In this guide, we are going to discuss where and how to get started with your welding career, the minimum requirements that are needed to get into welding jobs, the different types of welding professions available, the educational opportunities that exist and other relevant information that may help you getting into the trade.
The welding industry is present in our daily lives, it can be appreciated in buildings, cars, machines, bridges, and much more. Traditionally, it has been linked to engineering, safety, quality and even risks. The most important qualifications for becoming a welder are dedication, work ethic and attention to detail in order to master the intricacies of the profession.
Right now, the welding industry is entering a pivotal phase. Existing welders are retiring; the average age of skilled and experienced welders is 50+. The opportunities to get into this industry are rife while the industry is facing a shortage of welders and skills training is extensive. Can new technology trends and education solve this problem?
What does it take to become a welder?
Whether you’re young and new to the job market, or experienced and looking for a change, either a man or woman, and even if you’re a mathematical genius, it doesn’t matter; if you want to become a welder, it’s possible and can be very lucrative. Forget what you may have heard from others that you need XYZ skill or mindset, welding is something that is learned, it’s not something you are born good at. To become a welder, you need to be able to learn and give yourself to the process.
Learning is paramount to this career, and there are many different ways to get started on the trade. In most countries, welding training is provided by vocational schools or similar training centres that have specific training programs for newcomers. In some countries this training can be provided directly by the National/Local Welding association, who is also responsible for welding certifications.
Welding certifications can vary between countries, but there are international associations that provide internationally recognised certification. One example is the International Welder Program by the International Institute of Welding (IIW).
If you are getting started in welding jobs, apprenticeships can be a good way to get into them. Local unions may open up some apprenticeship positions that can help you gain the basic experience to perform in the industry.
What is needed to become a professional welder?
The desire and ability to learn is essential, but rather a willingness or a driven pursuit of learning is essential. Welding is not something simple that can be learned and mastered fast. Most Welders spend decades perfecting their skills, training and re-training, testing different welding technology, techniques, and welding procedure specifications (WPS) and ensuring that they attain all of the required welding certifications. For professional welders, it is key to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and keep re-training their skills and abilities. So, aside from a dedication to learning, what else could you possibly need?
- Practical, Hands-on Experience – All of the theory in the world won’t help if you don’t put your knowledge into practice. The certified welding masters are those who have accumulated the most hours behind the welding torch. Welding is something that can only be mastered through practice. Experience can be found as part of your education, whether at a community college, technical school, or a vocational school.
- A specialism – Welding is, generally, a high paying career and professional welders are always on demand. Just like in many other industries, if you want to find the highest-paying jobs, then it really pays to be a specialist. When choosing your specialism, focus on your interests and the needs of the welding industry in your country.
- Certification – Certification requirements vary depending on the country we are referring to. Some Europeans countries have their own requirements, lead by their own welding associations. In Germany, for example, the German Welding Society (DVS) leads welders certification in the country. There are some examples of international welding certification, like the International Welder certification by the International Institute of Welding (IIW).
- An interest in technology – The Welding Industry advances really fast, new technologies and trends are key for maintaining the trade updated and welders need to be up-to-date. The rise of Industry 4.0 has lead to new technologies entering the welding industry, a great example is Robotic Welding. Some professional welders are now required to only to master manual welding, but to be able to program a robot to execute the perfect weld.
- Continued learning – Retraining and upskilling are key for professional welders, they need to master new requirements and trends to avoid becoming “outdated”. Great welders are those who keep training when they are professionals, looking for the next step in their career and to keep developing their welding skills and knowledge.
The different types of Welding
The exercise of welding can be carried out following many different processes. The number of processes can vary depending on how we qualify or filter them, but for now, these are the “top four” welding processes used around the world:
MIG welding – MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas welding, and it is the most common type of welding, the one that instantly comes to mind. It’s the easiest to learn and the most versatile discipline for any certified welder, perfect for working with steel or aluminium. This is sometimes referred to as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW).
- TIG welding – TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas welding and is also referred to by some as GTAW – Gas Tungsten Arc Welding. These are the same thing, and both use tungsten gas to create a fusion of high quality in a location where sanding or adjusting the join might be difficult. This is seen as a welding process that takes real skill and expertise
- FCAW welding – FCAW stands for Flux Cored Arc Welding. FCAW welding uses a continuous consumable electrode filled with flux, and it is often used in construction and industry even though it is a flexible process that can be used in many different projects. Keep in mind that this process creates smoke, so it would be better to apply it outdoors
- SMAW welding – SMAW stands for Shielded Metal Arc Welding, in this process, the arc is formed between the stick and the materials that are welded. This process tends to be popular in vocational schools due to its low price (it doesn’t require gas). It is often used for repairs and it is a good choice for outdoors welding.
As you may have noticed above, many different welding processes go by different names, so it’s a good idea to learn which processes are the same. These four processes are well known around the world, but professional welders need to be familiar with other specific process that are used in their particular industry, remember the importance of Continued Learning!
What are some good welding skills?
For those applying to welding programs, these are some ideal skills that someone working in the welding trade should offer:
WELDING KNOWLEDGE – A knowledgeable welder will have a solution for many different material types, a broad knowledge of how different equipment and technologies work, and a range of experience on projects ranging from ship-building to general maintenance. For a beginner, this means that pursuing a broad technical knowledge and a desire to be adaptable are well-sought attributes. This makes it advisable to join training programs or technical schools that offer multi-function expertise. See the previous section about the different types of welding and pursue experience in each of them (and even further)
STRENGTH AND DEXTERITY – A bad weld can injure people or worse, so it’s important that you’re strong enough to handle the welding equipment, dextrous enough to use them well, and precise enough that you can get the job done right the first time. Another aspect of this is your physical fitness, as this job can be demanding on the body and mind.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL – Quality is key in the trade. All your welding beads and exercises will go through intensive quality tests to make sure they are executed perfectly and they can be considered safe. Professional welders pay attention to every little detail, starting from the equipment settings to making sure everything around them is safe too.
WORK INDEPENDENTLY – Being able to work independently and as a team. The majority of the work you’ll do as a certified welder will be done along, but on some welding jobs you’ll need to be able to collaborate and communicate effectively with different colleagues.
AMBITION – Since complacency has no place in this industry (especially because of the intense safety procedures), trainee Welders should be looking to work on huge infrastructure projects, apply their skills to the automotive industry, learn how to work with structural steel and acetylene gas, understand the key elements of metal fabrication, and become trusted at blueprint reading. In essence – learn, climb, learn, climb, and master the industry
RISK TOLERANCE – Being risk-averse is good quality as you wouldn’t want your welding career to get cut short by a horrible injury through lack of care. Safety equipment is there for a reason
BASIC MATH SKILLS – Numbers are used for dimensions, calculating materials and alignment, and sometimes in the CAD software and blueprints that define each project. Basic knowledge is highly recommended for shining in the welding industry.
What does a welding career path look like?
- Search for information about the main welding institutions in your country.
Welding Associations are the key players to handle welding certification in the country. They are in contact with vocational schools and industrial companies, so they have all the information about training, jobs, certification requirements…
In the US, the best place to get started is either to contact the American Welding Society or to find those who run your local Welders’ union. If you can’t find a Welders’ union, try a Plumbers or Fitters union, as they are often connected – for those outside the US, search for your own country’s Welder’s union or society. Most likely, they’re going to tell you to get some kind of welding certification (the AWS offers the best welding certificate programs in the US) and training before you try to use any equipment.
In Europe, the best place to start is with the European Welding Federation, or the International Institute of Welding (IIW). For Australians, an International Welding Engineer (IWE) qualification from the IIW is not yet a requirement, but most organisations are starting to demand it.
- Learn about the types, location and costs of welding training near you
With the information from your national/local welding association you will be able to organize the possible choices for welding training near you. You will probably be able to choose between different options such as:
- Apprenticeship programs (both paid and unpaid)
- A variety of training programs or welding school courses
- Community colleges offering affordable certified welding courses
- Prestigious private welding schools with expensive courses
- Colleges and universities offering a full 4-year bachelor’s degree in Welding Engineering
- Make your training choice
Any of these options could be the right for you, your welding career can start from any starting line and follow different paths!
Our only advice is to make sure that the training you are receiving is updated, safe, and compliant with official certifications. New trends and technologies like Augmented & Virtual Reality or Gamification are already improving the efficiency of welding training around the world, and they should always be taken into account when making a decision.
Whilst we can’t say what will be best for you, we can confirm that apprenticeships are an effective place for many welders to start because of the low costs involved. Typically these are free, or you may even be paid for your work. They’re perfect for those who have just finished high school, who don’t wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and who still live at home and have some financial support from their families for as long as 5 years.
- Don’t forget to keep training
Once you have finished your training option, remember to keep practicing and learning, the welding industry moves really fast and new trends and techniques are always being developed. Find the perfect fit for your skills (keep and eye on what the market needs) and keep working and specializing on different processes, joints, positions, materials…
Theory is needed for welding jobs, but your technique will only get better if you keep practicing and practicing in different welding jobs.
- Get officially certified
Even though the certifications required vary depending on your country, there are some international certifications that are known around the world, such as International Welder by the IIW.
These official certifications will improve your position when searching for welding jobs, and they can even help you choosing your specialization in welding.
- Find the perfect job
The welding industry offers so many different career choices. You may want to become one of the certified welding masters and take on ambitious overseas projects, underwater tasks, and other more adventurous experiences in the industry. Maybe you are passionate about cars and would like to focus on the automotive industry, or maybe the railway industry is your choice.
You can even become a welding inspector or a site manager, helping the next generation of aspiring welders to come through!
How is Soldamatic changing the way in which welding education takes place?
Traditional welding education hasn’t evolved too much in the 220 years since the blowtorch was invented, but new technologies like Augmented Reality are already changing traditional training. Soldamatic Augmented Training allows trainees to weld in Augmented Reality reducing their learning time by 56% and getting exposed to 84% fewer accidents. Educational facilities that invest in Soldamatic’s technology are able to certify 34% more students (on average) and unlock a 68% reduction in lab and equipment costs.
Soldamatic brings educational facilities and programmes to the next step in their training through its flexible software, driving improved results through Augmented Reality. With a number of industries inviting gamification, virtual and augmented reality, e-learning platforms, and digital learning to help disruption, it is perfectly placed to support the next generation of Welders.
How much do Welders earn?
As we have already discussed, welding offers many different career paths and each of them have their own set of pros and cons. Salaries vary depending on the specifications of the job and certifications required, the country you are working on, different industries…
It is almost impossible to stablish a salary range, but on the following list you can find some information on the salaries for welders around the world.
- Germany: €30,000-40,000 per year or €14-21 per hour
- Australia: AUD$60,000-95,000 per year or $30-45 per hour
- United States: $33,000-55,000 per year or $17-100 per hour
- Korea: 21-35m WON per year or 12,000-16,000 WON per hour
- Japan: 1.2-4m YEN per year or 1,000-3,000 YEN per hour
- Sweden: 84,000-150,000 SEK per year or 40-70 SEK per hour
- Czech Republic: 200,000 – 300,000 CZK per year, or 100-150 CZK per hour
You can learn more about the highest paying welding jobs in our post here
The welding Industry offers different solutions for people searching for a career, there are many possible paths to follow in your welding career, but if you are really interested in welding, the chances of finding a suitable job are really high these times. The shortage of welders is a global issue that keeps growing around the world and skilled professional welders are retiring, a generational change is required.
Even though traditional welding training has not been appreciated as an “attractive” career, new technologies and trends are already bringing it one step closer to Industry 4.0. Technologies like Augmented Reality are already helping the next generation of welders in big industrial players like Siemens or Volkswagen.
Don’t hesitate and start designing your own welding career!