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What is Welding?
Welding is an area of employment that deals with the merging of metal through the use of heat as generated by various machines. Individuals in this field must maintain safety standards, and understand the properties of the metal they are use, as well as be proficient in the use of various welding tools in order to complete projects.
Welding is a critical trade that directly and indirectly impacts virtually everyone and every entity from all corners of the globe. From commercial buildings to car manufacturing and bridges to art, welding is an integral function of our modern-day society. Data collected from the American Welding Society affirm this fact as nearly 50% of our total GNP consists of welded products, welding work, and related welding services.
Advances in Welding
Welding continues to evolve as the trade becomes more and more technology-centric. As a result of this evolution, the industry has seen more and more younger, technology-savvy students in the welding field. This shift is evident in the workplace as more teams work with lasers, robots, CAD programs, and other trade-specific technologies to enhance welding processes. As a result of this trend, professional welders are integrated into work groups with sales, inspectors, engineers, and architects across various industries.
College students entering college today may be introduced to high-tech aspects of the trade through an educational process known as virtual welding. The essence of virtual welding is the utilization of technology to simulate the essential aspects of welding in a classroom setting. This program was developed by the Edison Welding Institute to provide students simulated welding experience in a safe environment to supplement the academic knowledge acquired in a college environment. Fusing hands-on experience with academic theory becomes a powerful learning mechanism for students learning the welding trade.
How To Become a Welder
To be seriously considered for the welding jobs of today, you will need to successfully leverage education and work experience. Paths to a welding professional can be attained by earning a certificate of completion in welding, an associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in welding. The prerequisites for many colleges and trade schools consist of having a GED or high school diploma. We have outlined a series of steps below to help you better understand how to enter the welding field.
Step 1 – Research Schools
The first step in your journey to entering the workforce in welding is to research accredited colleges and universities matching your professional goals and objectives. By utilizing search tools or our proprietary matching portal, school information can be readily obtained in a few clicks.
Step 2 – Apply
After gathering information from colleges and trade schools, you will need to complete their respective applications. Take the time to highlight your work experience and volunteer work in welding or fabricating to help you stand out from other applicants. Apply to several schools and apply early as many programs have extensive waiting lists.
Step 4 – Attend College
After gaining admissions to your top college, you can then sign up for classes and begin your studies in welding or welding technology. The two-year associate degree and 4-year bachelor’s degree paths will provide students with a science-rich view into welding technology along with general education classes such as philosophy, math, and English. On the other hand, a certificate program in welding will be a shorter program strictly focused on the welding trade without liberal arts courses.
Step 5 – Graduate, Exams, Certification, & Work
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university, you will may be required by your employer to obtain a trade-specific examination and/or certificate. Make sure to understand their requirements during your application process to maintain a realistic timeline of your path to a job in welding.
Top Welding Degrees
The path to becoming a welder or welding engineer can be varied depending on your goals, career objectives, and choice of college programs. The three options below provide additional details on the types of higher education options available to students and working professionals looking to get into the welding field or upskill within their trade.
Certificates in Welding
There are a number of certificate programs in welding and diploma programs in welding to choose from. Selecting the best certificate program for you will depend on your vocational track and job opportunities in your area. Certificate programs can be earned online or in a classroom setting to help you advance your career. Many programs will require students to take a practical examination including how to read blueprints and demonstrating various welding techniques. Certificate programs will teach students basic safety practices along with various welding and cutting techniques. Certificate programs can vary in length from a few weeks to a year depending on the program and your qualifications.
Associate Degree in Welding
An associate degree in welding is a 2-year program balancing technical knowledge and upper level math with liberal arts classes like philosophy, English, and communications. Core classes may include the opportunity to learn about various arc welding techniques, metal identification, and metallurgic properties. Academic exercises are coupled with hands-on learning in the shop using various equipment, heat sources, technology, and applications to give students exposure to various welding tools. Classes in an associate degree program in welding may include:
- Blueprint and weld print basics
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding
- Gas Metal Arc Welding
- Welding Inspection & Testing
- Safety in Manufacturing
- 2D and 3D Mechanical CAD
- CNC Welding Applications
- Welding Metallurgy
- Robotic Welding
- Layout & Welding Fabrication
Bachelor Degree in Welding
A bachelor’s degree in welding is a 4-year program providing knowledge and experience to students in the mechanical design and manufacturing aspects of welding. Several accredited colleges require students to have substantive work experience and/or an associate’s degree in welding prior to matriculation while other programs allow for direct-entry for students without prior experience. Welding engineering programs rely heavily on chemistry, computer technology, physics, and math. Careers for welding techs that earn a bachelor’s degree may include: production welder, sales manager, metallurgy specialist, materials science, operations manager, CNC specialist, fabrication consultant, welding inspector, and welding supervisor.
Most Popular Welding Jobs
There are nearly a hundred different types of welding processes and methodologies. The array of welding specialties allows practitioners to create new solutions with varied solutions depending on the application, budget constraints, environment, access to technology, and trade knowledge. When boiled down into groups, there are 5 primary areas of specialization within the welding trade that include: arc welding, oxyfuel gas welding, solid-state welding, resistance welding, and specialized welding.
1. Arc Welding
What is Arc Welding? Arc welding is a type of welding procedure using a power source to create an electric arc between a base metal and a wire or electrode stick to melt the base metal(s) at the bonding location.
Examples of Arc Welding: atomic hydrogen arc welding, plasma arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, gas metal arc welding, submerged arc welding, bare metal arc welding, shielded metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding, carbon arc welding, and magnetically impelled arc welding.
2. Oxyfuel Gas Welding
What is Oxyfuel Gas Welding? Oxyfuel gas welding uses fuel gases like acetylene, MPS, gasoline, butane, propylene, and/or hydrogen with oxygen to weld and cut materials.
Examples of Oxyfuel Gas Welding: oxygen-propane welding, oxyhydrogen welding, oxyacetylene welding, pressure gas welding, and air acetylene welding.
3. Solid-State Welding
What is Solid-State Welding? Solid-state welding is a specialization used to bond base materials together by melting them together without the use of additional brazing filler materials.
Solid State Welding Examples: ultrasonic welding, coextrusion welding, hot pressure welding, diffusion welding, explosion welding, friction stir welding, cold pressure welding, electromagnetic pulse welding, hot isostatic pressure welding, roll welding, and forge welding.
4. Resistance Welding
What is Resistance Welding? Resistance welding joins metals through a high-speed process using electrical heat and pressure to hold materials together.
Examples of Resistance Welding: resistance seam welding, flash welding, upset welding, projection welding, resistance spot welding, and low frequency electric resistance welding.
5. Specialized Welding
What is specialized welding? Specialized welding is the remaining cluster of welding specialties that do not fit into resistance welding, solid-state welding, oxyfuel gas welding, or arc welding.
Examples of Specialized Welding: electron beam welding, laser-hybrid welding electroslag welding, induction welding, laser beam welding, flow welding, electrogas welding, thermite welding, and percussion welding.
Welding Colleges and Class Requirements
An education in welding typically results in a certificate or associate degree, with certificates being most common. Welding is a technical skill, though it is complex in its application, and requires a large amount of safety education prior to starting welding itself. Upon completion the safety portion of the education, students will learn about the various types of welding, how and when they are used, which tools to use and how in order to achieve desired results, and the effectiveness of welding on different metals.
A curriculum may include:
- Gases and Heat
- Metals and Welding
- Welding Tools
- Welding Techniques
Most students will be able to find school that offer welding programs locally, either through career colleges or community colleges. Community colleges tend to offer associate level programs, which add general education courses to a welding curriculum, providing additional education opportunities, and can be a determining factor for personal preference. Additionally newer tools and welders are generally safer and more desired, and schools should invest in regularly maintaining and updating them.
What Colleges Teach Welding?
There are several dozen colleges and trade schools across the nation that offer welding programs for students and working professionals. The key to finding the right welding program is aligning your priorities with quality teaching methodologies in the right learning environment. To determine your priorities in an efficient manner, take the time to read our Complete Guide to the College Admission Process. This guide is packed with resources and tools to help you establish your priorities and get into the best college for you. Once you have a set of priorities established and a set of goals to attain, impactful life decisions can be made with more clarity and certainty.
Finding a welding school near you has never been easier. You can either utilize the resources and schools listed on this page or utilize our proprietary matching tool to find the perfect welding program for you. Through the use of this technology, you can pinpoint welding programs in a particular state or school type to easily gather information from top schools on your list with a few clicks.
Employment Opportunities for Welders
With nearly 25% of welding technology being computerized, the need for trained welding professionals will remain steady over the coming decade. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a welder in the United States is $39,380 with an estimated 128,500 job openings available in the next ten years. In addition to the income growth, the welding industry offers an array of career paths to support long-term job growth and stability. By leveraging higher education and technology, welders from all walks of life can find challenging, meaningful work in a number of industries.
The average wages across the welding industry are approximately $19 per hour with some cities in excess of $34 per hour, with specialized roles (underwater welding, boilermakers, welding leads) making significantly more per year. As an example, Payscale estimates the annual income of a welding supervisor’s total pay between $38,618-$86,213 depending on work experience, industry, geographic location, certificates achieved, and variable compensation.
Top Employers in Welding Technology
- Architectural & Structural Manufacturing 48,370
- Agriculture and Constructing 21,280
- Auto and Trailer Manufacturing 19,930
- Machinery Manufacturing 16,970
- Commercial & Industrial Machinery 15,080
States with the Highest Employment of Welders
- Texas 53,790
- California 27,440
- Ohio 17,280
- Pennsylvania 15,820
- Louisiana 15,540
Top Paying States for Welders
- Alaska $70,940
- District of Columbia $59,560
- Hawaii $58,170
- Wyoming $57,380
- North Dakota $52,210
For additional information, read our Complete Guide to a Career in Welding on our blog here.