Advice on How To Get a Welding Job

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In 2007 the American Welding Society projected a shortage of 200,000 skilled welders by 2010.

EDITOR’S NOTE (Sept. 2013):  Since at least 2008 there has been a shortage of approximately 250,000 welders–a shortage that has remained consistent.

From the AWS Welding Shortage Fact Sheet:

The United States is in the midst of a welder shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for skilled labor grows. Studies show that there are more than 500,000 welders employed in the U.S. And the need for these skilled workers is only getting stronger as virtually all construction and manufacturing companies require some form of welding, from the production of assemblies to maintenance and repair….. the average age of a welder is in the mid-fifties, with many approaching 60 years old. It is estimated that more than half of the industry’s highly trained workforce is nearing retirement….-continue reading about the welder shortage–>

I’ve written about it before on this blog. It is part of what inspired me to begin the New Rosies series, which will hopefully inspire some young women to go into welding as a career. But how do you get into welding as a career? How do you get the really high paying welding jobs?

I recommend starting with professional training. There are a lot of low cost programs out there that will at the very least get you started. Check out my earlier post on How to find a Welding School.

Welding is far more complex than many people realize. A good welder needs to know about metalurgy, geometry, electricity AND have good eye/hand coordination to actually lay down some beads.

Look for a school that offers an open enrollment program so you can practice, practice, practice. One of the benefits of an open enrollment program like the Simi Valley Career Institute (we featured welding instructor Tony Marsden over on JoeWelder.com earlier this month) is that students can learn at their own pace and the classroom serves as a workshop. Beginners can learn, or they can improve their skills– learning to weld titanium or Inconel, or getting a pressure vessel pipe certification– which means additional money!

How did you learn to weld? How did you get your first welding job? What advice would you give anyone interested in joining the industry? First five to leave a comment (who aren’t related to me or Arc-Zone.com) will get a free t-shirt!

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26 comments on “Advice on How To Get a Welding Job”:

  1. WELDRWOMN

    I first took a night course at the local community college that covered the basics of Oxy, Stick, and Mig welding. That course planted a little seed that, several years later, inspired me to pursue welding as a career (that, and my Dad told me that being a tour guide wasn’t a proper career). I asked my Uncle (who works for a welding supply company) and I was told that, for a good career in welding, I should go to either Hobart or Lincoln to learn all that I could. I looked at the websites of both the schools and decided on Hobart. When I was about ready to finish at Hobart, I got a job in the area running a Mig welding robot. I have since moved on to a better welding job, but one of the things that I would tell a newbie, is that you should expect to start small. Nobody is an expert right out of school and if you are going to get the really big jobs, you have to work your way up learning all that you can.

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  2. Carmen Post author

    Great adviceWeldrwomn…. lots of folks seem to think they can walk out a training program or a university and demand top dollar for their field…. but you gotta start somewhere!!

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  3. dexter

    My grandpa got me my first pipeline job as a welder helper. Traditionally, unless you’ve got family that are in the business, one will work as a helper for around 5 years before “breaking out” on the pipeline as a welder. There’s a lot of knowledge to be taken in concerning the work at hand and as well as the downhill welding procedure used on most lines. I worked my ass off kept my ears open and pestered anyone that would stand still long enough with various questions and bought myself a ’77 Lincoln SA 200 welding machine and began to practice. On my third job I was set up to help a certain welder who had been given the helpers he had before a lot of trouble. He had “run off” or fired two helpers previously so they decided to put me with him. He had nothing but praise for my help and my work and he was grateful enough and impressed with my knowledge of the work and welding he asked the welder foreman to let me test on the next job which he did. So by working long enough around a certain group of people in the field and building a small network of coworkers and proving myself to my superiors I was given a chance to make the kind of money after only one year that some people strive a decade or more for. I’ve only got a ged to show for education and had no previous knowledge of welding whatsoever before i started, but working the ground and keeping interest in what was going on and staying focused got the job done! Know the work that you’re doing before you go and try to lay some heat out there. An incompetent helper can be trained but an incompetent welder usually gets to look for another job.

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  4. Ryan

    I’m a student currently attending and just about at the end of my welding course. I have passed most of the program, but there are theory modules which I have failed due to my lack of sleep from working full time in addition to the 30 hr/wk course. As it is, I won’t be passing the course, though we receive credits for each plate test and project passed. I plan on finishing the course in due time, but my savings are running low. Will it be possible to find a welding job with the year and a half experience I received at the school?

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  5. kevin

    ive been driving trucks long distance and hauling oversized loads for about 14 years and i thought its time for a career change i love to weld but only know the basics so im returning to school at the age of 34 to learn tig,pressure,and maybe underwater welding either way i can fulfill my new dream and hopefully make a new career for myself thanks for listening and have a great day kevin

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    1. Robert

      I’m 52 and will graduating in December 2015. I worked oil rigs all my life till I got hurt to bad to work the rigs anymore. Look foreword to a new career in welding

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  6. steve

    my 20 year old son took a welding course at night at the local voc school in fall river mass. he wants to take more courses and get certified i have been looking all over in this area on the web and can’t find a course for him to take full time any ideas ?

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  7. chris

    age 50 changeing fields welding looks like a great challenge. i am comfortable in my own skin, but really am i going to be taken seriously at this age. give it to me straight.

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  8. Justin

    I’m 36 years old and I’m about to attend welding school. Do you guys think I still have time to make some good money in this field? I know 36 isn’t that old but fellas I sure feel old to be changing careers.

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  9. Cat Wong

    I got into welding while working in an office for a construction training center. Got interested in welding and skilled labor so I brought up the idea of taking up welding to my family and friends. Family and friends thought I lost my mind at first. I was a young white collar working lady, why would I want to be a blue collar worker?

    Quit my old job, took up a stick welding class to run it vertically, and got hired by a shipyard in Alaska 8 months later. Worked in the service department cleaning ventilation ducts, bilges and tanks, and firewatching for half a year and they switched me over to the Pipe crew to see if I would survive. Been fitting pipe for the pipe crew ever since. Planning systems, modifying systems, fabricating spools and parts. I’m 24 this year and January 2014 would be my second year at the shipyard.

    Never regretted that decision. Best decision I’ve made in my life. I only really work 2 hours in the morning when I’m trying to wake up. But I’m having fun the rest of the day.

    What really is important for getting and staying in a welding job is being a responsible and hard worker. You’ll get the lowest position when you first start out. But as long as you show up for work early and sober everyday, do the best job you can everyday, and stay late in the welding booths to practice, people will take notice and word will spread that you are a hard worker. Then the welding foreman will get you to the crew. Even then you would be the welder’s helper for a while. For my case, welders I firewatched for, would teach me different techniques and how the machines work. So I would actively help them out while protecting and cleaning the area at the same time.

    Even once you climb the ladder, don’t look down on cleaning jobs. Even being a pipefitter, when the other crews need me to do a cleaning job because I’m small enough to fit into tight spaces, I’ll still do it. I don’t look down on any jobs. As long as I get my hourly pay, I’ll do any job they need me to do. Bosses like that because they see a worker willing to work. That’s what they want. Someone who will work.

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  10. larry

    I started in job corp then went to tech school. Landed a job a concrete plant then onto a sheet metal company. Work got very slow so I join.ed the army. I miss welding so bad I want to return and get pipe certified.

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  11. Dakota

    hey my name is Dakota and I finish welding in job corps this mouth I just wanted to ask how hard finding a welding job my be and how much should I be asking for an hour. my teacher said that I should be worth 18$ an hour starting. I can do anything that can be done with (SWAW or stick welding ) and I can use a forklift ,read blueprints. use many different cutting torches. and I am finishing my tig.

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  12. Camille

    I,m considering a career change never really specialized in any professional always wored clerical admin, csr jobs, and now I’m looking for skilled labor, I have been researching Weilding, and the different types of weilding and companies that I may like to work for, can anyone give me some suggestions, there is a 14 week program for weilding, and I need to know if that will put me into the work force, with my hardwork and being dedicated.

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  13. Sean

    I just finish welding school at industry welding academy I took a six week .course for structural welding what’s the best type of jobs. To start at and I wanted to know how .can I get a job just coming out of welding school I kno how to weld .but I just kno the basic.

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  14. Hotchick

    I been interested in welding for years and last week started my class!I was blessed to find a free class and Union owned! I love every part of it!I’m starting off with Stick welding using 7018 rod! I’m planning on taking it all the way

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  15. Andy

    I took a 200 hr course for basic advance and pipe did very well and got my cert. I’m starting to feel like vocational schools like boces are pretty worthless and next time I run out of toilet paper I think my certificate may finally have some value. I am epa universally certified for hvac so I’ve got a back up but the moral of this story is caution. The program I took was expensive and the teacher and administration put the class in a pink cloud of 18-20 an hour expectations and how there are so many jobs available. Be aware and make sure you pick a school that will take you places with hard work not just take your money.

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  16. danarussell

    Im a 38 yr old fem. I used to do clerical but got a taste of the industrial life and have been hands-on ever since. I do alot of odd jobs mostly carpentry and remodeling these past 2yrs. I am searching for a career path now, im considering welding. I just wonder if im too old to start as a welder. Maybe im just scared to start something new. Its hot in the summer time and i worry about that factor as well. I think im gonna go all in with it and if i dont like it, ill atleast walk away educated. Will community college be sufficient enough for the education?

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  17. Jerry

    I have many years of personnel basic Mig welding exp (autobody repair work). Been part of Tig welding projects (frame repair/customizing) mostly as Helper. I Want/Need to get into a strong recognized school one that can Hopefully get me onto the right path! Need to change from Forklift driver jobs to a WELDING career!!
    living in Patterson ca ANY advise will be STRONGLY APPRECIATED!!!

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    1. Carmen

      Your best bet would be to start at he American Welding Society website ( aws.org) and look for their school finder. Also, many community colleges have solid welding programs. Good luck!

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  18. Elisa

    My husband is a MIG welder for a truck body assembly company and had been there 20 years and he is only 38 yrs old. Wanting to move somewhere warm any ideas where he can make good pay and benefits??

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  19. Johnny McCarron

    I think it is great advice to look for professional training. After all, welding can be a very difficult job. The last thing you want to do is damage your welding project because you don’t know what you are doing. Do you have any other tips about getting your welding job done properly?

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  20. Callum Palmer

    I agree, training really is one of the number one things that employers look for when hiring a welder. After all, they want to know that you have experience and skill in the workshop before they hire you. Professional training can give you a base of skill and experience to show them.

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