Welders are a key component of the fabrication process, using their skills to help bring to life such human engineering feats as airplanes, skyscrapers, bridges, and beyond. In the construction industry in particular, the industry has lagged in keeping up with the demand for workers, including welders. As a result, the industry needs to bring in over half a million workers in addition to its average annual hires, according to 2023 findings by Associated Builders and Contractors.
As retiring welders exit the workforce, there are fewer new welders to replace them, resulting in a lack of institutional industry knowledge. This demand for skilled and educated welders in construction, alongside other industries, has given rise to opportunities for those seeking to take up a unique career path.
If you are looking to enter an in-demand field that provides a hands-on work environment in various industries, it’s worth it to learn how to become a welder — and how a skilled trade program could benefit in launching your career.
What Does a Welder Do?
Welders use specialized equipment to heat, melt, and fuse metals, creating lasting and durable bonds between materials.
One of the primary responsibilities of welders is to interpret technical drawings, blueprints, and specifications, which they use to determine the precise locations and types of welds that are needed. Welders then select the appropriate welding methods, such as metal inert gas (MIG) or tungsten inert gas (TIG) techniques, based on the specific materials and the project’s requirements.
Welders work in diverse environments. Given the variety of industries that need welding, these professionals may work in a range of setting and sectors, including:
Welders are also necessary for repairing materials and construction components, as they either wear down over time or incur damage from unexpected sources such as natural disasters. Maintaining safety is also crucial to a welder’s role, regardless of the setting. Welders must follow strict safety protocols to prevent injuries and ensure the integrity of their work. Protocols can include:
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ensuring proper ventilation to avoid exposure to fumes
- Adhering to guidelines for safely handling welding equipment
- Maintaining a safe and accurate level of heat while welding
- Cleaning, prepping, and ensuring a proper fit of metal pieces before welding to ensure accuracy
Steps to Become a Welder
As a profession, welding has easily manageable requirements for entry, which can be a benefit to those just starting their career. By understanding the needed combination of education, hands-on experience, certifications, and specific skills, aspiring welders can better prepare themselves for an in-demand career.
Step 1: Earn an Education
Employers prefer welders to hold at least a high school diploma or GED, typically in addition to trade schooling or a training program. These extra programs cover more detail regarding the welding process and typically offer hands-on training. This can be invaluable to candidates who are first starting out, as most employers will desire field experience. Trade school and training programs usually offer courses on properly reading blueprints; understanding how electrical currents work; and learning the mathematics needed for welding, such as engineering and geometry.
Some employers may also offer their own internal apprenticeship programs. This enables those who have limited or no prior experience to learn how to become a welder from an experienced mentor. Some employers only offer these opportunities to job candidates who have completed some level of relevant education in welding. Apprenticeship programs may differ depending on the employer.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
After completing the necessary education, aspiring welders should seek opportunities for hands-on experience. Welders may gain experience during education, certification training, and apprenticeships. However, many employers also offer on-the-job training that uses specific equipment designed for their industry. As a welder gains more experience, more job opportunities may arise, allowing them to take on higher-level positions.
Step 3: Obtain Certifications
Certifications can enhance employability for welders. While they’re not always necessary, some states require certification for employment, and some employers may require certifications for specific jobs. It’s vital to understand the requirements for each state and employer, although some may offer certification training as part of hiring.
Organizations like the American Welding Society (AWS) offer numerous certifications that serve to validate skills in specific welding processes. These certifications involve passing written and practical exams, ensuring the welder possesses the knowledge and capability to perform to industry standards.
Other organizations that offer certification are the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for welding technology competencies, and electrical safety training from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Step 4: Develop Skills
As welders can work in an exceptionally wide range of settings — from a factory building cars to under the ocean repairing pipelines — they can benefit from mastering a variety of skills. Here are a few skills that are relevant to most welders, regardless of their job environment.
- Metallurgy Knowledge – Understanding different types of metals, their properties, and how they react during welding in different environments
- Quality Control – The capability to inspect and assess welded joints for defects and ensure they meet industry and safety standards
- Problem Solving – The ability to identify and troubleshoot issues that may arise during the welding process
- Effective Communication – With team members, supervisors, and clients to understand requirements and provide updates
- Adaptability – The flexibility to work in diverse environments, handle different materials, and adjust to varying welding tasks
Job Outlook for Welders
The job outlook for welders is projected to grow 2% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS. The BLS notes that while the industry may not be growing rapidly, many current welding professionals are nearing retirement age, opening opportunities for new welders to replace them.
Welding is considered to be a stable and essential profession. There will continue to be a need to build new infrastructure (buildings, bridges, etc.) as well as fabricate the products that enable society to function and grow.
Build Your Future Career Path
Learning how to become a welder can be a pathway to a diverse field that enables you to work in a setting of your choosing. With a training program to give you a head start on the necessary knowledge and on-hands experience, you can quickly be on your way to a successful welding career. To help you begin your journey, consider the Fortis Welding Training program.
This 48-week program covers coursework on major welding techniques such as MIG and TIG, prepares you to read and understand welding blueprints and symbols, and enables you to safely handle and maintain welding equipment. The Fortis program also offers the opportunity to create welding projects in a team environment, allowing you to build your collaboration and communication skills.
Discover how Fortis can empower you to construct your welding career.
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