TechCareers: Welding Technology Coming to the TechCareers Series
From skyscrapers to small pieces of jewelry, welders are needed to safely bond materials for everyday use. Industries rely on the expertise of highly skilled welders because lives depend on the quality of welders’ work. And welding is not just crafting two pieces of metal together. It requires technological savvy, too.
“We are seeing more and more technology coming into play, so it doesn’t have the stigma of welders being high school dropouts that it once had,” says Dave Cotner, head of the welding program at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Welders can now work with newer technologies like lasers, electron beams and ultrasounds from behind a computer console operating a remote device.
TechCareers: Welding Technology provides an in-depth guide to the job-market potential of welding as well as what requirements are needed to become a welder.
Blacksmiths and Sweat
Welding has been around for thousands of years. Imagine a large, sweaty man banging loudly on a piece of long metal over an anvil. That was the first image of a welder – the blacksmith. The blacksmith became a well-known entity during the Middle Ages as he forged his craft to assist farmers and warriors alike. His expert methods remained pretty much unchanged until the early 19th century, when a more scientific understanding of metals changed the way blacksmiths did business.
Modern methods for welding did not start being used until the late 19th century, with the dawn of the Machine Age.
Most experienced welders are from the Baby Boomer generation, many of whom who now are entering retirement. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be about 400,000 vacant welding positions by 2014 with not enough welders to fill them.
The job market for welders is wide open, and the salary, of course, depends on location, experience and education. As of May 2008, the average hourly wage for a welder was $16.13 an hour, or $33,550 a year. The top 10 percent of welders made upwards of $25 an hour, or $52,000 a year. Welding engineers, the highest paid type of welders, on average make $39.34 an hour, or $81,827 a year.
Of course there are different types of welding. The following is a list of job titles that welders can find in their industry:
- Boilermaker – building and maintaining metal vessels and structures
- Pipefitter – installing and maintaining pipe systems and supports
- Reinforcing and structural iron worker – installing girders, columns and other construction materials.
- Sheet metal worker – making, installing and maintaining items made from sheet metal
- Underwater welder – working on underwater projects like offshore platforms
- Welding machine operator – setting up and taking care of welding machines
- Welding educator – teaching others how to weld
- Welding sales – selling welding equipment and supplies
Most welders gain their initial education with either a one-year certificate program or a two-year associate program. However, for pursuing a job as a welding engineer, you’ll need to think about going for a bachelor’s degree. Along with education, employers are looking for experience, experience, experience, especially if you want to thrive in the industry without the four years or more of a bachelor’s program.
You can find more detailed information in TechCareers: Welding Technology. Employment overviews, skill requirements, education, training and everything else needed for a career in the welding and metal-working business are explained in detail in the book.
“For a new worker with the right attitude – and the right education – the welding profession is a seller’s market, and the opportunity for advancement is nearly endless.”
About the Authors
Joe Abbott is a native of Marfa, Texas, and a longtime writer and editor based in Waco. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English and has written on various topics ranging from meteorology to space shuttle launches.
Karen Mitchell Smith is a longtime educator and freelance writer from Weatherford, Texas.
-Kristine and Debra