Welders hold an important job in our world. They make and modify metal objects, an important skill that is required for industry and manufacturing. Before we address how to become a welder, let's explore what exactly a welder does.
What Is A Welder?
A welder is a tradesman that joins metal pieces together using heat from high-temperature torches. This high temperature melts the metal and bonds the metal pieces together. Welders must be able to perform their job at a high-skill level to ensure the products they produce are durable and safe. There are many types of welders that work in industry today. Let's take a look at these types as we explore how to become a welder.
Welders are people who use various techniques. The most common form of welding is called arc welding. Arc welding uses electric currents to join metal together. Other welding techniques are determined by the materials (metals) used and the application of the item being created.
Brazers are workers who use heat to join metal together. Brazing uses metals with a high melting point. Only the metal added during the melting process, not the piece itself, melts during brazing. It may be used to connect thinner metals that would be warped by the traditional welding methods. Brazing can allow the piece to keep its strength and limits distortions. Brazing can also be used to apply coatings, which serve as a protective barrier, on parts used in manufacturing.
Cutters are people who create metal shapes by trimming metal. Rather than joining metal as welders do, they use plasma torches to cut the metal instead. Because they are skilled in cutting metal, they often work in industries where large metal objects are taken apart.
Like brazers, solderers use heat to join metal together. Soldering uses a lower temperature to melt the metal than brazing does. Only the metal added during the melting process, not the piece itself, melts during soldering. Soldering can allow the piece to keep its strength and limits distortions that may occur using other methods. It is a common technique used in specialized fields such as when working with electronics.
Education and Certification Requirements: How to Become a Welder
As we discuss how to become a welder, let's address the education requirements. A welder is usually required to have a high school diploma or a general education diploma (GED). In addition, some type of formal training is required. Welders use measurements on a daily basis. Therefore, mathematics classes like geometry and algebra are useful for those considering this field. The education required for a welder depends upon several factors. These include where you live, what your employer asks for, and the specific requirements for the job to be performed.
High School Vocational Programs
Some high schools offer vocational training for welding. This allows high school students to gain knowledge about what the job as a welder entails. It also gives them basic practical skills that they can take beyond high school.
Many community colleges or trade schools offer certificate programs in welding. These programs usually last 6 to 12 months. Students can expect to study basic safety requirements, measurement taking, and reading plans in the classroom. These programs provide basic training in the classroom as well as practical, hands-on training of techniques.
An associate's degree programs typically last 1 to 2 years. Like the certificate program, expect to receive training at the classroom level, along with hands-on training. A bachelor's degree program is also offered, typically in a Welding Engineering or a similar subject. Bachelor's courses take 4 years of study to obtain. With both the associate's and bachelor's degree, expect to take elective courses that are required to make students well-rounded in various areas of study.
Both paid and unpaid apprenticeships are available for those entering the welding career. An apprentice is someone that reports to a job like other employees, but receives training on site. The time of an apprenticeship may vary, but it can last from 1 to 4 years. Some local unions (organizations that represent the interest of workers) provide information about and even placement into apprenticeships. Ironworkers and boilermakers union organizations often assist welders looking for this type of opportunity.
Certification requirements vary depending upon the state where you live. The American Welding Society (also called the AWS) provides a certification of a Certified Welder for those that pass an exam they administer. To pass the certification, you must demonstrate knowledge of safety procedures and practical skills. This exam requires both written and hands-on testing. Certifications must be maintained through periodic credential review. The AWS offers a number of certification categories including the following:
Types of Welding
We will now address 4 types of welding used in the industry today.
Arc welding fuses metal together. It is often referred to as stick welding. It is commonly used in home welding projects.
MIG stands for metal inert gas. It is a type of arc welding. It can be used on aluminum, steel, and stainless steel.
TIG stands for tungsten inert gas. It uses this gas to create a fusion of metals. It is considered a more specialized discipline of welding.
Oxygen and acetylene gas are mixed to melt steel in this form of welding. It is used in cutting, maintenance, and brazing. Brazing is a process by which the base metals are not melted, but rather joined by a filler metal. It is commonly used on softer metals such as copper and bronze.
Job Opportunities and Salary
Now that we've explored the education requirements for how to become a welder, let's take a look at the job opportunities a welder has. Welders can work with many types of metal such as aluminum, brass, stainless steel, and steel. This allows a varied environment in which welders work.
Where Welders Work
Welders can work in the manufacturing industry. They may work in automotive plants and shipyards. They may work building aircraft. They can also build and repair bridges and buildings. Some welders are even involved in creating art.
Some specialized welders work underwater. In addition to years of experience as a welder, underwater welders must apply to a commercial dive school. They must be able to pass a physical exam and then successfully complete the training required as a diver to become certified as a commercial diver. The United States military may offer training for those who can meet the requirements of both a diver and welder.
A Welder's Working Environment
Welders may work indoors or outdoors. If they work outdoors, they must prepare for bad weather. If they work indoors, they may be in an enclosed area. Welders are exposed to flames, sparks, and glare. Welders may work on scaffolding or at heights. They may have to lift heavy objects. Welders must wear the proper personal protective equipment (also called PPE) to protect themselves from burns, radiation, gases, and other hazards. This equipment may include but is not limited to masks with protective eye shields, heat-resistant gloves, and protective footwear.
A Day in the Life
We have looked how to become a welder, so now let's explore some of the daily tasks that a welder does. A welder may:
Earlier, we discussed how to become a welder. Now we can talk about the salary of a welder. A welder makes on average, more than $38,000 per year (as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at www.bls.gov). However, this is a median salary per year. The amount of money you earn as a welder depends upon a number of factors. Where you live is one factor determining how much you earn. Some states such as New York, Alaska, and California have higher wages than the national average. If you have more experience, higher certifications, or are skilled in an in-demand specialty, you may earn more than the average. For example, those underwater welders we discussed earlier earn significantly more than the average welder.
Now that we have discussed the salary of the welder, let's discuss the growth expected in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth for welders is about average when compared to other fields. Some welding skills can move across industries, from automotive to shipbuilding, for example. Welders may also be able to find work as buildings and bridges age and need repairs. The oil and gas industry is a source for employment opportunities as new facilities are pipelines are built. Welders may also be able to find work if they are willing to move to a new location as projects pop up in different areas around the country.
Welders work with their hands to join metal together or cut metal apart. They work independently or in teams to meet a common goal. Welding is a physical job which requires lifting and bending, so being in good physical condition is helpful for those in this career. Welding is a job that can be attainable for many people with the right attitude and training. We hope that this information helped you in your journey to find out how to become a welder.