According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, welding is a job that is in high demand. There were over 418,000 jobs available across the U.S. for welders in 2020, and that number is expected to grow by 8%, or more than 34,000 jobs, by 2030.
If you enjoy working with your hands, have a keen eye for details, and want to build things that could last long after you’re gone, such as skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels, ships, airplanes, or cars, a career in welding might be for you. However, it’s only natural for you to ask yourself, “Should I become a welder?”
Pros and Cons of Being a Welder
Minimal education is needed to become a welder, and you can begin working in this high-demand industry at any age. Disadvantages of the job include long hours, extreme conditions, and physical dangers. If you can balance these aspects, a career in welding could be a good one for you.
Welding, just like any other career, has its pros and cons. You will have to weigh them against each other to answer the question, “Should I become a welder?”
Advantages of Becoming a Welder
Becoming a welder has several significant advantages. Here are five of them.
- Start at any age: There are no age restrictions on becoming a welder. You can start fresh out of high school or after your youngest child has gone away to college. As long as you can stand up to the rigors of the job, you’re good to go, no matter how old you are.
- Limited education required: All that’s generally needed to become a welder is a high school diploma or GED. You can immediately begin a paid apprenticeship or go to your local community or technical college to earn a certificate or Associate’s degree in welding. Earning an American Welding Society or American Society of Mechanical Engineers certificate opens more job opportunities for you.
- High demand: Welding is in high demand. The AWS-backed website, Welding Workforce Data, states that by 2026, there will be a deficit of 366,000 welders needed in the U.S. The deficit is due to a combination of factors. First, current job openings need to be filled. Second, there’s the projected growth of the industry. Third, there will be attrition, as many welding technology workers are approaching retirement.
- Easily climb the career ladder: With the deficit of welders in the U.S., there’s plenty of room to move up. For example, after you complete an apprenticeship, you could seek out a journeyman who employs a team of welders and work in a supervisory capacity.
- See the world: If you have the tools and the skillset, you can travel the world while making a living as a welder. Every country needs skilled welders. Whether you’ve dreamed of seeing the south of France or Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, you can follow those dreams and find work when you get where you’re going.
Disadvantages of Becoming a Welder
As many advantages as there are, there are also some disadvantages. Here are five of them.
- Physical requirements: Welding is hard work. You must have steady hands at all times. You may have to lift metal weighing upwards of 100 pounds. You might have to crawl into pipes or conduits to do your job.
- Lifestyle: Due largely to the shortage of welders in the U.S., welders are often asked to work overtime to get their projects completed on time. It can be grueling, spending 10 to 12 hours a day with a torch in your hands. It makes it challenging to have an excellent work-life balance.
- Harsh conditions: When you’re a welder, you may be subjected to extreme circumstances. Welders work in tough locations, from the bottom of the ocean to outer space and everywhere in between. The weather has no respect for welders. You could be working in a blizzard, a monsoon, or a dry, hot, arid summer if you follow that dream to see Ulaanbaatar.
- Physical dangers: Welding is dangerous work. For example, ironworkers who fashion and install the steel beams of buildings have the sixth most dangerous job in the U.S., according to a University of Delaware report. Burns, eyestrain, hearing loss, and amputation of fingers or hands are all very real hazards.
- Highly competitive: If you’re applying for a job as a welder, you will have some stiff competition. Even with the deficit of welders, the job market can be brutal. You may be up against dozens of other welders with the same skills and experience level as you have.
Is It Worth Becoming a Welder?
Glassdoor reports that the average salary for welders is between $42,000 and $165,000 per year, depending on your experience level. Some highly-skilled welders in the right niches can make upwards of $500,000 per year.
It’s hard work being a welder, both physically and psychologically. The constant threat of injury can take a toll on you. However, you may build strong friendships with the other welders you work with since they best understand the rigors of your job.
On the other hand, you may become a “road warrior,” a welder who travels to follow the work. You can see the world and all its wonders, making memories that will last a lifetime.
Is Welding a Good Career for a Woman?
Welding Workforce Data says that right now in the U.S., only 5% of welders are women. There’s a tremendous opportunity for women to balance out the workforce given the shortage of skilled welders. Women have been welding since the 1940s when the men went off to war and women had to take over the jobs they’d been doing. Rosie the Riveter was a welder, inspiring a generation of women to leave the kitchen and become blue-collar workers.
Women interested in becoming welders should make sure they’re going to be up to the rigors of the job. However, there’s no reason women can’t be welders. If you’re good with your hands, have a head for math, and handle details like a pro, you will have no problem succeeding in this male-dominated industry.
Ultimately, only you can decide if a career in welding is right for you. We hope this guide has helped answer the question, “Should I become a welder?” If the answer is “Yes,” find out everything you need to know to get started in a welding career today.
Source: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS