A high school diploma is all that's required to begin a career as a welder. Welders typically learn through on-the-job training, although some employers prefer applicants who've completed postsecondary training. Some states require certification.
Welders fuse metal pieces together by applying heat from specialized high-temperature torches. Although welders can enter the profession without experience and receive on-the-job training, employers may favor those who have completed a postsecondary educational program.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent; formal training is typically preferred|
|Other Requirements||Professional certification required by some states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||4% for all welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,150 for all welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career Profile for a Welder
Welders join metal pieces by applying enough heat to melt the pieces so that they can be fused into one bond. Because the bond is so strong, welding is used in many industrial applications from airframes to bridges. Depending on the application, welders may use different types of welding processes, such as arc welding or oxy-fuel welding. Welders may work in a variety of industries, including construction and manufacturing.
Educational Requirements for a Welder
Vocational high schools may offer courses in welding; however, those who don't have access to high school welding courses may enroll in a postsecondary educational program to learn how to weld. Aspiring welders may enroll in certificate programs offered by junior colleges and trade schools. Certificate programs usually take 6-12 months to complete and offer courses that instruct beginners on topics such as safety principles and blueprint reading, as well as several kinds of welding. These programs may also offer advanced labs in which students use welding processes in varying applications.
Aspiring welders may also consider matriculating to an associate's degree program in welding. Associate's degree programs last 1-2 years and may provide students with more elective choices, enabling them to enhance their skill levels.
Some states may require welders to be certified. The American Welding Society (AWS) designates applicants who pass a practical exam as Certified Welders. Once certified, these professionals must submit a certification maintenance form every six months to keep their credentials.
In May 2014, the BLS reported that welders received a median annual salary of $38,150. Those employed in the electric power generation, distribution and transmission industry earned the highest average salaries, receiving $71,570 annually. The top 10% of welders took home at least $60,000 per year in 2015.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places welders into a group that includes solderers, cutters and brazers, and it collects information accordingly (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, jobs for these professionals are anticipated to grow by 4% from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than average. The BLS notes that welders who possess competency in the latest technologies or who do not mind relocating are likely to see the best job prospects.
With slower than average job growth, applicants who want to pursue a career as a welder can improve their ability to compete in this field by completing shop classes, vocational training or internships to gain practical work experience.