What Does It Take to Start a Career in Welding?

A union welder starting a career path as an apprentice

Does working with your hands sound exciting? If the answer is yes, you may be interested in pursuing a career in welding. Welding offers plenty of opportunities for professional growth, career advancement, and—depending on the type of job you get—travel. You’ll also have the freedom to work in a variety of industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace, and more.

However, it’s important to note that you can’t become a welder overnight. Although the occupation doesn’t require a college or university degree, it’s still a skilled profession that demands time, training, and dedication. If welding still sounds like a career you’d like to pursue, there are a few things you’ll need to know.

What is a Welder and How Do You Become One?

Before we get started on explaining how to become a welder, you should first know what a welder is, what they do, and what to expect from the profession. 

A welder is a skilled tradesperson who works with different types of metals. It’s a welder’s job to connect metal objects through the precise application of heat. The process of heating and bonding is done through the use of tools such as torches and clamps. Additionally, you’ll monitor the welding process to avoid mistakes and evaluate welds for defects. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a welder is a little over $41,000. As you gain experience, that number will increase. As a welder, you can expect your workplace to change depending on the project you’re working on. That means you’ll need to be comfortable with working outside, inside, in open areas, and in confined spaces. 

Now that you know what to expect, here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a welder:

Complete High School or Get a GED

You can actually get started on your path to becoming a welder as early as high school. Many high schools not only offer classes in welding and metal fabrication, but also other basic course knowledge like math and science that you’ll need to perform the job. Math is important because welders are constantly measuring and calculating, and science will help you understand how welding works. You’ll need a well-rounded education to be successful in this career path.

Enroll in a Training Program

Some employers may offer training on the job, but most will require you to go through training before hiring you. For training, you have a couple of different options:

  • College or University: While it’s not necessary, you can earn your associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a college or university. These institutions will have accredited courses that will help you prepare for your future. You can also attend a trade or vocational school. 
  • Military: The military offers opportunities to learn a variety of skills, including welding. Here you can get real, on-the-job experience while also serving your country.
  • Certificate Program: Similar to attending a school, a welding certificate program offers education on welding practices. However, a school will cover a broader range of topics.

The main difference between these options is the length of time and cost. For example, a degree program will take about two to four years. By contrast, a certification program may last anywhere from 6 to 18 months.

Participate in an Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship can provide valuable experience you can’t get anywhere else. Often offered by local welder unions, an apprenticeship will give you access to hands-on experience and knowledge about best practices. On top of that, you’ll have the chance to be paid as you learn and get a head start with a company.

Get Certified

The last step to becoming a full-fledged welder is getting certified. Certification validates your knowledge and skill level in the trade. Being certified will make you an attractive candidate for employers on the search for qualified welders.  

Join Southwest Pipe Trades Association for Your Apprenticeship

Welding is a profession that spans across multiple industries and is one of the most in-demand jobs in the marketplace. Get a leg up by joining our pipe welders union. We’ll provide you with the knowledge and expertise you need to succeed in your pipe welding career. Contact us today to learn more.

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