In the coming years, the United States will see a significant number of skilled welders reach retirement age, leaving many industries in need of highly trained professionals to replace them. Recently, in 2008, the United States experienced a nationwide shortage of around 250,000 welders 1. This demographic shift is expected to continue, and will likely provide opportunities for newly trained welders to enter the job market. Welding instructors will also be needed to teach and train welding students, as well as welding inspectors and engineers.
What is the advantage to welding? Structures that are welded together properly are stronger, lighter and cheaper to manufacture than metal structures that are bolted or riveted together.
What Is Welding?
A weld is a permanent bond formed between two or more metal parts. A proper weld uses an exact and predetermined degree of heat to properly melt and fuse a particular type of metal. An accomplished welder is one who knows how to use different welding techniques for different purposes, or who is highly specialized in one type of welding. Experienced welders are sought after by many manufacturing industries, from aerospace to the Navy. For example, recent innovations in the automotive industry have opened up a demand for trained welders in the United States.
What Does a Welder Do?
- Welders understand blueprints and calculate dimensions.
- Welders inspect materials and structures for quality of welds.
- High-performance welders know it is important to keep their machinery and welding equipment in excellent working condition.
- Welders are able to use hand-held metal joining tools to permanently join parts, as well as fill holes, seams and indentations.
- Welders need to understand metallurgy, some specialized math like trigonometry and some basic engineering.
How to Become a Welder
To become a certified welder, start by investigating welding schools to determine which program to enroll in. Tulsa Welding School offers a variety of different vocational training programs to choose from, including Professional Welding Training, Welding Specialist, Welding Specialist with Pipefitting and Electro-Mechanical Technologies. These welding programs are designed to qualify graduates for an entry-level position in welding by offering hands-on technical training with close guidance from industry leaders. For instance, the Professional Welding Program only takes around seven months to complete and can lead to a career in structural welding, pipe welding, aircraft welding, thin alloy welding or pipeline welding. Once you complete the coursework in a welding training program, you will receive a welding certificate and will be ready to enter the job market. You may also choose to take an accredited welding test to obtain welding certification, which adds credibility to your resume when job-seeking.
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Where Do Welders Work?
Different types of welding jobs are used during all phases of industrial operations, so the need for welders is steady across various industries. Welding career paths may include working for contracting and construction companies, building permanent and temporary infrastructures, repairing military equipment or working various pipeline jobs. Sixty-one percent of the 50,860 welder jobs in the United States are in the manufacturing industry. Construction-related jobs account for eleven percent of welding jobs, and the rest are in wholesale and other industries. Welding jobs in Texas are currently the most plentiful due to the surge in the oil and shale industries. California has the second highest number of available welder jobs in the U.S, followed by Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Illinois. Welders are hired with the highest concentration of need in Wyoming.
As you can see from the infographic above, some careers in welding can be possibly very exciting for the person who wants to travel or work in non-traditional environments. For example, welders who specialize in metal fabrication may find themselves traveling with NASCAR racing pit crews to repair and construct customized racing equipment. Another highly specialized and in-demand welding career is underwater welding, where welders dive underwater to construct and repair structures beneath the ocean’s surface. Pipe welding jobs may take welders to distant regions where pipeline systems need to be installed or repaired. They may live in remote areas of Alaska, Canada or the Sahara Desert during the length of the project. Welders can be hired to live on working cruise ships, where they travel the world to replace pipe systems, make reparations and conduct preventative maintenance. Shipyards hire welders as independent contractors to assist in building everything from research vessels to aircraft carriers.
Is welding a good career? With increasing demand and solid wages, welding offers many career advantages, especially for people who like working with their hands, who are precise and mechanically inclined and who enjoy contributing their skills to the tangible creation of a building, project or structure. Many industries need career welders, including the fields of inspection, engineering, robotics, sales, project management and education.
How much do welders make? Entry-level positions offer annual wages beginning at $22,680. The median job pay for welders in the country is $34,410, and the welder salary in the top 90 percent is $51,610. The pay is higher for traveling welding jobs and for welding jobs that take place in areas considered hazardous, such as on an oil-rig. Industrial pipe welders make salaries ranging from $50,000 to $185,000 per year while traveling. Military support welders are paid very well, from $160,000 to $200,000. If a welder has multiple valuable skills like scuba diving certification and experience they can expect to make an underwater welding salary from $100,000 to $200,000.
The Future of Welding Jobs
In addition to traditional welding, industries that employ high-tech, automated equipment to bond metals need professional welders to oversee and manage production. Robotic welding2, high-powered lasers and electron beams are increasingly common in some manufacturing processes. Between 20 to 25 percent of commercial welding in the United States is now automated, and automated welding is expected to grow by 20% over the next few years. The future of welding is an exciting and unmapped territory for those willing to adapt to emerging technologies.