Is welding hard to master? We were in the metal fabrication and welding business for years and recently done some research on welding and careers. Welders are some of the highest-paid tradesmen, working hard to develop their skills and knowledge of the craft. High demand allows them to bargain for highly sought-after positions and better pay (“Highest Paying Welding Jobs,” n.d.).
Being an expert qualified welder can be hard and challenging which takes schooling and practice to master. There is a learning curve that requires dedication and time to produce good sound welding if you are looking to do it as a profession. Knowing what to adjust such as voltage, wire speed, and gas in relation to the job you are welding will come over time.
If you are you are thinking about picking up a welder and doing some hobby type welding or general repair around the house, it is a little different than doing it as a career. I am always the type to say, go for it, you can do it! Check out our best welders for beginners and hobbyists here and we show you what we recommend for just that.
Keep reading if you want to learn more about welding in general, as a career, wages, and even making money on the side welding.
Welding school prepares welders for passing welding certification tests, which is necessary to work for a well-paying company. The instruction quality varies from school to school, and the best welding programs cover types of welding; techniques; and metallurgy, metal identification, and metal classification. The format consists of safety, classroom lectures and discussions, and open lab time to practice hands-on welding (“Welding Schools,” n.d.).
Job placement assistance is another feature to look for when selecting a welding school. The aid includes counseling, interviewing skills, procedure testing, and contacting welding companies that have openings for welders (“Job Placement,” n.d.).
How Hard Is It to Weld?
The difficulty of learning to weld depends on the person, ranging from moderately to very hard. Welding is not easy, and videos and books are insufficient sources for learning this skill, which requires hands-on practice. Some people practice for months and years to attain the desired level of craftsmanship. Basic difficulties include:
- Holding the electrode holder
- Keeping the welding electrode in angle
- Maintaining an arc length
- Local exhaust
Much practice is required to master the skill of stick welding. Stick electrodes come in a broad range of types, which have different mechanical properties. Specific welding power sources are necessary to operate each type.
Maintaining an arc length requires synchronized holder hand; head screen; and eye, power adjustment, and personal protection. Movable and fixed exhaust hood positioning must maintain a 100 ft/sec capture velocity and keep air contaminants below allowable limits.
Welding also takes a toll on the body. The UV radiation can damage eyesight and potentially damage the skin. The welding fumes are often toxic or carcinogenic (Hossain et al., 2015). Positions required to weld cause arthritis and back problems. There are not a lot of “old” welders because welding has the potential to shorten one’s lifespan.
There is a welder shortage in the U.S.; therefore, many companies hire welders on the spot who pass the welding test. It is possible to earn a comfortable living with limited technical training, and advanced degrees and certifications are paths to low six-figure yearly incomes.
How Hard Is Welding School?
Some training is required to weld efficiently and safely. Many vocational schools offer introductory welding courses, or you can seek a professional willing to teach enough to get you started.
Professional welders must take part in a welding program and pass a certification exam, putting in the time and effort to learn the skill. The effort and time required in welding school depend on the trainee’s background. Students fall into one of four categories:
- Those born with a natural talent
- Those having previous hands-on experience
- Those with a combination of natural skill and expertise
- Those who have neither experience nor talent
Regardless of the type of trainee, those determined and eager to learn and willing to put in practice, hard work, and time compensate for the lack of experience or natural talent. Things that make welding school easier include:
- Hands-on experience
- Knowledgeable instructors
- Time and patience
Welding requires the welder’s hands to get dirty, so it is more enjoyable and far easier for students who prefer to learn by doing rather than via traditional classroom learning. The experience gained behind a welding hood is critical. The more time spent learning and experimenting, the quicker one becomes an expert.
Those who teach need to know what they are doing and how to present the knowledge to those they teach. Look for skilled instructors who are experienced and well-versed in teaching and communicating, which makes learning more enjoyable and easier.
Welding requires repetition of the same task over and over until the skill becomes second nature and consistently produces the desired results. The path to certification requires taking on various welding projects and rehearsing the process over and over until the trainee and instructor find the results to be satisfactory (“How Hard Is Welding,” 2017).
Welding as a Career
The classification of a welding position depends on the training and the welding machines a welder is capable of using. Skilled welders use multiple welding machines that include MIG (metal inert gas), TIG (tungsten inert gas), and arc welders. They find jobs in the aerospace, construction, and automotive industries.
Unskilled welders usually do repetitive work like that done on assembly lines that require little, if any, special skills. The American Welding Society (AWS) provides some career resources for welders of all types. Opportunities include continuing education resources, internship programs, and job opportunities. Welders use measuring tools, shapers, cutters, and welders to fabricate and assemble metal equipment and structures (“American Welding Society,” n.d.).
Welders produce products based on the specifications of an employer or customer. They use multiple welding machines to maintain and repair structures and equipment of various sizes. Welders read and interpret blueprints, sketches, and diagrams to determine the time frame, required materials, and operations for projects.
Welders also set up, maintain, and operate welding equipment. They have an understanding of and implement company and personal safety measures by wearing special goggles, helmets, and gloves. Welders need communication skills to work with members of a team and converse with clients and customers (“Welding Career Options,” 2019).
Currently advertised welding positions include:
- Welder A
- TIG Welder
- Quality Control Inspector
- Certified Welding Inspector
- Welding Instructor
- Apprentice Fabricator/Welder
- Apprenticeship Program, Heil Environmental
- Professor of Welding
- Welding & NDE Material Engineer
- Starting as a Hobbyist
Welding is not only for industry professionals, as many people see it as a fun hobby. Motorcycle builders, artisans, car mechanics, artists, and other hobbyists find welding to be exciting and profitable.
Those who know how to weld save money on household repairs. They can repair or install security doors, wrought-iron fences, tables, chairs, lamps, and more; repair a bicycle or wagon frame for little or no cost; or save an expensive trip to a dealership if a muffler needs repair.
Welding as a hobby has the potential to turn into a full-time job just about anywhere there is a need for large appliances, off-road vehicles, and automotive and motorcycle work. Those who embrace the artistic side of welding make metal artwork and sculptures.
If the work is of high quality, a lucrative side business is possible. Welding is not an expensive hobby. Modern welding equipment is affordable enough for most home mechanics and hobbyists. An arc welder costs less than $300, and many new models run on the standard 120-line voltage.
Making Money Welding on the Side Part-Time
Many welders build a small shed or set up a garage and equip it, which is the best long-term plan. If a person lacks the resources, he may need to wait until enough money is made to finance the venture.
After establishing a workplace, procuring the necessary equipment is the next step. Nearly all welding machine manufacturers have a 110 welder. A more powerful welder requires a 220 outlet, but most 110 welders do an excellent job.
One or two grinders should be on the list. The best options are 4½ -inch and 7-inch. Basic equipment includes:
- MIG welder
- TIG or stick welder
- Portable metal cutting bandsaw
- Small press brake
- Cutting torch
- Small tools such as a metal shear and hole punch
Experienced independent welders sell a variety of items they make, ranging from simple to complicated. The more difficult projects bring in the most money. Welders can sell their creations at farmers’ markets, art shows, fairs, and flea markets.
When making commercial parts and items, become acquainted with engineering shop managers in the area. Give out business cards and flyers at every opportunity. Smart crafters and metalworkers choose a niche and make items for the market they choose. If you are passionate about something, why not create something related to it? (“Making Money Welding,” n.d.).
Dangers of Welding
Safety is a critical consideration for a welding project. There is an array of potentially dangerous hazards if welders ignore safety measures. Hazards include explosions, fire, gases and fumes, and electric shock.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) offer guidelines that help workers and employers control, minimize, and avoid welding hazards (OSHA and ACGIH, n.d.). They include:
- Reading and understanding manufacturer instructions for equipment
- A careful review of material safety data sheets
- Following a company’s internal safety practices
Electrical shock is among the most severe and immediate risks [C3] a welder faces. Serious injury or death is possible due to the shock or a fall caused by reacting to a shock. Electric shock occurs when two metal objects having a voltage between them touch.
Holding a bare wire in each hand causes an electrical current to pass through the welder; thus, the welder becomes part of the electric circuit. The higher the current and voltage are, the higher the risk of electric shock that results in death or injury.
It comes as no surprise that overexposure to welding gases and fumes is hazardous to one’s health. It is essential to keep your head out of fumes and use ventilation to control exposure to the fumes. Welding arcs create extreme temperatures and pose a significant fire and explosion hazard. Always inspect the work area for flammable materials and clear them from the area. (Petkovsek, n.d.).
Salary of Welders
For some people who want a job that offers job security and respectable wages, welding is the answer.
PayScale uses algorithms that assess compensation for hundreds of job titles, reporting that the average welder earns more than $35,000 annually. The income of a welder who has an AWS certification jumps to $45,000. Since there is a high demand for welders, a welding career is not only lucrative but incredibly stable.
Some industries offer an average pay of $25.46 per hour. Other companies pay $22.65 or $20.52 per hour. On the low end of the scale, salaries are $17.36 and $16.95 per hour, and the lowest hourly wage is $15.73.
Experience plays a role in the salary of a welder. Average hourly wages based on years of experience are as follows.
|Years of Experience||Average Hourly Wage|
|Less than one year||$15.15|
|One to four||$16.58|
|Five to nine||$18.45|
|Ten to 12||$19.85|
|20 or more||$21.30|
Pay differs based on location also. Cincinnati, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia, pay the lowest wages; New York, New York pays the highest. Here is a list of average salaries based on location:
|City||Comparison to National Average|
|Atlanta, Georgia||6% below|
|Cincinnati, Ohio||0.4% below|
|Denver, Colorado||12% above|
|Houston, Texas||12% above|
|Los Angeles, California||14% above|
|San Diego, California||16% above|
|New York, New York||18% above|
(“Welder Hourly Pay,” n.d.)
Best Paying Welding Jobs
Three welding careers earn as much or more than the average doctor or lawyer. They are:
- Industrial pipe welders
- Underwater welders
- Military support welder
Several industries, such as power generation, water, chemical, and gas, use industrial pipes. Welders prepare and install them properly to prevent accidents in the future as they aim to improve people’s lives. This is a huge responsibility. The main concerns are safety, speed, and precision. Big companies abroad pay the largest salaries, and traveling welders make a minimum of $50,000 per year.
Underwater welders have an exciting career that takes their work under the sea. Projects include sealing gas exploration leakages and welding oil drilling station pipes. The pay for those who love the ocean is $200,000 per year.
Army welders are in demand abroad and in the U.S. They maintain gadgets, transportation, and equipment used in combat. Even though the welders are typically stationed at camps, the job is risky. They are paid at least $160,000 a year to compensate for this risk. (“Highest Paying Welding Careers,” 2013).
Welding is both a craft and an art, with many levels and faces. It appeals to young and old, male and female. The skill changes constantly, as welding is challenging, dynamic, and adapting, constantly applying scientific principles and new knowledge.
Many opportunities are available in mainstream welding and auxiliary fields. The profession can be as satisfying and exciting as one wants to make it. Welding requires practice, and those who love it are happy to put in the work.
Learning to weld offers individuals an opportunity for a lucrative, stable career, and the occupation has significant growth potential. Mastered skills and tricks of the trade never satisfy welders because they strive to continue learning throughout their careers.
Many are unsure about how to take their careers to the next level, and the trade affords numerous options. Being unaware of the career development opportunities means missing out on the chance of a higher salary and better position. AWS estimates a 290,000-job deficit by 2020. (Miller, n.d.). Since employers aggressively pursue new hires, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity.
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