The demand for welders continues to grow, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting the number of welding jobs will increase by more than 13,000 jobs by 2029. With a median pay of more than $20 an hour, welding can provide a good income that doesn’t necessarily require an investment in a college education.
Becoming a welder is a relatively quick process when compared with earning a four-year degree. In as little as three months, you can build the skills you need to embark on a successful welding career.
The qualifications to begin a welding education program are simple. Students must be at least 17 years old; no higher education, high school diploma or its equivalent is required.
However, before choosing welding as a career, it’s important to understand the requirements of the job. Welders spend a lot of time on their feet, often in tight and awkward spaces, and a welder’s work environment is often filled with sparks and molten metal. In many cases, the integrity of the welds you are making is crucial to the support of the structure or functioning of the machinery on which you are working.
The best welders are those who thrive in a busy, high-stress atmosphere and who won’t be bothered by the physical discomfort of the job.
There are a variety of ways to become proficient at welding. Some colleges offer four-year degrees in welding engineering technology, which includes studying the process of designing structures and machinery that use welding. This option is the most expensive and time-consuming.
Junior colleges often offer a two-year associate’s degree in welding. While this option is less expensive and focuses more on welding skills, it can still be pricey and take up to two years to complete.
The quickest and least expensive option to set yourself on the pathway to a career in welding is to complete a course through a welding-specific school like Missouri Welding Institute. Most programs can be completed in two to four-and-a-half months, providing you with the skills you need to build a successful welding career.
Skills for success
At a welding institute, you’ll learn everything you need to build the skills you’ll need to be a successful welder. Different programs will focus on different specialties, but the basics you’ll learn in any program include:
The four major welding processes – gas metal arc welding (GMAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), and flux cored arc welding (FCAW). A formal welding education should provide a good grasp of each welding process, which will allow you to work in a variety of industries.
Welding in different positions and working conditions. Welding on the job often means fitting into tight spaces to complete a weld. A good welding education will teach you how to best approach a weld in difficult conditions or tight configurations.
Safety. Welding can be dangerous if not done correctly. Safety should be at the top of the list of any welding education.
Trade math. Welders need to have a good understanding of fractions, decimals, geometry and trigonometry to be successful at their jobs. A good welding school will include math education in its curriculum.
Blueprint reading. Before welders can perform their jobs, they must be able to follow the plans for the job. Blueprints are a basic tool of a welder’s job, so it’s important to know how to read and interpret them correctly.
Soft skills. A good welding education won’t just teach you how to weld, it will also help you perfect soft skills like managing a project, searching for a job and interviewing.
Once you have a welding education under your belt, the possibilities for work are nearly endless. A wide variety of industries have a high demand for welders. Some of the industries that rely on welders the most include:
Aerospace. Designing planes and rockets requires the joining together of sturdy but lightweight metals, which means this industry has a continual need for welders.
Automotive. The average car contains more than 4,000 welds, driving demand for qualified welders in the car-building industry.
Manufacturing. The majority of manufactured products require some type of welding, creating plenty of jobs within the manufacturing industry for trained welders.
Construction and infrastructure. Tall buildings and bridges require metal frameworks to support them, which means welders are needed to meld those frameworks together. With the renewed interest in updating America’s infrastructure, the need for welders will increase.
Certifications and job tests
In many industries, you need a license to perform your job. To be a doctor, you need a medical license. To be a truck driver, you need a special driver’s license. To be a welder, though, doesn’t require a specific license or certification.
However, becoming a certified welder can be beneficial when looking for a job. Certification through the American Welding Society (AWS) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) provides proof that you have the skills an employer may need for an upcoming project. The performance-based certification test relies solely on how well you perform welding skills and is viewed by many employers as a reliable indicator of your skills.
Many employers, however, rely on their own job tests to determine who to hire for a welding position. These tests are also generally performance-based and require the applicant to perform certain tasks important to the job they are interested in. These tests may focus on just one type of welding or a specific task or they can be broader and include multiple welding processes and tasks.
Often an interview for a welding job will include a bench test, so dress appropriately and bring your tools to the interview.
Key to success
No matter the industry, all employers are looking for talented welders who can perform at a high level. The right welding education that includes hands-on learning of welding skills, math skills and soft skills is your main key to success.
Brian Hollands is the owner of Missouri Welding Institute, which trains the nation’s finest welding craftsmen using a hands-on approach, one-on-one attention and a family-style environment to prepare students for a successful career. Share your thoughts on Facebook or on TikTok.