Welders are mechanical trade workers who attach and cut metal components through the application of heat. They do so using either a hand-held or remote-controlled welding machine. Welders also repair indentations, smooth out seams and fill holes in metal items. They can often apply their abilities to a range of sectors, which makes it easy for them to switch between industries. Some of the careers paths a welder can go into include education, robotics, underwater welding, engineering, inspection, government, motorsports and project management. Most of the time, welders use their hands to build things and also get down and dirty each workday.
Is welding a good career? Yes, welding is an excellent career because no college degree is needed and the training programs are short. Furthermore, welding offers a person the chance to build items with his or her hands both in the indoors and outdoors. The profession also offers a sense of accomplishment and a multitude of job opportunities.
By the time students get to high school, many of them already have an idea of the career they want to pursue. Although some might consider careers in healthcare, hospitality, education or construction, many may overlook a career in welding. But, welding can be a very lucrative profession to consider. That’s especially true for those who want exposure to many opportunities for career advancement or travel. Here, I look at the welding salary, pros and cons of the occupation and how to become a traveling welder. Also, if you’re wondering how dangerous is welding? Is welding a hard job? Read on for more details.
Is Welding a Good Career – Pros and Cons
A professional welder melts and molds metal to form specific shapes. Welding experts are usually required for creating larger machinery, but they can also create items such as piping systems. The career can be an ideal option for some persons. However, it’s essential to look at both the good and not-so-good aspects of the vocation. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a welding career.
- Job Security
Welders are necessary for almost all types of industries including architecture, construction, agriculture, boat-building and many more. They are also required to train other persons to carry on the trade. All in all, the possibilities for welding jobs are everywhere, which translates to job security.
- Different Ways To Become Certified
Many professions have just a single defined way of acquiring education or training. However, welding offers a variety of options for entering the career. Many high schools provide vocational programs that let students start training before they join the labor force. Technical institutions often offer welding programs, which might be an excellent option for those who know welding is for them. Moreover, a person can become a welder via on-the-job-training, or through apprenticeship programs under the guidance of a master welder.
- Ability to be Hands-On
Rather than sitting in an office every day, welders get to get their hands dirty as they work each day. That means they don’t need to fret about time moving slowly or getting bored at work. Welding is an ever-changing profession and one that keeps a person busy daily once they are established in the field. They could be handling a rail car one day then proceeding to a pipeline the next day. Whatever metal item needs welding, they’ll be called to tackle the job professionally.
- In-Demand Occupation
Welding is a career that’s always going to be required wherever there’s a metal piece that needs to be attached to another for functionality. As a result, welders continue to have jobs in multiple industries across the world. The job outlook for welding experts is promising. With many businesses looking for skilled welders, experts in the trade are easily able to secure a job.
- Sense of Accomplishment
Welders usually see the fruits of their labor immediately. Whether they are contributing to the construction of a car, bridge, or skyscraper, they can follow the progress of their job and later view the end product.
- Versatility and Flexibility
The crucial skills and techniques welders use are generally applicable to all industries. That means if one industry is not doing too well, a welder might be able to secure a job in another sector. For example, if the vehicle manufacturing industry is facing a downturn, a welder can try to get a job in the construction field. Some welders might also get the opportunity to travel while they work, e.g., industrial pipe welders and military support welders.
- Potential Dangers and Discomfort
Burns are the most common injuries welders face as they work. Other common problems include eye discomfort because of exposure to toxic gases and other harmful materials. Welding is not a comfortable occupation either. Welders usually find themselves in small tight spaces, operating in hot weather or welding in freezing cold environments. Additionally, these professionals have to put in a lot of physical effort, so muscle strain is also a common issue.
- Depending On The Industry, One Might Be Subject To Weather
Many times, welders need to work in the outdoors. Although many teams can work through nearly any weather, there are some climatic events, like thunderstorms, that inhibit welding work. Such delays can go on for longer in some sectors, especially during winter, causing added stress, and at times, less pay.
Average Welding Salary USA and the UK
Any expat seeking new career paths might want to try out welding in USA or UK as the profession pays well.
The average Welder Salary in the US is about $33,500 per annum. Salaries typically range between $29,246 and $49,312. Welders working for electrical and gas utilities earn some of the highest wages at $61,110 and $59,620 respectively. Welding pay in the construction and manufacturing industries ranges between $35,000 and $37,000.
In the United Kingdom, the average Welder salary is £25,000 per year. Wages typically range between £20,536 and £31,307.
How to Become a Traveling Welder
Welding work can be needed anywhere. For instance, pipelines need underwater welders while military activities might require welders in desert areas. Additionally, cable and satellite firms need welders that can travel in space. Factories, cruise lines and racing teams also use welders and can be situated anywhere on earth.
Welders with specialized training and are open to travel can earn a large income while seeing the world.
Traveling welders can obtain training from various educational programs offered by vocational schools and colleges. Programs usually last for about 30-45 weeks and include classwork and practical training. Successful completion of any of those training programs leads to earning a certificate or diploma.
Some employers train traveling welders on-the-job via paid apprenticeship programs. That might involve classroom training and operating under the guidance of a skilled traveling welder. An apprenticeship program can last for up to five years before one earns the title of a traveling welder.
After that, traveling welders in the US can obtain the Certified Welder credential issued by the American Welding Society. State licensing boards also offer licenses to different types of traveling welders.
How Dangerous Is Welding
Safety is a vital consideration for any welding work. If safety is overlooked, welders face a wide range of risks including electric shocks, inhaling hazardous fumes and gases, fire and explosions.
- Electric Shocks
An electric shock is one of the most immediate risks facing welders. Such an occurrence can result in severe injury or even death either from the electric shock itself or a fall. An electric shock can happen when a welder touches two metal items that have a voltage between them. E.g., if someone holds bare wires in both hands, an electric current could pass through him or her, leading to shock.
To avoid electric shock, welders need to wear dry gloves and never touch electrodes with skin or wet clothing. Additionally, they should always keep dry insulation between themselves and the metal being welded or surface.
- Fumes and Gases
Constant exposure to welding fumes and gases is injurious to health. The fumes contain potentially hazardous complex metal oxide compounds; therefore it’s essential for workers to operate in well-ventilated areas. They should wear approved respirators were necessary to avoid inhalation of toxic gases.
- Fire and Explosions
The welding arc produces extreme temperatures and might pose a significant fire hazard if safety practices are ignored. The spatter created by the arc can reach a maximum of 35 feet away from the welding area.
To avoid fires and explosions, before starting any welding, inspect the work site for flammables and remove them from there. Also, know the location of the fire alarm and extinguishers.
In addition to the above dangers, welders are also at risk of incurring burns. However, burns can be averted by wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Is Welding a Hard Job?
While Welding is a good career with excellent job security, it does have certain drawbacks. First, since welders work with high heat and big metal components, they sustain more injuries than many other occupations. Professionals in this career need to protect themselves from eye injuries, UV radiation, burns and falling things. Furthermore, they need to take care not to slip and fall when working in high places.
To reduce the chances of injury, welders wear protective clothing and learn the proper safety procedures. Taking those precautions is necessary for all types of welders.
Secondly, the demands of the industry mean that working overtime is possible. While the specifics vary from one company to another, sometimes welders have to work at night or during weekends. Since most welders work for manufacturing companies that require continuous production, they might have shifts lasting from 8-12 hours.
Additionally, welding is a physically demanding job. Welders need to uphold attention to detail while conducting repetitive motions. Moreover, they might also have to lift big pieces of metal and reach or stoop in queer positions in order to finish welding tasks.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.