A career as a welder is appealing for a lot of reasons, and the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can achieve. It’s easy to get your start as a welder, and you can even learn a bit at home before you arrive at a job site. Although there are training programs and certifications to give you a boost, in many places you can become a welder just by signing on as an apprentice to an established welder.
You can make good money, too. The starting wages for welders average around $40,000 a year, and although on average welders make between $40,000 and $80,000, remember that these are averages. Some welders make less money, and there are welders out there making more than $200,000 a year!
There are so many different ways to be a welder too. It’s not all the same work, and you don’t have to do an identical job for your entire life with so many different disciplines and environments to branch off into. In this article, we’ll look at some of the different career opportunities for welders, and how you can get your foot in the door.
Most welders start by helping others, and in many cases, you need to be an assistant or apprentice before you are fully trained or licensed as a welder. Welders’ helpers may start at about minimum wage, but a big part of what you gain by working in this position is the experience of being surrounded by experienced welders and learning the trade from them. You don’t need any special training to become a welder’s apprentice or assistant, but you do need some basic social skills, a good work ethic, and a curiosity about welding.
As the demand for welders increases, more and more people are going to be getting their start this way, but there will be more and more welders looking for assistance, too.
2. Fitter Welders position things exactly
A welder who positions and fits together pieces to weld them with heat torches or lasers is a welder fitter. Being able to read detailed schematics and position pieces precisely so they are welded exactly as required is a specialized skill that comes from experience. Close attention to detail and safety is essential to being a fitter welder.
According to Indeed.com, the average base salary for a fitter welder is $20.92 an hour, which is slightly higher than the base rate for welders due to the specificity of the position. To become a fitter welder, you need licensure as a welder and experience working with these types of projects. The need for fitter welders is due to increase along with the need for welders overall.
3. Tack Welders quickly join materials
Tack welding is the process of weakly welding two materials together to prepare them for a final weld, rather than clamping or using other methods to hold them in place. This process is widely used for convenience and efficiency, and a good tack welder has mastered the ability to conjoin to materials using simple, quick welds. According to ZipRecruiter, the average tack welder makes $16 an hour, or about $33,000 a year.
To become a tack welder, you need to be a licensed welder with lots of experience in tack welding so that you can specialize. Tack welding is in demand in a variety of contexts, so the demand for tack welders should increase with the demand for welders overall.
4. MIG Welders work with mild steel
A metal inert gas, or MIG welding, also called gas metal arc welding, is a process for welding mild steel that is more suitable for beginners and requires less skill than other welding methods. There are fewer positions for MIG welders than in other specialties, but there are MIG welders for hire for many applications. According to Indeed.com, the average compensation for a MIG welder is $19.60 an hour, which is marginally above the standard rate for all welders.
MIG welding can be learned with a simple setup at home and is considered a logical beginning point for non-welders who are curious about it but to get a job as a MIG welder you’ll need to show some exceptional skills. The growth outlook for MIG welding isn’t as significant as for some other specialties, but it looks like it will hold steady as MIG welders continue to be required.
5. TIG Welders use Tungsten
Tungsten inert gas welding, or TIG welding, is ideal for highly precise welding jobs, due to several core improvements in precision over MIG welding and other methods. TIG welding is standard for a wide variety of different processes, which means that TIG welders are always in demand. According to ZipRecruiter, the average compensation for a TIG welder is $20 an hour, which is above the standard rate for welders.
To become a TIG welder you need licensure and experience as a welder and guidance and training on the procedures for TIG welding.
6. Pipe Welders hook up the tubes
Pipe welders work on pipes, which are often hidden under the ground or in walls and other structures, and must be welded securely to avoid leaks that can break open under pressure. Welding together pipes requires precision and welding very thick, substantive pieces of metal. Although some pipe welders figure out situations in which they work indoors, the majority of pipe welders work outside on construction sites.
According to Comparably, the average salary for a pipe welder is $49,131. You can find a job working as a pipe welder by gaining licensure and experience as a welder and building your expertise by growing your resume with these kinds of projects.
7. Nuclear Welders do top secret work
Welders who work in nuclear power plants or on the equipment used in nuclear power plants have special expertise. They are called nuclear welders and specialize in welding these important instruments. You don’t need to worry about radiation poisoning if you are a nuclear welder.
You won’t be exposed to those conditions unless you are given appropriate protection. According to ZipRecruiter, the average compensation for a nuclear welder is $32 an hour or $66,000 a year. To become a nuclear welder, you need to be a good welder, to begin with, and be able to obtain a security clearance so that you can be trusted around diagrams, documents, and in areas that are otherwise top secret.
Inevitably, some welding jobs need to happen in the most unforgiving space: underwater. Whether it is in the deep ocean on an oil rig, or just at the bottom of a local lake, the ability to dive and remain underwater while doing complex welding work is a skill that is highly in demand. It’s also very challenging: you might need to do welding work in extreme temperatures in a wetsuit, with fingers in gloves, while worrying about oxygen and pressurization.
According to Comparably, the average underwater welder makes $42,035 a year. To start with underwater welding, you’ll need to become an expert certified diver first. When you’ve got all of the credentials you’ll need as both a diver and a welder, you can combine the two.
9. Rig welders make more money working in dangerous conditions
Oil rigs constantly need maintenance, which means they need welders. A rig welder helps to keep oil rigs functional and safe by repairing and reinforcing them. The conditions on oil rigs can be dangerous, and welders who work on them are often required to work long hours and be ready at a moment’s notice.
They need to work in cramped conditions, under pressure, and sometimes in a dangerous environment. Although there are similarities, those who work on land-based oil rigs are generally much safer than those who work offshore, where underwater welding is often required and the conditions, in general, are more perilous. According to ZipRecruiter, the average rig welder makes $37 an hour, or $77,686 per year, which reflects the tough conditions and dangerous environments.
To become a rig welder, you’ll need to prove yourself as a welder first, and then you’ll need your Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), which requires fingerprinting and a background check. Then you can start applying for job postings.
10. Aerospace Welders go above and beyond
Planes, helicopters, and space shuttles all need precise welding, which is where aerospace welders come in. Aerospace welders work with lightweight metals like carbon steel and aluminum and have the experience and technical skill to be trusted with welding jobs that could cause dangerous structural problems if done poorly. Aerospace welders work primarily on commercial aircraft but could be hired for any complex welding job involving aerodynamic components.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for an Aerospace welder is $49,794 a year. Aerospace welders need to have standard skills and extensive experience, but there is no specific training required for the aerospace industry. To get a job as an aerospace welder, you just need to have solid skills and apply to commercial airline jobs.
11. Manufacturing welders are on the supply side
Factories use a wide range of complex equipment, and regularly need welders to repair and maintain the gear they use to produce products that are then sold. A manufacturing welder works in a factory or production facility to do welding jobs as necessary to maintain the equipment to keep it running and keep workers safe. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a manufacturing welder is $51,660 per year.
Manufacturing welders are always required, and the growth outlook is positive for both welders of all kinds and manufacturing in general.
12. Boilermakers work making heavy-metal machines
Large tanks and boilers require a specific welding skill set, and boilermakers are welding experts together with sheets of metal to make boilers, vessels, heat exchangers, and other heavy-metal structures. Boilermakers may work indoors or outdoors on construction sites. Boilermakers may also be commissioned to work as nuclear welders, manufacturing welders, and shipbuilding welders.
According to Payscale, the average hourly rate for a boilermaker is $31.19. You can become a boilermaker by mastering the essentials, and then pursuing this kind of work with a skilled boilermaker who can show you the ropes.
13. Military Support Welders are on the front lines
The military uses a lot of heavy metal equipment, and they need welders who are ready to repair and maintain it. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a military support welder is $59,274. The best way to get a job as a military support welder is to enroll in the military.
You might even be able to get some assistance and subsidize your training.
14. Industrial Shutdown Welders work the other shift
When factories, power plants, or industrial facilities are operating it can be impossible to do repairs and maintenance on them. An industrial shutdown welder does audits on pipes and weld points when the facility is offline and it is safe to do this kind of work. There are currently shutdown welder jobs on ZipRecruiter being advertised with salaries of $38,000 to $68,000 a year.
15. Shipbuilding welders coast along with good working conditions
Ships require a lot of welding, being composed almost entirely of metal. A ship requires not only walls, compartments, and a hull made out of steel, but lots of other metal components like machinery and boilers. Unlike underwater welders, who are enlisted to do repairs on ships that are in the water, shipbuilding welders tend to work on land where ships are being slowly assembled.
This means shipbuilding welders often enjoy benefits like 40-hour work weeks and standardized conditions. According to Salary.com, the average salary for a ship welder is $45,076. You can get started by mastering many different disciplines, but boilermakers, in particular, are in demand on ships.
It also helps to live in a coastal city with a shipbuilding industry.
16. Welding Instructors pass on knowledge to the next generation
Everyone has to learn to weld somehow. A welding instructor works at a community college or vocational school to train aspiring welders in the basics so that they can go on to complete their first apprenticeship. Welding instructors need to be well-versed in the best practices of welding, but they also need to be teachers and be inspired by sharing knowledge and helping the next generation of welders discover their craft.
According to Comparably, the average salary for a welding instructor is $60,790. To get a job as a welding instructor you’ll need technical skills and lots of experience, but the working conditions are pretty great. You can expect a working week of fewer than 40 hours, your work will be largely indoors, and you’ll get to share your love of welding with other people who are passionate about it.
17. Welding Technicians design welding processes
A welding technician is responsible for designing the processes of welding, rather than doing the welding itself. In large-scale operations like construction or manufacturing, efficiently doing welding compiles inefficiencies and can cost hundreds of hours of wasted time. A welding technician designs the processes and tells welders how to do the work to maximize safety and efficiency.
According to Comparably, the average salary for a welding technician is $45,540. Skills and experience in welding help, but you can also obtain a certificate as a welding technician as a qualification.
18. Welding Inspectors oversee other welders and their work
A welding inspector is responsible for monitoring and evaluating not just the finished work, but the methods and processes that welders use. A welding inspector is like a welding manager, who is responsible for overseeing other welders and ensuring that all work is done properly. According to Comparably, the average salary for a welding inspector is $68,108.
To become a welding inspector, you need significant experience as well as additional qualifications. In the US, the American Welding Society has the sole authority to issue a welding inspector certificate, and they only do so for candidates who have education and experience, and who pass a rigorous test.