Wherever you find metal structures -- from pipelines and skyscrapers to automobiles and power plants -- being built, there's a strong possibility welders are at work.
Career snapshot: What welders do
Simply put, welders join two pieces of metal together. But the skills needed for a career in welding are anything but simple. There are over 100 different methods of binding metals, and welding careers are possible in a vast number of industries, from bridge construction to the aerospace industry.
A career in welding takes more than knowing how to light a blowtorch, however. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), those interested in welding careers also need to be able to:
- Understand blueprints
- Calculate dimensions
- Use computer equipment and software
- Inspect structures or materials to be welded.
Job prospects for welders
Although the rate of job growth for welders is expected to be just 6 percent over the next eight years, which is below average, prospects may be better for workers who are able to move from industry to industry according to job demands. Welders who have stayed current in the latest technology -- either through work but also through vocational education -- are expected to have good job prospects, according to the BLS. The welder career outlook is best for welders who are willing to relocate to where the jobs are located.
Training needed to be a welder
While some high schools offer welding classes, most professional welders learn their skills through vocational-technical institutes, community colleges and private welding schools. Most employers prefer to hire formally trained welders. Welders and welding students can also earn certification from the American Welding Society, making them standout from other welding job candidates, the BLS says.
Salaries for welders in May 2013 ranged from up to $24,990 for the lowest-paid 10 percent to at least $57,120 for the highest-paid 10 percent nationally. The May 2013 national median annual salary for welders was $36,720, according to the BLS. Mean annual salaries for welders varied by industry in 2013, however, and a few are listed below:
- Motor vehicle body and trailer-manufacturing: $34,280
- Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment: $38,800
- Utilities in the electric power generation and transmission business: $66,550
- Natural gas distribution industry: $62,130
|Career||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers||14,400||3.6|
Where the high-paying jobs are
There are a wide variety of welding-related jobs, from aluminum welder and welder/fabricator to solderer and brazer. About 41 percent of those starting a career in welding have earned a certificate for special training after high school, and about 40 percent have only earned a high school diploma and learn welding skills on the job or as an apprentice. About 13 percent have had some college but don't have a degree, according to O-Net Online.
Geographically, Alaska had the 2013 highest mean wage in the nation for welders -- $68,750 -- followed by Hawaii at $62,750. The highest concentration jobs is in Wyoming, followed by Louisiana, South Dakota and North Dakota.
"Welders, Cutters, and Welder Fitters," O-Net Online, 2012, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/51-4121.06
"Welders, Cutter, Solderers, and Brazers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes514121.htm#ind
"Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm