If you’ve got a love of power tools and are trying to figure out what you want to do for a living – or you’re looking to switch careers – welding may be a good choice. Even as automated systems displace workers in other manufacturing settings, welders are always in demand – and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for welders will remain steady.
Welding is a skill that takes time to master but is easily transferable from one industry to the other, since the basic principles are the same. Read on to find out how to break into this field and what you can expect as a professional welder.
Welders must be able to stand for long periods, bend over or crouch, have a steady grip and good hand-eye coordination. Most employers will require some formal training, but a four-year degree is not a necessity. Welding training is available in high school vocational programs, technical colleges or through the U.S. Army.
Pay and Work Environment
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that in May 2010, the median annual salary for welders was $35,450 – although workers with specialized training can earn significantly more than that. Certified welders who obtain commercial diving certification can work as underwater welders, earning between $100,000 and $200,000 per year. However, most underwater welding jobs are temporary, and after a project is complete, there may be gaps in employment, or a worker may have to relocate to find additional opportunities.
Naturally, working with power tools underwater is not without risk. Welders may be paid more, depending on the difficulty or potential dangers of the job. And above ground, traditional welders face workplace hazards, too.
Working with welding equipment and torches requires a great deal of attentiveness and caution. Workers must be vigilant about wearing appropriate safety gear and be aware of flammable items near them.
There’s a wide variety of equipment used in this profession: Arc welders that bond metals with electricity, tungsten gas welders that require specialized training to use and a wide range of other machines that may be specific to a particular industry.
Welders may work on manufacturing floors, they may be part of building construction crews – they may even be part of a race car driver’s pit crew. And one reason welders are continually in demand is that they’re often essential in large infrastructure improvements.
When highway guardrails must be installed, a bridge is in need of repairs or an oil company builds a new pipeline, there will always be work for welders.
If you’re thinking about entering this field, you might want to spend some time thinking about what type of welding you’d like to do. Then you can contact specific companies to ask what training they require and start working toward your career goals.