Of all the trade professions, construction and welding are two of the most popular. Though they differ greatly in many regards, many people who search for a career or a career change narrow down their options to these two trades. If you have done the same, you may wonder, which is better, welding or construction?
Unfortunately, there is no “right” answer to this question. Which career is better suited for you depends largely on your career goals, salary aspirations, skill level, desired working conditions, and several other unique factors. To help you decide whether you should pursue a career as a welder or carpenter, we’ve pitted the two professions against each other in this “Construction vs Welding” guide. Hopefully, with the information you glean from this match-up, you can make a more informed decision about which trade is right for you.
What Makes More: Construction or Welding?
As in any profession, your salary range as either a construction worker or welder will depend largely on your level of experience, skill level, and location, among other factors. If you’re comparing welders to construction laborers, welders make considerably more. If you’re comparing welders to carpenters, however, the pay is about equal.
Per the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for welders is $47,010 per year. This breaks down to about $22.60 per hour. The median salary for construction laborers is $37,520, or $18.04 per hour. The median salary for carpenters, on the other hand, is $48,260 per year, or $23.20 per hour.
The lowest paid 10% of welders receive approximately $34,094 per year, while the top 90% receive an average of $55,758. The lowest paid 25% of construction workers make just $30,690. The highest paid 25% make $50,330.
Carpenters have the highest average salary range. The lowest paid 10% of carpenters earn an average of $42,550 per year. The highest paid 10% earn $74,986.
Salary Breakdown: Construction vs Welding
Several variables will affect how much you earn as a construction worker or welder. To help you make sense of the salary findings, consider the following:
- Welders earn considerably more than construction laborers at all stages of their respective careers.
- The median carpenter salary is only slightly higher than the median welder salary, but carpenters earn more than welders at all stages of their respective careers.
- If you’re ranking careers in terms of pay, carpentry is best, then welding, followed by construction laboring.
Is Welding Considered Construction?
Welding is useful and even necessary across several industries. Though welding is not considered construction per se, it does play a major role in the construction of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings and structures. It also plays an integral role in the development of city infrastructure.
Welding offers reliable results. Welded joints are strong and durable and thereby contribute to the integrity of a structure and/or its components. Because welding requires little time, and because it can make use of what would otherwise become “scrap metal,” welding saves construction companies considerable money. Finally, welding offers flexibility. Due to the wide variety of welding techniques a welder can use, the process can help accomplish the various goals and meet the various needs of a construction project.
For these reasons and more, welding plays a key role in two primary sectors of construction: Building and infrastructure.
When it comes to the construction of commercial, industrial, and residential buildings, welders help to create the structural frameworks. They do this by connecting steel columns, I-beams, footers, and more. They also supply electrical conduits, firewalls, plumbing components, stairs, ventilation pipes, utilities, and more.
As for infrastructure, welding plays an integral role in the construction of everything from bridges and dams to highways and water supply systems. Often, these structures only become structurally sound once a welder has stabilized them.
Is Welding Better Than Carpentry?
If you’re comparing construction vs welding to decide whether to become a welder or carpenter, there are several components you must consider to determine which is “better.” Some factors to consider when trying to decide which is a better trade to go into are as follows:
- Career opportunities
- Education and training time and costs
- Working hours/conditions
- Physical requirements
- Licensing requirements
When comparing career opportunities in either welding or construction, it is helpful to consider job growth rates. Per the BLS, the anticipated job growth rate for the years between 2020 and 2030 is the highest for welding.
The job growth rate for welding is 8%, or as fast as average. The BLS anticipates the industry to add 34,100 new jobs over the next decade. It also projects that there will be an average of 49,200 job openings for welders and related positions each year until 2030.
The job growth rate for construction laborers is 7%, or as fast as average. The BLS anticipates the industry to add 109,100 jobs in the next decade. The number of openings each year will average 167,800 over the decade. Though the job growth rate is slightly slower than that of welding, the numbers indicate that the construction industry is considerably larger.
The job growth rate for carpenters is just 2%, which is substantially slower than average. The BLS expects the industry to add just 20,100 jobs by 2030, which is about 2,000 jobs per year. However, the number of anticipated openings each year is more than double that of welding, at about 89,300.
Education and Training
In terms of which is easier to learn, construction laborer is by far the simplest title to obtain. Individuals can typically find work as construction laborers with little to no formal training under their belts, no high school diploma, and no certification or licensure. Most construction laborers learn their trades through on-the-job training.
Though carpentry is a more skilled trade than construction labor, carpenters also require little to no formal training or certification. Most carpenters develop their skills and knowledge through on-the-job training.
However, carpenters who undergo apprenticeships or attend technical school typically have higher earning potential. These carpenters can use their knowledge and documented experience to secure supervisory positions, which pay more.
Though welders do not need a formal degree to practice their trade, they do need certification and, in some states, licensure. Obtaining both typically requires on-the-job and technical training.
Welding training can come in many forms. You can go to community college or vocational school, undergo an apprenticeship, participate in a training program or receive your training on the job. Which path you choose — or a combination of paths — will dictate how long it takes you to become a certified welder. However, the average range of welder training is between seven months and two years.
If you choose to undergo formal training to obtain your welding certificate, you can expect to pay between $5,000 to $15,000 for tuition. On-the-job training is free. Additional costs associated with becoming a certified welder are as follows:
- Testing Fees: $300 to $550
- School Application Fees: $125 per application
- Books and Welding Equipment: Up to $1,500
- Housing Fees: Up to $10,000
If you decide to attend a formal training or degree program for carpentry, you can expect to incur more or less the same fees.
Working Hours and Conditions
Welders work indoors and outdoors and in all types of conditions. The environment in which a welder finds him or herself working depends largely on the type of project in question. If assigned outdoor work, welders may find themselves working in all types of weather. When working in indoor spaces, they will often work in confined spaces.
Approximately 55% of welders work 40-hour work weeks. However, overtime is not uncommon. Many welders work upwards of 70 hours per week, and in shifts as long as 12 hours.
Carpenters work in all types of conditions, both indoors and out. Some carpenters find their niche in indoor work, such as remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, laying sub-flooring, and repairing and renovating building structures. Others, however, find more fulfilling work in riskier projects, such as installing roofing systems, building city infrastructures, and working on high-rises. Regardless of the type of work they do, most carpenters work 40 hours per week.
Construction laborers probably have the most demanding work environments. Laborers are subject to a variety of conditions, many of which put them in the path of danger. Laborers, like carpenters, usually work 40 hours per week.
The level of risk you will assume as a welder or carpenter is high. As a welder, you will be exposed to poisonous fumes, intense light and heat, and extremely hot materials. To prevent injury, you will be required to wear heavy-duty safety equipment, including safety goggles, hoods, safety shoes, protective lenses, gloves, and welding aprons. This safety equipment protects you against direct danger, such as contact with the welding tools, as well as indirect danger, such as flying sparks. Ideally, welders work in well-ventilated areas to limit fumes exposure.
The construction industry is awash in safety hazards. In fact, many job titles that fall under the umbrella term of “construction work” rank on the Top 25 Most Dangerous Jobs in America list. Some of the more dangerous jobs in the field include roofers, crane operators, construction helpers, cement masons, and construction workers.
Construction work exposes workers to numerous hazards. The top hazards, as cited by OSHA, include exposure to falls from rooftops, being struck by heavy equipment, unguarded machinery, silica dust, electrocution, and asbestos.
When comparing the risks of construction vs welding, construction is by far the more dangerous occupation.
Welding and construction work are both physically demanding. However, because of the variety of work in which construction workers engage, the answer to the question of which is more strenuous is likely to be construction work.
Welders do have their fair share of physical demands to meet. For instance, welders often have to work in tight spaces and awkward positions. Welders must be flexible, as their work frequently requires them to stoop, bend or reach to make their welds. Some welders must also lift and relocate heavy objects.
The physical demands of carpenters and construction laborers far exceed those of welders. Construction workers must be able to do each of the following to some degree:
- Lift, carry, push and/or pull heavy objects
- Use the lower back or stomach muscles to support the whole body for extended periods
- Use a group of muscles for extended periods without getting tired
- Stretch, bend, twist and reach out
- Remain physical active for eight hours straight without getting tired
- Keep pace with heavy equipment and other crew members
- Make quick, repeated movements with the arms, hands, or fingers
- React quickly using the arms, hands, or feet
- Maintain unwavering balance even when in uncomfortable positions
Carpenters and construction laborers often find themselves in precarious situations, such as on scaffolds, steel beams, or tall ladders, and having to complete their work regardless. This alone requires incredible full-body strength to prevent falls and/or injury.
You do not need a license to become a construction laborer or carpenter. However, that changes if you hope to become a general contractor or subcontractor. The licensing requirements for general contractors vary from state to state.
Though not all states require welding licenses, it may prove beneficial to obtain one. A welding license demonstrates your skill and expertise and, in the process, expands your career opportunities.
Construction vs Welding: Things To Consider for Each Career
Aside from the aforementioned factors, there are a few other considerations to make when trying to decide whether welding or construction is right for you:
- Union welders earn substantially more than non-union welders and significantly more than union and non-union carpenters. The pay scale for a union welder goes up to $87,000 per year.
- Welders enjoy more variety than construction workers, as welding jobs do not last very long. The typical welding job lasts two to three weeks, whereas the average construction job lasts for months to years.
- Because construction jobs take considerable time to complete, construction work comes with ample job stability, whereas welding does not.
- Construction work, as both a laborer and carpenter, is physically demanding and risky.
When trying to decide which is a better job for you — welder or carpenter — consider everything from pay to work conditions. Though one career may pay better than the other, you may find that other factors, such as work hours, safety risks, and job stability, sway your decision in favor of another.