College isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, there are those that still choose a career in a trade, such as welding or engineering. These practical jobs provide a service to society that many take for granted in the world today. With university tuition constantly on the rise, many are deciding against several years of debt in favor of earning money immediately in a reliable field.
But is welding still a reliable career choice? Learning how to use all the welding supplies and equipment takes a lot of time. You want a guarantee that your hard work will pay off when it’s time to become a full-time welder.
While the employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is expected to grow 2 percent between 2021 and 2031—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—this rate is slower than the average of all occupations. But despite this slow growth rate, roughly 47,000 openings for all the listed positions above are expected to open each year. But most of these openings are likely due to the need to replace jobs as older welders, etc., retire or leave the trade(s).
In this article, we’ll take a look at what goes into becoming a welder, why the employment demand is slow-growing, how much a welder makes compared to other professions, and more. In the end, you’ll be the judge if it’s still a reliable career choice today.
What Does It Take to Become a Welder?
You don’t need a four-year university degree to become a welder. What you do need is a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as some technical training experience before being hired by most employers.
Often, this training is available in some high school technical classes. In other cases, it comes from vocational-technical institutes, community colleges, or private welding, soldering, and brazing schools. The U.S. Armed Forces also provide some welding training.
Employer-based apprenticeships are not an uncommon way to enter the workforce either. While some will take on entry-level workers as apprentices, others require some previously completed form of vocational training.
Not all employers require some formal training, but your chances of getting hired are improved greatly if you have completed some. Many welders learn on the job for several months before they consider themselves pros.
Are There Different Types of Welding?
There are four main types of welding, according to the New England Institute of Technology. Below we break down the differences between them.
- Gas Metal Arc Welding – The most popular type of welding in the construction and automotive industries, “…this process uses a thin wire as an electrode. The wire heats up as it is fed through the welding instrument and towards the welding site. Shielding gas must be used to protect the weld from contaminants in the air.”
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding – This type of welding “is commonly used to weld together thin and non-ferrous materials like aluminum, copper, lead, or nickel. It’s commonly applied to bicycle or aircraft manufacturing.”
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding – This welding process “relies on a manual technique using a consumable electrode coated in flux. This method tends to be most popular among home-shop welders.”
- Flux Cored Arc Welding – This type of welding “revolves around a continuous wire feed process. There are two separate processes associated with flux-cored arc welding. One involves the use of shielding gas while the other relies on self-shielding agents produced when fluxing agents decompose within the wire.”
Many institutes will teach all four forms of welding, leaving students prepared for a number of industry positions across the field, including:
- Welding engineering technician
- Production welder
- Industrial engineering technician
- Quality control engineering technician
- CADD designer
- CADD technician
- Welding industry salesperson
- Materials testing technician
- And more
How Much Do Welders Make?
The question you’ve been waiting for: How much money will I make if I dedicate my life to this? Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers make an average annual wage of $47,010, which is above the national average for all occupations at $45,760.
If you can find a reliable job in welding, it can be a very lucrative and fulfilling career. According to Zippia, the average median income for college graduates is $47,000. So you’re making what college graduates are making, but you don’t have the debt that comes with four years of tuition at a university.
However, like all professions, where you live will also determine your income, as well as your specific position in the field of welding. For example, underwater welders or nuclear welders will make more on average than a typical automotive welding technician, etc.
Why Is The Welding Job Market Slow-Growing?
One of the reasons for the slow growth of the welding industry is the age of current welders. Thirty-six percent of welders in the industry were 45 and older in 2020. This means welders are staying in the field for a long time. Jobs are expected to open up as current welders retire or leave the field for another reason.
The manufacturing industry in the U.S. has been plagued by low output and a decreasing labor force in the recent past, but signs point to a resurgence. This is good news for welders, who will always be in demand to fix essential elements of a community, like bridges, roads, airports, and more. For example, in March 2021, during the heart of the pandemic, manufacturing employment increased by 53,000.
If there’s not a strong demand for welders in your town, consider relocating. Often there are plenty of jobs and projects available elsewhere, but many welders aren’t prepared to uproot their lives.
Conclusion – Is Welding Still A Reliable Career Choice?
Welders will always be in demand to fix essential equipment and facilities of any community. Bridges, roads, and other important elements will always need to be repaired, updated, maintained, and more.
Welding is a more reliable career choice if you have some form of vocational training and a lot of the welding equipment needed. This can come from a high school program, a private welding or trade school, or a four-year degree in welding from an accredited institution. When a welder locks down a solid job, they get paid well compared to the national average for all occupations.
You don’t need to go to college to find a reliable career. Welders are a prime example. As the job market for welders continues to grow over the next decade, the career field will remain reliable for those that are willing to put the work in and be flexible.