed welders, as presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from data finalized in May 2017.
Highest Welder Salaries by State
Of course, just because a state might employ the most welders, that doesn’t mean they pay them the most. In fact, you’ll find that the below list of the top five highest paying states for mean welder salaries doesn’t overlap with the above list at all. So, when looking for employment, weigh your location options carefully.
Highest Welder Salaries by Metropolitan Area
Now that we’ve looked at the top-paying states, let’s look at the top-paying metropolitan areas. We’ll see a little bit of overlap here, but some of the placements on this list might surprise you.
Final Thoughts on Welders
If you’re looking into becoming a welder, now’s a decent time to do it. With a steady uptrend in the job market on par with the rest of the nation, jobs shouldn’t be as scarce as a few years ago. Welding is a great profession for those who enjoy working with both their hands and mind, and welders take pride in their work as they see it become a part of something greater. The welder salary is pretty decent compared to some other construction jobs, and if you obtain higher degrees of education you can really make the most of it.