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How to Become a Welder: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Do you enjoy working with your hands and are looking to get into welding? You’ve come to the right place!

Welders are essential and always in demand. They work in a wide variety of industries and sectors, including general construction, aerospace, automotive, and shipbuilding.

No matter how advanced technology gets, the world will always need welders. It’s a solid career path with steady growth and demand.

This step-by-step guide on how to become a welder covers everything you need to know about this rewarding career path, from its requirements and associated costs to the steps you need to follow to become a successful welder.

Stick around!

An Overview of Welding: A Primer

Primarily, the job of a professional welder is to fuse different metals together via heat, creating a permanent bond.

Welders use a variety of processes to join metals, with the most notable welding techniques being:

  • Gas metal arc welding (GMAW/MIG)
  • Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW)
  • Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW/TIG)
  • Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW)

Welders work with different metals, including steel, stainless steel, brass, and aluminum. They’re also involved in a wide range of industries, from shipbuilding and construction to the automobile industry.

Professional welders are trained to ensure the durability and safety of each project they work on. Their training also involves adhering to safety regulations for responsible flame usage.

In addition to knowing how to properly use a welding flame, professional welders must know how to position, secure, and restrain metal using clamps and clips.

They must also be able to evaluate the quality and safety of the final weld, as well as clean, maintain, and store welding equipment.

Related: A list of companies looking for welding subcontractors

How Much Do Welders Make?

According to Zippia, welders in the United States earn a yearly salary of $29,000 to $54,000, with the average yearly salary being $39,696 and the average hourly rate being $19.08. This is as of 2023.

Bear in mind that the amount of money welders make depends on several factors, including education, skill level, location, and industry.

Zippia confirms that welders in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wyoming, Delaware, and Alaska make the most money.

Currently, the highest-paying welding jobs are rig, underwater, nuclear, industrial pipeline, and military support welding.

What You’ll Need to Become a Welder [Associated Costs]

Anyone can become a professional welder with the right education and training. In fact, you can start your welding education and training as early as high school.

You can also pursue welding even if you’re no longer in school!

Here’s what you need to do to become a professional welder based on your education:

For Those in High School

If you’re in high school, you can enroll in your school’s welding or manufacturing training program.

If your school doesn’t offer such a program, you can opt for local community college courses.

Either way, you’ll learn all of the welding skills, along with mathematical and analytical skills, needed to pursue a career in welding.

Welding school tuition fees start at around $5,000, whereas college welding programs cost an average of $15,000.

For High School Graduates

If you’re a high-school graduate, you may need a postsecondary welding certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

Completing one of these programs can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years, and the associated costs range from $5,000 to $15,000.

Though not always required, the great thing about these programs is that they help you acquire skills such as mechanical drawing and blueprint reading, which employees find valuable.

For Those Without a Diploma

If you don’t have a high-school diploma, you’ll need a GED to apply to a welding school.

The GED tests can be completed in a few months.Their cost varies from one state to another, with most states charging $30 per subject at test centers and $36 per subject for online tests.

Note that residency is a requirement for taking GED tests in certain states.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Welder?

The majority of welding training programs cost between $5,000 and $15,000, with the average cost being $6,850.

The cost of the welding programs varies based on state. It also varies based on the level of complexity.

For instance, basic welding courses can cost around $3,600, while advanced welding courses, such as underwater welding, can cost more than $15,000.

Is It Hard to Become a Professional Welder?

Welding is a hands-on skill that goes beyond just reading; it requires a lot of practice!

It’s not terribly difficult, but it does take time, determination, and hard work to become good at it.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Welder?

How long it takes you to become a professional welder will vary based on the diploma or training program you opt for and the professional organization that’s offering the diploma or training.  

On average, welding training programs take 7 months to 2 years to complete, while diplomas and certificates can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 18 months.

How to Become a Welder in 5 Simple Steps

Now that you know what welding is all about and what’s needed to become a certified welder, here are the steps you need to follow to start your career as a professional welder:

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Welder

If you’re hesitant about pursuing a career in professional welding, we can confidently tell you that there’s nothing to be hesitant about.

Welding is a future-proof career with numerous perks to consider, including:

1. Learn About the Welding Industry

Becoming a welder is a huge commitment, from the learning and credentialing it requires to the physicality and challenging work conditions.

We’re saying this to say that pursuing a welding career requires a great deal of consideration.

Before you start with this career path, you need to conduct a lot of research and learn as much as possible about the welding industry.

There are plenty of excellent resources that you can refer to. The Fabricator is a great starting point if you’re into magazines.

You can also listen to welding podcasts such as Arc Junkies and Welding Tips and Tricks.  

Another thing you can do is refer to welding instructors and professionals in your area with questions or concerns you may have.

2. Start a Vocational or Postsecondary Program

Once you’ve conducted enough research about the welding industry and are ready to pursue this challenging yet rewarding career option, it’s time to start a vocational or postsecondary education program.

As mentioned in the requirements section, if you’re no longer in school with no high-school diploma or an equivalent, you’ll need to get your GED credentials and then apply to a welding school.

3. Gain Hands-On Welding Experience

The next step after acquiring your accreditation is to begin hands-on training via an apprenticeship. After all, welding is all about practice and experience!

You can find apprenticeships through government websites like apprenticeship.gov or through welding unions.

A typical apprenticeship program will have you shadowing a superior and completing supervised work. It will teach you about your responsibilities as a welder and give you a good idea of a welder’s regular schedule.

According to PayScale, a welding apprentice earns an average hourly rate of $16.32.  

4. Earn Your Welding Certification

Though you may now have the knowledge and hands-on experience, you still need a certificate to validate your experience.

You can earn your certification through the American Welding Society (AWS).

You can become certified in different types of welding, like TIG welding and MIG welding, and different fields, like construction and repair, automobile welding, and manufacturing.

You’ll need to pay a $50 application fee to take the certified welder tests, and each certification has its individual pricing.

Note that certified welder tests are quite intensive, which is why it’s best to take them after you’ve acquired enough knowledge and hands-on experience.

5. Start Your Professional Welding Career

Now that you have the knowledge, hands-on experience, and certification, it’s time to start your career as a certified welding professional.

There are several niche roles to consider, from shipbuilding and rig welding to building bridges and working in automotive, with each role bringing on unique working conditions that are both challenging and fulfilling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Welding Careers in High Demand?

Yes. The demand for professional welders is high and continues to grow in several industries, including aerospace, construction, automotive, shipbuilding, and military applications.

What Is the Highest Qualification as Welder?

The highest qualification a professional welder can attain is the Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS) certification.

This certification is ideal for industry leaders that have plenty of experience in problem-solving and quality assurance.

What Is the Highest-Paying Welding Job?

Rig welding is one of the highest-paying welding jobs out there, with an average pay of $77,000 per year.

Rig welding requires extreme precision, as the smallest mistake can lead to a disaster. Also, it entails challenging conditions and long working hours. That’s why only the best welders are considered for rig welding jobs.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

Are you looking for other career options that involve designing and creating things with your hands? Here are a few options to consider:

  • How to Become a Carpenter: Carpentry is a craft that touches everyone’s lives and offers exciting career opportunities. Our guide covers how you can become a carpenter. You should also check out our guide on how to make money woodworking.
  • How to Become a Florist: Being a florist enables you to unleash your creativity and put a smile on people’s faces with beautiful floral arrangements. On top of that, it can be a highly profitable endeavor. It’s not as easy as it seems, though!
  • How to Become a Locksmith: There are several benefits to becoming a locksmith, from the low start-up costs and guaranteed job security to its short and inexpensive educational track. Check out our guide to learn more about this interesting career option.

Wrapping Up

Armed with the information shared in this guide, you should be able to navigate your way into a successful welding career that offers you stable employment and good pay, as well as high flexibility and diversity.

Did you find this guide helpful? If so, make sure to share it with others who enjoy working with their hands.

And as usual, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this career path, leave us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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