A welder could...
|Join together steel beams in a high-rise building.||Help build custom race cars and motorcycles.|
|Assemble pipes to bring fresh water to an entire city.||Do underwater repair work on boats, pipelines, and bridges.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||What do race cars, bridges, boats, computers, bikes, and cell phones all have in common? They all require welding, or using tools to permanently bond pieces of metal together. Welders' skills are needed to assemble many of the objects you encounter and use every day. A career in welding could take you to the garage for a famous car race, to the tops of the highest buildings, or even to the bottom of the ocean!|
|Key Requirements||Spatial reasoning, attention to detail, physical strength and stamina, manual dexterity, oral communication skills, ability to focus on a detailed task for a long time|
|Minimum Degree||High school diploma or GED|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, geometry, algebra, English; if available: shop class, computer programming class|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!|
Training, Other QualificationsTo become a welder, you need at least a high school diploma or a GED. Some students can take welding classes in high school or at a vocational school, then go straight into a welding job with on-the-job training. However, some employers may prefer to hire students who have postsecondary training in welding from a vocational or technical school. The American Welding Society offers additional certifications in general welding and specialty areas.
Education and Training
There are several ways for students to get exposure to welding while they are still in high school. Some high schools offer technical or shop classes with metalworking and welding lessons. Some school districts may allow students to transfer to a vocational or technical school where they can focus on welding. You may even be able to find a part-time or summer job that involves welding, like at an auto body shop or on a farm.
Some employers may be willing to hire welders straight out of high school, with additional on-the-job training to learn the skills they need for the job. However, many employers prefer to hire someone with additional postsecondary training in welding, which is available from vocational or technical schools, some community colleges, and private welding schools. Classes that help students understand the science behind welding (like physics and metallurgy), along with math skills (like algebra and geometry), are useful at both the high school and postsecondary levels.
Because welding careers can vary greatly, the type of training and experience necessary for a career will also vary, and some areas may require additional or specialty training. Welders working on cars will require different training and experience than those working on steel beams for high-rise buildings. A robotic welding technician will need computer programming skills to program a robotic arm to perform welds, and an underwater welder will also need to be a certified diver. The American Welding Society offers a range of certifications, from general Certified Welder to specialties like Certified Robotic Arc Welder and Senior Certified Welding Inspector, as well as classes and professional development seminars in different subjects like "Math for Welders" and "Safety in Welding." In general, if you are skilled or certified in more areas of welding, this will allow you to be more versatile and more attractive to an employer.
For students who are very interested in the science behind welding, there are also bachelor's and even graduate degree options available. Some engineering schools with materials science departments offer degrees in "welding and metallurgical engineering." Students who pursue advanced degrees may help research and develop new technologies and techniques that are used for welding.
Because of the physical nature of the job, welders should be in good physical condition. Welders may be required to lift heavy objects; stand for long periods of time; or climb, crawl, or crouch into uncomfortable positions. Welders should like working with their hands, have good manual dexterity, and the ability to handle and learn how to use tools. They must also have good spatial orientation skills, and the ability to interpret technical drawings in order to assemble three-dimensional parts.
Because welders may frequently work on a job site, in a garage, or at a factory with many other workers, they should be good communicators and good at working with other people who may have different jobs. For example, a welder working at a construction site may also need to communicate with heavy equipment operators, plumbers, and electricians.
Nature of the Work
Welders are skilled laborers who used specialized tools to permanently bond together pieces of metal. Welders are experts at the tools and techniques used to join pieces of metal together in a huge variety of situations and applications. Welders are involved in making many of the objects you use and see around you everyday, like cars, bikes, airplanes, boats, bridges, and buildings. They can even work on things that get launched into space, like satellites and parts for the International Space Station.
What a welder does on a day to day basis can vary immensely depending on the specific job. For example, a welder working in a factory may make the same repetitive welds to produce hundreds or thousands of the same car part. Increasingly, such repetitive tasks in factories are done by robots, but the robots still require a human technician to program, maintain, and operate them. A welder working in a repair shop for cars or construction equipment might see totally different jobs every day, depending on what vehicles come in and what needs to be repaired. A welder working on steel beams or pipes in the construction industry may spend several weeks or months at one job site, then move on to a completely new location once that building is completed. Another welder might make custom pieces of art or furniture based on requirements from individual customers.
The tools welders use every day can also vary depending on the job. "Arc welding" is the most common type of welding, which involves using a large amount of electrical current to generate heat and bond metals together. However, there are dozens of other tools and techniques used for welding. Which ones are used depends on the type of metals to be bonded and the specific situation. So, some welders may use the same tools most of the time, and others may encounter a wider variety of circumstances. Welders will be responsible for the maintenance and safe operation of the tools they use.
Welders are responsible for following blueprints, or designs, for projects, to make sure whatever they build matches the required dimensions and specifications. They are also responsible for following safety protocols, to protect both the workers and the people who will use the final product. This includes monitoring the welding process to ensure that the resulting welds meet acceptable standards. Certified welding inspectors may be responsible for inspecting other welders' work and checking the mechanical strength and integrity of welded joints. This is very important because a poor welding job can result in a catastrophe like structural collapse of a bridge or a building, so welders must take their jobs very seriously.
Because of the intense heat and light generated by welding, welders must wear special protective face masks and other gear, like heat-resistant gloves. This gear can be heavier and more uncomfortable than traditional "office" attire. Welders generally must work in well-ventilated areas because of the gases and fine particles that can be generated from welding.
The physical location where a welder works can vary depending on the job. Some welders always work indoors, such as in a factory or garage. Welders who work on outdoor construction projects may work in a variety of conditions, including inclement weather. Welders may be required to crouch or crawl into small spaces, work in cramped areas, or climb up tall structures. Specialized underwater welders will even work underwater while wearing full diving gear. This means that welders should be in good physical condition.
Most welders have a typical 40-hour work week, although overtime can be common. Some companies may have three 8-hour shifts or two 12-hour shifts per day so they can continue welding operations 24 hours per day.
On the Job
- Read and interpret blueprints and technical drawings.
- Do math to determine dimensions of welded joints or how to assemble parts.
- Handle, operate, and maintain different types of welding tools and equipment.
- Be knowledgeable about different types of metals and the tools required to weld them.
- Monitor the quality of the welding process to ensure good final results.
- Inspect welds for mechanical strength and integrity.
- Smooth, clean up, and apply finishing touches (like paint) to rough edges that result from welding.
- Communicate with other skilled laborers like plumbers and electricians.
- Work with other welders on a large job.
- Follow safety procedures and wear personal protective equipment.
- Move, carry, and handle heavy objects like tools and pieces of metal.
Companies That Hire Welders
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Welder that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (2014, January 8). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers. Retrieved Sept. 16, 2015 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm
- National Center for Welding Education and Training (2007, August). What is a welder?. Retrieved Sept. 16, 2015 from https://www.weld-ed.org/NR/rdonlyres/9AFAA07B-3E14-4452-BD60-B72D24528442/1695/WhatisawelderAug2007.doc
- Careers in Welding by AWS. (n.d.). Careers in Welding. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.careersinwelding.com/careers-in-welding
- Divers Academy International. (2013, June 3). From Topside to Underwater Welding: Interview with DAI graduate Mike Nadik. YouTube. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lcUoTMK3Ak
- NEXT Network. (2011, October 21). Interview - Welder (Hayden Chandler). YouTube. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Omv1GemqjUg
Explore Our Science Videos
Colorful Melting Ice Ball Patterns - STEM Activity
Slippery Slopes - STEM activity
How to Make Elephant Toothpaste