Becoming a Combination Welder
Combination welders prepare materials to be welded, weld metal components, and perform maintenance on welding torches and equipment. They're trained in variety of welding processes, including arc welding and oxy-fuel welding. The type of weld performed depends upon the metal being used. Combination welders may work on a number of different types of projects; welding is necessary for the automotive and aerospace industries, to name just a few. Heavy lifting, working high in the air, or stooping and bending low are some of the challenges to this occupation. In addition, protective gear must be worn to prevent burns and other injuries. Many welders work overtime.
|Education Level||High school diploma or equivalent; many employers prefer to hire welders who have some formal training|
|Certification||Voluntary certification is available; some employers may require welders to be certified|
|Key Skills||Manual dexterity, visual sharpness, strength and stamina; attention to detail; experience with computer-aided design (CAD), blowtorches, gas welding apparatuses, lifts, and protective equipment|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,150 (for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine
Complete a Welding Program
Before an aspiring welder can get started in the field, they might first complete a welding program. Welding technology and combination welding certificate programs are available through trade schools and community colleges. These programs provide welders with hands-on experience in various types of structural and pipe welding as well as classroom training on heat sources, such as gas and electricity. Coursework focuses on blueprint reading, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and metallurgy. Some of these programs are designed to prepare students for certification.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that computer knowledge is becoming more important for combination welders. Welders may frequently be responsible for programming computer-controlled welding equipment. Taking courses during a postsecondary program that focus on sharpening computer skills can help welders be better prepared to work with these computer programs. Computer experience can also help welders to become confident working with other common programs, such as CAD and record-keeping software.
Many companies are willing to hire inexperienced workers for low-skilled welding jobs, allowing entry-level welders to practice their skills and techniques under supervision. Combination welders must learn to make adequate welds in different positions and evaluate their own weld for soundness.
Apprenticeship programs are also available through national associations such as the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Individuals in apprenticeship programs learn the welding trade by working alongside of experienced professional welders. They learn the necessary skills through classroom training as well as practical experience; around 200 hours of technical training are required each year. Apprenticeships typically last 3-4 years, depending on the regulations of a welder's local union. Apprentices are generally compensated for their work in their programs.
Combination welding is often very physically demanding. Welders may work in cramped, uncomfortable spaces and lift heavy items. Welding can also be a dangerous profession; workers in this field have a higher rate of injuries than average. Welders may wish to establish a fitness routine to develop strength and endurance to deal with physically demanding work.
Certification through the American Welding Society (AWS) demonstrates professional standards to employers and may provide opportunities for higher paying positions in the welding industry. Some employers only hire certified welders. To become a certified welder, combination welders must complete a performance-based exam at a proctored location. Certifications for welding inspectors and educators, as well as specialized welders are also available. Certified welders are required to maintain their certification every six months by providing proof of their continued employment in the field.
In summary, many employers looking for welders prefer to hire individuals who have some formal training in the field. Apprenticeship and certification programs are available to provide this training as well as credentials.