A universally accepted method for joining metals, welding is among the fastest growing careers. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) statistics, the welding industry will see a growth of 8% between 2020-2030. Each welding process and technique has its own growth rate and demand. A vital component of many industries like construction, manufacturing, automobile, aviation, boats and shipping, aerospace, and oil & rigging, welding is considered a stable job with a lot of growth potential.
Different Types of Welding Processes
Welding is a skilled trade that requires a lot of practice and guidance to master. To start working as a professional welder, it is important to understand the entire process, learn the different techniques, and earn certification through the American Welding Society (AWS). There are many possibilities associated with welding and it mostly depends on the type of welding process you have mastered.
- Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW/MIG)
Also known as Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, this technique uses a shielding gas and a wire electrode to heat up two pieces of metal and join them. GMAW/MIG requires continuous voltage and direct source of power current to work. This welding process is most commonly used in industrial welding, especially where pipe and plates are involved.
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW/TIG)
GTAW/TIG is commonly used when joining together non-ferrous metal or thick sections of stainless steel. An arc welding process, it makes use of a consumable fixed electrode that welds the metal in place. Requiring a lot of precision and patience, this welding process is time consuming compared to MIG or Flux Cored Arc Welding.
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
This welding process requires manual welding as a stick with an electric current used to form an arc between the metals that are to be joined. SMAW is used a lot in the construction industry, especially in steel structures. It is also a preferred method in industrial fabrication and is used to weld steel, iron, and steel pipe.
- Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
An alternative to shield welding, FCAW is a semi-automatic arc weld. Since it is portable, offers flexibility, and is a high-speed process, it is mostly used in the construction industry and fast-paced projects. FCAW is of flexible nature and can be used in a variety of welding projects.
Choosing Welding as a Career – The Pros
Now that you have some understanding of the different types of welding processes, the next step is to find out whether this career is for you or not. Let us first start with the pros of becoming a welder.
- Easy Entry into the Field
Even though welding is a skilled profession, it does not require any university degree to enter the field. Anyone with a high school diploma can join the welding profession, provided they enroll in a training school and obtain certifications from AWS. Depending on the type of certification you choose, it can take from 3 months to 16 months to become a certified welder.
- Good Job Security
Welding is an evolving field with 8% projected growth rate presented by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) between 2020-2030. The ever-developing infrastructure in the country requires more and more skilled welders and this means plenty of opportunities. Also, the AWS has projected that by the year 2024 many welders would reach retirement age and there will be a wide gap that must be filled. So, if you are planning to start a career as a welder, this could be the right time.
- Average to High Salary
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), the annual mean salary of a welder is $ 48,290 per year. Salary range also depends on the level of certifications, experience, and skill-set a welder has. Welders also can work overtime and this way they can increase their income substantially.
- Work in Diverse Industries
Welding services are required in many industries, and this gives the welders a chance to work in diverse settings. With the option of working in oil & rigging, pipeline industry, automotive industry, under the sea, boats and shipping, railway, and structures, a skilled welder can find his way in any of these areas. Many of these jobs require travelling and this gives welders a chance to enhance their training and obtain high-level certifications. All these factors add to the potential career growth of a welder.
- Flexible Work
Welding is a flexible job that allows a person to either work as a contractor, a full-time employee in a company, or take it up as a side job. While it may take days or months to finish a particular job, a welder can later avail vacation time. Many people also take up welding as a side job alongside their regular work to earn some extra money.
The Challenges – Cons of Being a Welder
Despite all the benefits that becoming a welder offers, there are some disadvantages too.
- Physical Challenges
Welding is a tough job that requires a welder to work in difficult situations and environments. Sometimes welders work in tight areas or restricted spots, all the while handling tools and equipment. It requires a lot of physical strength to work as a welder so if you plan on taking it up as a profession then make sure you have the physical ability.
- Danger and Health Hazards
Welding is a risky job and most of the time in the construction industry, welders have to stand in high-raised places or even under the sea to do welding. With the welder’s hands mostly tied up by using tools or handling equipment, it can sometimes be very dangerous. Welders also come in contact with hazardous materials, intense heat, and fumes. Without proper protective gear, it can be quite harmful and even fatal for a welder.
- Long Hours & Travelling
What makes welding a tough job is that once it starts, a welder cannot stop until the task is finished. Especially in remote areas or under the sea task, caves, and in oil industry, projects are strictly timed, and it makes it difficult for a welder to ask for time off. Companies often send welders to remote areas, and it can take months to return home.
- Unsatisfactory Work Conditions
Welders have to work in unpleasant conditions and environments which can eventually take a toll on their health and even motivation levels. There could be bad weather or dangerous workplace environment that might affect a welder’s productivity.
Make sure you consider both the positives and negatives before taking up welding as a profession. It is recommended to carry out thorough research, learn about the welding technique that best suits your temperament, and then find a welding training school that offers a program that meets your budget.