Welding is a great career with excellent earning potential. Many career centers, community colleges and trade schools offer welding certification. The ability to work almost anywhere in the country adds to the allure of this important trade. Learn more about why and where to get a welding certification.
Welding Certification: Why Do It and Where to Learn
As more high schools began pushing college courses on students, apprenticeship crafts such as welding have been ignored. Over time, this has caused a shortage of an essential career that forms the foundation of many industrial applications. Now, welding suffers from a lack of knowledgeable and competent people across the country. In fact, the deficit is so severe that companies sometimes have to go out of the country to find qualified welders. This lack of qualified workers will continue into the foreseeable future, which makes earning a welding certification a career field with much demand across the country. Salaries can start off low but quickly grow depending on demand and special skills.
10 Reasons to Become a Welder
- The job outlook is positive and growing. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the United States Department of Labor recognize that there will be an increased need for welders as the current population continues to age and current welders retire. Over the years, more students have chosen a college career path instead of a trade skill path. Consequently, the number of trained welders needed to fulfill jobs is much higher than the number of welders available to fill the slots.
- There is a growing need for welders across the country, so the job is easily transferable. This benefits people who like to travel as well as those who prefer to stay in one location. Jobs should be available no matter where you want to live. If you are really adventurous, you may even want to spend a few months welding on an oil rig and then taking the rest of the year off. Opportunities for welders exist in every state, in both rural and urban areas.
- Training is easily accessible and available in many locations across the country. Community colleges, career centers and trade schools all offer basic welding classes that can be completed in a short amount of time. The salary that you will make far exceeds the fees for learning the basics of the trade. Initial training does not take a long time, and you could be earning money soon after completing certification.
- You will have a choice of work industries because welders are needed in a variety of different fields, especially in construction where welders are essential personnel for producing buildings, highways and bridges. However, they are also required in specialized environments like off-shore oil rigs and underwater platforms.
- This career field is suitable for men and women. Most people think of welders as men, and perhaps a majority of welders are male. However, women were the central workforce during World War II when most of the men were overseas fighting the war. Women frequently worked in factories and were part of the effort to produce war machines for soldiers to use. Women have a long and varied history as welders and continue to be part of the workforce today. Today, the industry welcomes women and men.
- College is not required, though some elementary math skills are essential. Basic safety procedures are also essential when working with the extremely flammable gases used to fuse the metal. Not everyone is cut-out to sit in a classroom, read textbooks and write essays to achieve a career. Some people prefer more hands-on work. Welding is a career that will always be needed and will continue to pay well, especially as the workforce ages and more people retire from the field. Schooling is minimal and workers are always needed.
- Certification means specific qualifications have been achieved. This alerts employers to your skills and your ability to maintain or advance those skills as they need for different projects.
- The money is good. Entry-level welders can start earning around $25,000 a year right out of training. This money will quickly increase as your skills and knowledge increase. More experienced welders can earn over $50,000. Specialized welders, such as those that have learned to weld underwater, can quickly make a six-figure salary.
- Cost for training can run a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the extent of the training program. Essentially, welders pay less for their education and earn more immediately, and over time, than some college graduates.
- Welders have the flexibility to work for different companies and enjoy excellent benefits, or he or she can become an entrepreneur and start a company.
Where to Train for Welding
Some people are fortunate to learn to weld from a friend or relative that has a set up in a garage or workshop. Others may take classes during high school, primarily if they have attended a vocational technical high school. However, there are a variety of other ways to learn to weld if you decide to pursue this career path.
- Community colleges throughout the country have certificate programs that walk students through the entire learning process. Typical classes go beyond welding to include mathematics, computers, blueprint reading and safety. The colleges will also instruct students in a variety of different types of welding including arc, metal inert gas (MIG), tungsten inert gas (TIG) and primary and advanced pipe welding.
- Those people interested in welding can also take classes at many career centers located throughout the country. These centers offer a variety of career training options, which may include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), nursing assistant, computer help desk technician, electrical training and other certificate programs. Classes can be taught during the day, evening or weekend, which makes them accessible to many people.
- The American Welding Society (AWS) maintains a comprehensive geographical listing of training programs broken down by state. The site also details certification requirements and other potential certification programs that may be of interest to welders, including how to become a welding inspector, radiographic interpreter, welding engineer and robotic arc welding.
You do not necessarily need formal schooling to get a welding certificate. In fact, many people teach themselves or learn from family members or friends with equipment. You must, however, pass a welding test given by the American Welding Society (AWS). The most basic test to pass certification is a T-joint. However, most test on the 6G or 45-degree angle weld, which is considered the most challenging weld. Therefore, welders that can pass a 6G weld can easily work on simpler tasks.
Once you have an initial certification, you can then get a job where they will train you to weld for projects in the field. You will then be required to pass a welding test for each new weld to ensure that you can complete it accurately. Out on a job site, you will only be allowed to weld to the specifications on your certification. No one single welding certification covers every weld in the industry. You will be required to do on-the-job training routinely.
However, taking classes and learning a variety of techniques before applying for jobs may make you a more competitive candidate since you already have some proven ability. In fact, obtaining certification indicates to employers that you have already passed some tests and can likely pass the criteria for the job specification as they change. By having a welding certificate, you will be ahead of many welders that do not have their certifications. Even if you have less experience than another welder without a certificate, the hiring manager will more than likely choose the certified candidate over a non-certified worker.
One way to find a good welding program is to ask around. Find some people who work in the field and ask their opinion about the best training in the area. Costs will vary at different schools but do not automatically choose the cheapest or the most expensive. Choose the program that graduates the most skilled welders in your area. Once you obtain welding certification, the cost will be negligible in the long run. Also, it is important not to let the certificate lapse. Maintaining certification is as simple as continuing to document your work, submit the required paperwork and pay the fee.
To Weld or Not To Weld
Welding is the process of joining metal to metal using extreme heat. The result forms the foundations of many essential and beautiful metal structures. Some reality television shows have brought more interest to the field than ever before, which makes more people want to learn the craft. It is important to know that the job can be repetitive, hot, and dirty. It also requires a steady hand to ensure the proper fit. However, many welders love their career and the feeling of a job well done at the end of the day. If you enjoy or feel a sense of accomplishment creating structures in which people live and work, want to make a good salary in a field that is popular throughout the country, then welding might be a good career choice.