If you want to pursue a trade as a career, welding is a great option. The pay is decent, the work/life balance is good and the work is interesting, so becoming a welder gives you the opportunity to build a successful career. Before you choose this job path, however, you may wonder about welding career paths. This article covers everything you need to know about welding career options and the lifestyle of a welder so that you can determine if this career is right for you.
What Careers Can Welding Lead To?
Welding involves fusing pieces of metal together to form tools, equipment, buildings and infrastructure, so any industry that deals with metal can be a potential career path for welders. Popular options include:
- Factory workers in the maintenance and fabrication departments
- Pipeline workers
- Construction workers
- Sheet metal welders
- Freelance welders
When you think about careers in the welding industry, you probably think of various factory jobs. While welding positions are frequently found in factories, there are plenty of alternative jobs you could choose to do. Any work that deals with metal could benefit from having a welder on staff, so if you don’t enjoy factory work, you can pursue a career in another industry as a welder.
However, factory jobs are often great for earning the experience you need for more exciting careers in the welding industry. You can always plan to work a traditional career in a factory while you gain the experience you need to become a higher-paid welder working on oil rigs or underwater structures. The experience you gain as a factory worker can be invaluable for helping you pursue higher career goals. Factory work also offers a more stable salary so that you can have a better work/life balance while earning a decent living for you and your family. Just because you start your career as a factory welder does not mean you have to stay in that position forever.
What Is the Highest-Paying Welding Job?
The average salary of a welder in America is $41,953, which is the equivalent of approximately $20.17 per hour. The more experience a welder has, the higher the earning potential. However, there are certain welding positions you should consider if you want to make great money.
Rig welders make the best money in the welding industry. They can make up to $207,000 per year, but only the best of the best are considered for this position. A single mistake by a rig welder is disastrous, so only people with years of experience can qualify for the job. The tradeoff is that you must work long hours in environments that are often dangerous. A rig welder is expected to work long days of up to 12 hours, and sometimes the work sites are so remote that they can only be accessed by helicopter.
Nuclear and underwater welders are also high-paying positions. They each offer an annual salary of more than $140,000. Although they offer incredible salaries, both types of welding jobs are dangerous. Nuclear welders must have the knowledge they need to work on dangerous infrastructures that could harm the environment. Underwater welders build and maintain structures that stay underwater.
Is Welding a Good Career Path?
Welding is a great career choice because the field is stable and growing. As technology evolves and the need for metal fabricators group, so will the welding industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the welding industry to grow by 3% by 2029, so there are plenty of job opportunities in the field.
Welding is one of the best trades to go into because it pays well for entry-level positions. Beginner welders earn an average salary of $42,000 per year, which is more than the average salary in the USA.
What Are the Typical Career Paths for Welders?
The most common careers in the welding industry are structural mechanics and sheet welders. As a construction welder, you’ll work on the frames of buildings and join pieces of metal together to create the internal structure of buildings. As a sheet welder, you’ll work in a factory creating equipment and manufacturing products.
You can also find a job in the military working on various types of equipment. Pipeline workers are in demand in many states, and if you choose this job option, you’ll construct and repair pipelines that keep the agricultural industry running smoothly. Another traditional career path for welders is working on various infrastructures. You can find both temporary and permanent positions in this career.
Recommended: Welding Schools and Careers: State-by-State Directory
What Are Some Alternative Positions for Welders?
If traditional career paths for welders are not appealing to you, there are several alternative job options. If you don’t want to work with sheet metal in a factory, find a position as a boilermaker. You can also choose to work on metal and plastic machines or create tools for a company. The jewelry industry prizes working with people who know how to work with metal. You can also find a position as a fabricator. If you have a head for business and are willing to hunt for clients, you may even build your own welding company as a freelancer.
However, remember that factor work often offers the most stable pay. Working as a freelance welder doing contract work for commercial clients can be lucrative, but it is also time-consuming to find, build and maintain a base of loyal clients. If you want to have a more exciting position as a welder rather than spend your entire career working in a factory, you can aim to become an industrial pipe, underwater, rig or nuclear welder. All of these jobs require precision and knowledge so you’ll need years of experience to qualify. However, they allow you to work in a wide variety of environments, so you’ll never be bored with your career path if you choose one of these options.
How Do Various Welding Positions Compare in Pay?
Welding is typically a high-paying job regardless of which position you have. Most entry-level welding positions pay at least $20 per hour, and you can expect to earn an average of $23 per hour once you have a few years of experience in the trade.
Although pay is good throughout the entire industry, the expected salary varies widely. People who pursue more dangerous careers that require precise knowledge and technique such as nuclear, underwater and rig welders can easily expect to earn an annual salary of over $100,000. The pay for factory workers such as sheet metal and fabrication workers is much less at approximately $51,000. However, working conditions are more favorable for factory jobs so there is less risk involved.
Welding salaries vary based on risk and required skills. The more dangerous a job is, the higher it will pay. Higher-paying welding jobs also require years of experience and incredible amounts of technical knowledge, so you can’t expect to land one of these positions right after you complete a welding training course. You may also need additional certifications to be eligible for certain positions, so you may need to spend more money on education if you want to work the highest-paying jobs in the welding industry. You must consider these facts in addition to salary to know which welding position is right for you.
What Is the Work/Life Balance for a Welder?
The work/life balance of a welder depends on where he or she works. Some companies have traditional work hours with few overtime opportunities, so you can earn a steady paycheck and have the evenings and weekends free to spend time with your family. Most businesses that hire welders, however, have plenty of opportunities to earn overtime pay. You may be required to work weekends regularly, but you’ll receive additional compensation.
It’s also important to know that many welding companies offer three shifts. Working the first shift may give you a better work/life balance, but signing up for the second or third shifts may provide you with a better paycheck.
In general, you can expect a moderate work/life balance when you work in the welding industry. Most positions offer at least a few overtime opportunities each week but also give you time to spend with your family. Higher-paying jobs often have more rigorous hours and expect you to be available at all times, so if balance is an important factor for you, you may want to seek out traditional factory jobs rather than pursuing alternative welding positions.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements for Welders?
Most states require welders to hold a high school diploma or a GED equivalent before entering the trade. Some people secure apprenticeships working with licensed welders once they finish high school, but apprenticeships are sometimes hard to find. This training option, however, allows you to earn money and gain real-world experience as you learn.
Other people choose to enroll in accredited training programs offered by trade schools or community colleges. These programs can often be completed within a year and usually offer help with job placement upon graduation.
Some states require you to complete an apprenticeship or training program before you can officially enter the trade and apply for a welding license. You must check the education requirements in your state to make sure you comply with regulations.
Certain welding positions require you to hold additional certifications. Because you’ll need plenty of experience to qualify for these jobs, you don’t have to obtain these certifications before beginning your career. Once you complete an apprenticeship or an approved training course, you can start your career and obtain additional certifications as you gain experience in the field.
What Are the Licensing Requirements for Welders?
There are no federal license requirements for welders. Individual states, however, have varying regulations when it comes to licensure. It’s best to check the licensing requirements of the state you want to work in to ensure you are eligible to perform welding work.
You may choose to obtain national certification through the American Welding Society. This certification proves you understand the basics of welding, but you may need additional licensure to practice in certain states. Always check with the state you plan to work in to ensure that you are qualified to perform welding work.
How Do You Start a Welding Career?
The first step in starting a career as a welder is to obtain your school diploma. If you did not complete high school, you may obtain a GED certificate to serve as the equivalent. You can then choose a training course or an apprenticeship to begin your educational requirements. Most states require you to complete one of these training programs to be eligible to work as a welder.
However, the path to becoming a welder varies among states. Make sure you understand the licensing regulations in the state where you plan to work. Some states require you to pay a license fee and pass an exam before you may work as an independent welder, so you must plan to sit for an exam before you can work on your own. Other states allow you to work under the license of another welder when you work for a factory or a company.
After training to become a welder, it is time to choose a career path. There are many job opportunities available for welders, but you must think about work/life balance and salary to make the right career choice for you. Remember that many higher-paying jobs require years of experience, so if you aspire to become a rig welder, you may need to work in a factory for many years to gain the necessary experience and certifications. If you have a career plan in place, you can more easily turn your dreams into a reality and become a successful welder.
There are many career options available for welders. If you choose to pursue this trade to earn a living, make sure to choose a job title that meets your interests so that you can build a career you are proud of. Welding is a lucrative career opportunity that can enrich your life in many ways, so this trade is an excellent choice for a job.