You’ve decided you want to go into the trades. You want a career that will serve you for a lifetime. You want to be great at what you do, get paid well for your skills, and never have to spend your days sitting in an office cubicle in front of a computer. You’ve narrowed it down to electrician vs welder, but now you’re on the fence.
Welder or Electrician, Which is a Better Career?
There are lots of considerations that determine whether a particular occupation is a good fit for you. A perfect career for one person can be a poor fit for someone else, so when you are deciding whether you want to do welding or electrical work for a living, the main things to keep in mind are your own personal preferences.
What makes you happy and what things do you not enjoy? How important, for example, is salary vs schedule? Are you comfortable being gone from home for long stretches, or would you prefer to sleep in your own bed at night? Do you want to work for a company or do you dream of being self-employed? You might want to make a list of which aspects of a particular line of work appeal to you and which don’t.
Salary Electrician Vs Welder
One of the main reasons to work in any profession is the paycheck. It’s probably not your only consideration in choosing a career, but it does matter. In any line of work, there is going to be a range of possible salaries. You’ll have a starting pay scale and you’ll make more as you gain experience and skill through years on the job. Regardless of the career, pay varies.
Median Salaries for Welder or Electrician
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a welder in the United States is $47,000 per year or $22.60 per hour. The median pay for an electrician is $60,000 per year or $28.87 per hour. These averages show that electricians generally make more money each year than welders.
Top Pay in Electrical Vs Welding Fields
There are exceptions, of course. The top-end welding jobs such as a rig welder or underwater welder can pay over $100,000 per year. These particular positions are far from the average welding job. They require years of additional study, a variety of certifications, physical hardship, and risk on the job, and they usually also involve traveling to where this specialized work is available.
Senior electrical estimators and designers can make similarly high salaries, up to $119,000 annually. These specialized positions are office jobs and require experience with large electrical projects and a thorough understanding of data, labor and materials sourcing, job costing, and evaluation of work sites.
What is Harder Electrician or Welder?
Getting started on a career path means first learning how to do the work. Depending on the field, it may also require a license and/or certifications. When comparing becoming an electrician vs welder, this is where you’ll find one of the biggest differences between these occupations.
Training Required For a Career in Electrical vs Welding
Generally, it takes longer to train for electrical vs welding, and you will have to complete coursework. Welders have many options to specialize their skills and can choose just the classroom training they wish to complete to acquire various certifications.
Learning To Be an Electrician
To become a licensed electrician, you need a high school diploma. Most electricians go through an apprenticeship for four to five years. During that time, you get paid for working and you gain needed experience. An apprenticeship continues for 8,000 hours on the job.
You will probably also attend courses to help prepare you for your apprenticeship and/or the licensing exam. Most states require an electrician to be licensed. You can search licensing requirements by state.
Learning To Be a Welder
Becoming a welder takes less time in general, but usually also is accomplished through an apprentice arrangement, where you learn on the job. Some employers will train a welder with no experience, although most will opt for someone who has some prior training.
You might choose to attend a trade school to get started, or you might prefer to take one or more basic courses individually. There are various certifications that you can attain from the American Welding Society, through the Certified Welder program for example.
You can start learning with these programs even if you have no prior experience, or you can choose various certifications later to add to your qualifications as your career progresses.
Some states and municipalities require licensing or certification, although many do not. Becoming a certified welder is performance-based and requires no specific coursework. To pass the test you need to be able to demonstrate that you have the required abilities.
What it Costs To Become an Electrician vs Welder
Costs to enter these trades will vary depending on which route you take. While you are learning as an apprentice, you are being paid a wage, so most of your education is through experience that you earn simultaneously with a paycheck.
You may need to complete some study before or during your apprenticeship. In general, you’ll need more classroom time and pay more in expenses to become an electrician vs welder.
Costs for Electrician Training
There is no single required course for electricians, but if you want to secure a good apprenticeship, you’ll be more competitive if you’ve attended some courses and learned the basics before you apply.
This coursework could be limited to a short, inexpensive certification program, costing as little as $1,000. On the other end of the spectrum, you could complete two years of study for an associate degree, which can cost upwards of ten times the price of a simple certification.
Costs for Welder Training
There is no set requirement for welder training in most areas. You might be hired with no experience or training at all, and have a company willing to teach you on the job. However, you will be offered better positions if you have some knowledge before you go to work as a welder.
There are welder training programs that you can complete in 7 months. You will learn the foundational information and skills to be competent to start welding. You will have a certification in hand at the end of the course which you’ll probably find very helpful in securing a good job. These programs cost about $5,000 to attend.
If you want to compete for the best starting positions, you can opt for college courses lasting roughly twice as long and costing three times as much. With this level of study, you will enter the trade with more advanced skills and knowledge and should be able to pick from the best entry-level job openings.
With welding, you will likely want to add relevant training as you advance in your career. Higher-level certifications are designed to teach you very specific skills, based on what type of welding you want to be qualified to perform.
Physical Demands of the Job: Electrician vs Welder
The physical requirements of these occupations vary depending on where you are working. For example, a welder working on an oil rig is going to have some hardships that a welder in a manufacturing job is not going to experience.
Challenges for Welders
Welding can be physically difficult. You may be working in a confined space or an awkward position. You might be outdoors, even in bad weather. Or you may be working on a ship or a rig on the ocean, where you can’t go home when the work day is done.
As a welder, you may be exposed to harsh fumes and high temperatures, and you will always need to wear protective equipment on the job. Many manufacturing jobs are done on three consecutive shifts; you might be required to put in long hours or work weekends, overtime, or third shift.
To be a welder, you need to be detail-oriented and have a steady hand, and manual dexterity.
Essentials for Electricians
Electrical employment can also be physically challenging. You may be working indoors in cramped or dark, dirty places like basements, attics, or crawl spaces or you might be outside in any weather. If you are on a construction site or installing solar panels, you may be high up on a platform or a roof.
Electricity is dangerous, and safety requirements must be adhered to at all times. You will probably work full time and it’s common for electricians to put in overtime or work weekend hours.
Electricians must be able to perceive colors accurately because electrical wiring is color-coded.
Schedules and Lifestyle Considerations for Electrician vs Welder
Either of these career paths may require you to travel to where the work is. Both can be strenuous and difficult jobs. You may be required, especially when you are starting out, to work long or unconventional hours. You could be injured on the job as a welder or electrician; either trade can be dangerous.
Both careers, however, also offer competitive pay for honest work without spending years and tens of thousands of dollars earning a college degree. With either path, you can have a reliable income and if you choose, you can specialize and move your career in a direction that is very lucrative and continues to challenge you professionally.
Questions to Ask Yourself About a Career as an Electrician vs Welder
There are some real differences in the long-term realities of these trades. If you’re going to make a life in electrical vs welding, think about not only where you will begin, but how the job will fit your life day to day, and where you would like to be in five or ten, or even twenty years.
1. Do you think you might like to have your own business someday?
Working independently is far more common with electricians than it is with welders.
2. Do you want to work long stretches and have long breaks?
Working as a welder on a rig or underwater might be the perfect goal for you. You’ll make extra pay for being willing to do dangerous work and stay on a job site for months at a time, and you can do what you like with your time off.
3. Do you want to make the high end of the pay scale and still be home at night and on the weekends?
In that case, you are probably better suited to a career in electrical work. The top-paying jobs for welding generally require travel and often involve staying on the job continuously for days, weeks, or months.
4. Do you want steady work and good pay without having to spend time in an office or a classroom?
Welding requires very little study time unless you decide to specialize, and you are unlikely to ever end up stuck behind a desk.
Career Opportunities Electrician vs Welder
As a welder or electrician, your job prospects for the future are almost equivalent. Welding positions, most of which are in fabricating, are expected to grow at the exact national average of all occupations – 8%. Electrical jobs, mostly in contracting and installation, are predicted to grow at 9%. (Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics)
What do the statistics mean? These numbers indicate simply that you have a reasonable expectation of continuing to be employed over the years. With a specialized trade like welder or electrician, you will have more job security than a general construction laborer, and you can expect a higher annual salary as well.
Electrician vs Welder: Which One is Better for You?
Deciding on which trade to pursue comes down to who you are and what you want from your job. These are both respectable, challenging, and potentially lucrative career paths that will allow you to grow and expand your skills over the years.
Ask yourself: Which of these options – welder or electrician – will suit your personality and the rest of what you want out of life? When you can answer this question and you’re ready to look into the educational opportunities and licensing requirements for where you live, start with a visit to General Contractor License Guide.