Well Well Weld, You Want to Be a Welder: How to Become the Man (or Woman) of Steel
Are you looking for a career change? Or, are you just graduating high school and aren’t sure what to do with your life?
Choosing your first career or making a big career change can be an overwhelming experience.
If you’re someone who enjoys working with their hands, we might have just the career for you — welding.
As a welder, you’ll work to repair, join, or cut metal parts and products. You’ll do this with either hand-held equipment or remotely-controlled equipment.
But, what exactly does it take to become a welder? Check out this guide to learn how to become a welder.
What is a Welder?
Although we touched briefly on the definition in the intro, let’s dive a little deeper into what a welder does.
As a welder, you’ll be trained to join metals. The metals you work with may include steel, brass, aluminum, or stainless steel. A wide variety of industries will depend on the metal products you produce, which is why the job of a welder is so important and why it requires very specific training.
Welders may find themselves working in the automobile industry, in shipyards, at construction sites, or at manufacturing companies. You may even get to take part in building bridges or aircraft.
Here are some of your duties as a welder:
- Light flame sources
- Using flames in welding areas
- Properly positioning and securing metals and metal parts
- Maintaining welding equipment
- Monitoring and controlling flames and materials that are being welded
- Evaluating the final welded material to ensure that it’s been properly constructed and is safe to use
How to Become a Welder
Now that you know a little bit about the role of a welder, let’s dive into what it takes to become one.
In order to become a welder, you must follow these steps:
1. Earn a High School Diploma
First things first, you must earn your high school diploma.
Some high schools even offer courses in welding and metal fabrication, so if your school offers these, you should definitely take full advantage.
While not mandatory for a career in welding, these courses will help provide the basic foundation of the training that’s to come.
Also, because welders spend a good amount of time measuring and calculating the products they create, it’s important that you do well in your math and science classes.
If you haven’t already earned your high school diploma, you can always go back and get your GED.
2. Get a Degree or Certificate in Welding
After graduating from high school, you have a few different options.
The first option is to earn an associate’s degree in welding. This degree will take two years and will mostly consist of face-to-face courses. The total cost of your associate’s degree will depend on where you live and what school you choose, but in general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6,000 to $60,000.
If you go to a school in-state, you can expect to pay significantly lower tuition.
The other option is to earn a certificate in welding. A certificate program usually lasts for six to eighteen months. A certification program can cost as little as $3,500 and as much as $20,000.
Lastly, you can also earn a welding engineering bachelor’s degree. This program lasts for four years. If you plan to advance your career in welding, we strongly recommend getting a bachelor’s degree.
If you can’t find any welding bachelor’s degrees in your area, you may also want to consider earning your bachelor’s degree in a science field or math field. Then, upon graduation, attending a certificate program for welding.
After completing your education, it’s time to participate in an apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship is a great way for you to gain knowledge as well as hands-on experience about your future career. Plus, this gives you a great opportunity to start earning some money and to get your foot in the door with a welding company.
To find an apprenticeship, you should contact local welding companies or ask your school for some contacts.
4. Earn Your Welding Certification
After completing an apprenticeship, it’s time to become officially certified as a welder.
There are a handful of different welding certifications available. These include:
- Certified Welder (CW): The exam must be taken at an AWS Accredited Testing Facility The exam costs $35 and there are no requirements for taking this exam.
- Certified Welding Inspector (CWI): To qualify for this exam, you must have completed your welding education and have some amount of work experience
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector: To qualify for this exam, you must meet certain work and education requirements. The exam costs $850
- Certified Welding Educator (CWE): To qualify for this exam you must complete an application, hold a job as a classroom teacher, possess a welding certification, and present a letter of recommendation
If you need help preparing for these exams, we suggest checking out the NDT testing site.
5. Find Employment
After completing your certification, it’s time to find full-time employment.
Many welders find employment through the company they did their apprenticeship with. However, if you’re looking to work somewhere else, we suggest checking job boards online.
The BLS projects a 3 percent job growth for welders over the next ten years, which is a bit slower than the national average. However, don’t let this discourage you, as jobs are still opening up all the time. And if you’re persistent, you’ll soon find the welding job of your dreams.
Are You Ready to Become a Welder?
By following the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a welder.
And, if you liked this article, be sure to check back in with our blog. We are constantly coming out with more career-related tips and tricks for people in every field.