Recently, there was a very interesting post in ‘The Wall Street Journal’ that spoke about the experiences of Justin Friend, a 24-year old who skipped university and opted for a technical degree in Welding instead. He made $140,000 in 2014 with Welding Jobs, which is a lot more than what he would have made with a conventional job.
Be it the ever increasing demand for skilled welders due to energy-exploration or the boom in other industries, it is estimated that there will be 378,200 jobs for welders by 2022 in the US alone.
The global demand, especially in off-shore locations for welding jobs is expected to be manifold which might make it a very lucrative career option. Irrespective of whether you have reached here due to a curiosity about a potential career in Welding or to explore the possibilities that the career holds, here’s all that you’d need to know about it.
What skills do you need to become a welder?
The most important aspect of selecting any career option is being aware of the skills that are needed for it. For welders, it is crucial to be healthy, alert and have excellent concentration. Many of the tasks will be repetitive and mundane. If you get restless or bored very fast with a job, then a career in welding may not be the best one for you.
There will be ample freelance opportunities. So, you may have to self-motivate yourself to find these jobs in your spare time or when you are not working in permanent welding jobs.
What are the possible risks involved?
At a time when workplace hazards are one of the biggest reasons for lawsuits around the world, it pays to be aware of the potential risks and dangers of working in welding jobs. At the forefront is the the gases that you may be exposed to and inhale for a prolonged period of time. For example, welding with galvanized metal can release zinc fumes. Steel can have manganese, nickel and chromium in the fumes.
This may be possible even if you follow best practices, use a nose filter and consider all regulatory occupational limits.
Other than this, there will be a constant exposure to loud noise when you weld and of course, the bright lights.
Finding a welding school
The first and most important step towards your career is to find a good welding school that offers a certification in the job. There’s an acute shortage for welders in the US and elsewhere so there has been an increase in the number of universities, trade schools and community programs that offer courses in welding.
If you are in the United States, then the American Welding Society (AWS) will be a good place to start your search. The website has a huge database of welding programs that you can search through.
It was not uncommon to find welding jobs for people who had no professional certification and had learnt the skills on-the-job instead. But most organizations now prefer certified welders because apart from the basic skills, these courses also factor in lesser known aspects of welding like metallurgy and geometry which, are now considered to be key skills needed for welders.
The Basics of welding
Depending on the kind of course or training that you complete, you will be enrolled into an apprentice program where you learn the basics of welding. A tack, which is a small weld is considered to be the most basic of all welding techniques followed by the arc and the puddle. Even if you do master these skills, you will most likely work on flux core welding machines, which are a more advanced version of welding machines.
Try and learn how to weld on these machines because most manufacturing and energy industries use these machines for their welding tasks.
Also, it is important to be aware of the type of welding that is needed in different industries.
MIG welding: Extremely common and used mainly by shipping and automotive industries.
TIG welding: Less common and used mainly by fabrication shops. TIG welding is one of the advanced skills that can guarantee you a high paying welding job.
GTA welding: Less common and used mainly in the aviation manufacturing industry. GTA is considered to be an off-shoot of TIG welding because it also uses a tungsten electrode for the weld.
Progressing in a welding career
Contrary to popular notion, welding jobs offer ample scope for growth and you can easily progress both horizontally as well as vertically in an organization. Apart from welders, which is the most basic of maintenance jobs, there are welding engineers, who are more skilled and often juggle multiple responsibilities that include metallurgy, project management and supervision.
Welding engineers require advanced degrees and a four year degree is considered to be the minimum qualification needed.
Other than welding engineers, you can also become a welding instructor and teach others the skills needed to weld. You may need a certificate in instruction and a few years of experience with welding under your belt to qualify for these welding jobs.
Last but not the least; you can also become a welding inspector who is entrusted with the responsibility of evaluating a welding job. Welding inspectors need both, on-the-job experience as well as training under another senior welding inspector to qualify for the job.
Finding the best maintenance jobs
Finding welding jobs as well as other maintenance jobs are not as difficult as it seems. To maximize your chances of landing one, it is recommended that you apply in multiple job vacancies. Ensure that your certifications are up to date, you have a professional resume and you are prepared for the interviews.
If you are looking for specialized jobs in a particular industry, then ensure that you are aware of the type of welding skills needed for the job before applying. For example, for a welding job opening in airplane manufacturing, you will need to be skilled and experienced in WTA welding.
Take your time, do your research and you should be able to make a great career in welding.