There are several excellent schools where you can learn to be a welder. Welding is a popular work choice because you can complete your basic certification in only a few months and be ready to earn a good living. If you enjoy building things and working with your hands and are a very detail-oriented person, then a future in welding may be for you! Welding is one of the few skilled trades where workers can earn a lucrative income with only a high school diploma and technical schooling. Employment opportunities and pay depend on the welding skills you have mastered and whether you are willing to travel. Experienced welders can find work all over the world. Welding opportunities can be found on construction projects, oil pipelines, railway projects, and building ships. It is a physically demanding profession that often requires lifting heavy tools and working in cramped conditions. Careful attention to safety is a critical component of the trade. To enroll in an industrial welding program, you will need to have completed high school and earned your high school diploma or have a GED or equivalent education. High school welding and metal-working courses are helpful for preparing you to enter a welder certification or degree program.
There are several different welding school programs to choose from. Basic industrial welding techniques can be learned in as little as a few weeks, while comprehensive welding diploma courses can take from 4-9 months. A 2-year associate degree, called an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in welding technology will prepare you for work in the welding and metal fabrication industries. Associate degrees require additional general education courses like writing, speaking, math, and social sciences. In addition to having basic welding skills and a strong understanding of the science and theory of welding, associate degree holders can pursue professions in welding industry management, equipment and supply sales, and vocational schools. Welders can also enter the field as apprentices and learn while working. Apprentice welders may work for relatively low wages for many years before gaining enough experience to become fully certified. In many cases welders will secure work after receiving basic training and then return from time to time to complete their instruction in additional processes and specialized applications. Becoming a certified journeyman welder can take from 4-15 years.
When applying for work as a welder, you will normally be required to pass a certification test specific to the work to be done before being hired. Certifications cover the most common welding processes including shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and others, known as mig, tig, and flux core. For each process there are certifications based on the shape and type of metal, weld type, and the position the welder is in while completing the weld.
There are also several specialized fields in welding with great opportunities. Robotic welding machine operator is a highly technical specialty that is becoming increasingly common in pipeline and structural welding. Another option are certified welding inspectors, who use non-destructive methods such as x-rays, ultrasound, and magnetic sensors to assess the strength of a weld.
Welders are needed in virtually every industry from automobile repair to shipbuilding and pipeline construction to aerospace. It is one of the few vocations where a skilled tradesman can earn on par with highly respected professions. Not many occupations are as fulfilling and rewarding as professional welding, it may just be the job for you!