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Salary and Career Info for a Master Welder

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a master welder. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties, and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Master welders are the individuals who use their knowledge and experience in metal work to provide specialty welding and inspections services for various industries. Master welders are the denoted by their years of experience and to reach this title, those interested can pursue college programs in metalwork in addition to earning certification with the American Welding Society. This is becoming an extremely competitive field as more industries convert to automated processes for their welding needs but driven individuals may find employment with construction crews, underwater sites and natural gas industries.

Essential Information

Experienced welders work with steel, titanium and plastic, and they typically know how to perform a variety of welding techniques and applications. Master welders and inspectors with technology experience may find employment in several industries, despite a decline in demand for the profession. Professional certification demonstrates a welder's skill level and may increase job opportunities and salary potential.

Required Education Certification program or previous work experience
Other Requirements Welding, Cutting and Brazing Safety Technician (WST), Certified Welder (CW), or Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) certification may be required
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 4% (welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers)
Median Salary** (2016) $47,919

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
**Source: Payscale.com

Salary Information

In 2016, PayScale.com reported total annual earnings for most novice and experienced welders between $29,547 and $69,453. The site indicated that welders with 20 years of experience or more earned up to $47,919 a year.

Career Information

Though welders began working in steel, the field has since expanded to include materials such as titanium, plastic or aluminum. There are several welding techniques with which a master welder should be familiar. Arc welding is the most common, using an electrical current to heat metal to its molten stage. Other welding types include metal inert gas (MIG) and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding.

Many trades in manufacturing industries are adopting automated practices. As this trend continues, some welding processes may become partially or wholly automatic, though experts in the field will be necessary for specialized and inspection services. Master welders may find work in a variety of industries and locations, including construction and underwater sites, automotive and fabrication plants or natural gas pipelines.

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Education

The term master welder is often used to refer to highly experienced and trained welders. Many community colleges offer certificate or degree programs in welding or advanced welding. Since employers prefer applicants with diverse welding skills, acquiring expert-level training and education should help aspiring welders in the job market. Courses in a welding program typically cover metallurgy, physics, mathematics, mechanical drawing and chemistry. A student in an associate degree program can expect to spend two years studying topics such as:

  • Blueprint reading for welders
  • Welding theory
  • Power sources
  • Advanced welding techniques
  • TIG welding techniques
  • MIG welding techniques
  • Math for machinists

Certification

Trained welders may earn a Certified Welder (CW) or Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) credential from the American Welding Society. Certified welders demonstrate their welding ability at an accredited test facility, and are qualified to work in the chemical refinery, sheet metal, petroleum or structural steel industries. Certified welding inspectors examine and approve welds, assuring that the work meets code and specification requirements. Certified inspectors with at least six years of experience may test for a Senior Certified Welding Inspector credential (www.aws.org).

The National Association of Safety Professionals offers a 20-hour online course leading to a Welding, Cutting and Brazing Safety Technician (WST) certification. Upon completion of lessons in fire prevention, ventilation and welding safety measures, students must pass an exhaustive test with a score of 80% or better. Some schools may allow students to apply credit for the course toward a degree program. While certification is optional, some employers may require welders to earn CW or WST certification (www.naspweb.com).

Job Outlook

The BLS reported that employment in the fields of welding, soldering, brazing and cutting is expected to grow by 4% between 2014 and 2024, with the best opportunities available for those with up-to-date training on the latest technologies. Prospects are also said to be more favorable for welders open to relocating.

Master welders are the experienced craftsmen with in-depth knowledge of metal and the techniques involved in welding and other metalwork. Those entering this field can pursue associate's degrees and certification in welding programs but the title of master welder is reserved for those with years of experience. Despite many industries automating their welding aspects, a master welder is still in demand with those employed earning a median salary of $47,919 a year.

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