What Does a Welder Do?
Welding is a great career choice for anyone looking for an exciting hands-on job that offers long-term satisfaction. Welders work everywhere — on bridges, manufacturing sites, planes, even on the top of skyscrapers. Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers are in high demand across the country, with more jobs available than in other industries. If you have a great work ethic, you’ll never be short of work. As your welding career develops, the more experience and skills you’ll gain. Because there are so many opportunities available, you’ll be able to grow your career, increase your salary — and your options.
Welders commonly work with arc welding, which uses electrical currents to generate heat. You’ll use tools like a wire feed or MIG welder, TIG welder and plasma cutter. Due to its strength, welding is used for all kinds of manufacturing activities. Welders will typically also work as cutters from time to time, using heat to cut metal to specific dimensions. Instead of joining metals together, cutters use the heat from an electric arc, ionized gas or burning gases to trim metal objects. Cutters also disassemble large objects like ships, cars, aircraft and buildings. Brazing and soldering are other skills a welder might learn. Brazing and soldering methods create strong joins that prevent weakness or distortion that can sometimes occur in welding.
SkillPointe explains what to expect, what you’ll earn, and show you what it’s like from the point of view of a pro who’s already qualified and doing the job. If you’re ready to find out more, read on.
- Study and interpret blueprints and measurements
- Read sketches and specifications
- Inspect structures and materials before welding
- Operate torches and power supplies
- Use and maintain specialized welding machines and equipment
- Weld components
- Monitor stages of the welding process
- Assess the quality of welds and identify flaws
- Follow strict safety regulations – including wearing the right safety gear
How To Become a Welder: FAQs
What are the entry-level requirements for a welding technologist?
Most employers require a high-school diploma, certification and technical training. There are several ways to get there. Formal technical school training can take between six and 18 months. If you have a high-school diploma or equivalent, you can combine it with technical, on-the-job training. Schooling in areas like advanced math, metallurgy, physics, mechanical drawing and blueprint reading is useful. Learning welding symbols and pipe layout will help you on the path to becoming a welder.
What other qualifications do I need?
An associate degree at an accredited welding school, which takes about 24 months, will teach you about arc welding, soldering, brazing, casting and bronzing techniques. You'll learn about GMAW or MIG welding, SMAW or Stick welding and GTAW or TIG welding. Once you’ve earned your degree, you’ll be ready to start applying for jobs right away. You can even go straight to an apprenticeship with similar instruction. What’s more, you’ll get paid while you train.
How do I find an entry-level welding job?
Most employers prefer to hire through training or credential programs. You can find a welder apprenticeship through an employer and learn on the job. Some employers are willing to hire inexperienced entry-level workers so they can train them. For entry-level welders, formal, technical instruction can last several months. You can also get welder-related training at a community college or technical school in the areas of math, metallurgy, physics, mechanical drawing and blueprint reading.
That's a short window for training for a secure job, and it sure beats the potential debt and time commitment of a four-year degree.
Is being a welder a secure job?
Welding is an industry that’s seeing big growth, which is likely to continue over the next few years. Welding is an industry in need of people with the expertise and the credentials. Due to aging infrastructure, welders are needed to rebuild bridges, highways and buildings. With so many communities across America struggling to find enough trades people to fill jobs, plenty of employers are hiring now. Take steps to grow your skills – such as getting certified by The American Welding Society — and potential employers are sure to take notice.
Is there a demand for welders?
The outlook for a welder is good. As a welder, cutter, solderer or brazer, you’ll probably work full-time during regular business hours. Most manufacturing companies offer two or three shifts a day, lasting between eight and 12 hours. With many manufacturing firms continue production around the clock, there’s plenty of opportunity for overtime in the evenings or on weekends.
What will I gain from becoming a welder?
There’s so much diversity in being a welder, from the different kinds of metals and the projects you’ll work on, to the range of settings you’ll experience. It’ll take working for just a few different companies over the course of your career to encounter a lot of diversity in your work and your environment.
If you’re career-driven and eager to progress, consider training to become a manager. For every few welders, there’s someone overseeing their work. This means you can still weld and manage a team working on the assigned projects. The more people you manage, the more you’ll earn. Here's a great example: Olivia McCleery got hooked on welding. Now she's teaching other women how to weld.
Welders who want to focus on a long-term career with high reward know the key to further employment opportunities are training and skills beyond welding. Taking steps to learn about business by studying accounting, computer applications and service management could help you earn up to $61,000 a year.
What skills does a welder need?
You could be a good fit to become a welder if you have these personal attributes:
- Are detail-oriented
- Can read blueprints and translate them into reality
- Have steady hands, good spatial-orientation, and coordination
- Have sound mechanical skills
- Are a good communicator
- Have the physical strength and stamina to lift heavy objects
- Can follow detailed safety instructions
You can expect to choose from a variety of different types of welding. In fact, there are more than 100 welding processes. Working in a field like welding, you’ll often find yourself outdoors in all kinds of weather – sometimes on a scaffold or a platform off the ground. Some of the jobs you’ll do might include gas metal arc or gas tungsten arc welding, flux core welding or shielded metal arc welding for structural jobs.
Once you’re on the path to becoming a certified welder, the sky’s the limit. If you like working outside, you might consider specializing in one of the areas of welding that will allow you to do that. An exciting career in construction, aircraft or maritime welding will give you an area of expertise.
As a welder in engineering construction, you’ll work on buildings, dams, water supply systems, bridge applications and more. This rapidly changing industry has seen innovative developments in the last decade, and your skills and craftsmanship will be critical to success. You’ll help to build the structures that serve communities across the country and encounter new technologies like laser-arc hybrid welding and friction techniques in your work.
As an aircraft welder, you’ll get to use different welding techniques in the manufacture and repair of jets, commercial airplanes and helicopters, including SMAW, MIG and TIG welding. Aircraft fabrication technologies have evolved over the years to include lighter metals, such as titanium and magnesium. To get qualified for this job, enroll in a training program out of high school, and learn processes commonly used in the aircraft industry.
Maritime welding requires specialist skills and knowledge. You’ll connect metals or plastics to produce joints that are water- and oil-tight. If you’re interested in this area, you should look to train in aluminum, structural and pipe welding. The training will ensure you get a broad set of experiences, from a shop setting to practical training in construction and repair of steel structures. A combination of hands-on and classroom training will set you up to handle the right welding equipment and tools. You should also seek out programs that include safety and standards procedures for shipyards.
Working with tools like grinders, saws, gas torches and heavy objects can be dangerous, and this is a job that’s physically demanding. You’ll handle powerful machines to produce great results. This can be challenging and rewarding. Safety gear is important for this job, and will be needed to protect your eyes, skin and clothing.
Welding is a great career that allows you to develop skills and find new ways to assert yourself. It’s work that not only serves you, but also positively effects your community.