How to Become a Welder

Welders play a big role in the production of everyday objects, from the pan you use to cook dinner to the car you drive from place to place. If you like working with your hands and want a job that encourages creativity and problem-solving, becoming a welder might be the right move to make.

With some training, you can start a career as a welder in as little as 11 months. Here’s what you need to do to get the ball rolling on your new career.

Learn About Welding Types

Welders make objects by joining together metal parts. How they go about fusing metals together depends on the type of welding they’re doing. Before you start a career as a welder, it helps to know the basics of the different types of welding. They include:

  • SMAW welding: SMAW stands for shield metal arc welding. It’s also called stick welding. Welders often use SMAW when joining smaller components together.
  • FCAW welding: FCAW stands for flux-core arc welding. It’s an almost automatic welding process used in mass production.
  • GTAW welding: GTAW stands for gas tungsten arc welding. It’s also called Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding. It’s used to create motor vehicles, ships and aerospace equipment.
  • GMAW welding: GMAW stands for gas metal arc welding. It’s a very common technique used in most industries to produce components large and small.

While it’s worthwhile to learn about the different types of welding and their uses, don’t worry about specializing in one or another. You’ll learn how to do each one if you continue on the path to becoming a welder.

Learn About Welding Jobs

What’s the career outlook for someone who decides to become a welder? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most welders work in the manufacturing industry. A few are self-employed and a handful specializes in repairs rather than manufacturing. 

Most welders work a full-time schedule of at least 40 hours a week. Shifts vary depending on the company. Some companies have welders work eight-hour days while others require 12-hour days. Shifts can be during the day, at night, or overnight. 

Often, the hours you work as a welder are dependent on the company’s production schedule. During times of increased production, welders may have to work overtime.

Enroll in a Training Program

The next step to take on the path to becoming a welder is to enroll in a training program. You have a few options for learning the ins and outs of welding.

One option is to enroll in a career certificate program, which combines classroom instruction and hands-on training. In a welding certificate program, you’ll learn how to read blueprints and the basics of each type of welding. 

The program takes less than one year full-time. After that, you’ll be ready to earn certification and find your first job as a welder.

Another training option is to become an apprentice. A welding apprenticeship program takes about three years. During your time as an apprentice, you’ll work as a welder, getting direct experience. You’ll also get paid for your time and work. 

Along with working as a welder, you’ll also receive instruction, in a classroom setting and on the job, during your apprenticeship. After completing the program, you’ll be ready to work at the journeyperson level and can command a higher salary.

Apprenticeship programs are typically very competitive, so if that sounds like the training path you’d like to take, talk to a career specialist to learn about what to do to make yourself a good candidate.

Build up Your Soft Skills

Knowing how to weld is critical for your career. But there’s more to being a welder than having the hard skills down pat. You also need to develop soft skills, such as the ability to notice and pay attention to details. Hand-eye coordination is also a must, as is endurance and strength.

Get Certified

If you decide to complete a career certificate program, the next step on the road to becoming a welder is to get certified. After the program, you’ll be ready to take the American Welding Society’s certified welder exam.

Search for Jobs

You’ve done it. You’re a certified welder or have completed your apprenticeship. Now, it’s time to look for jobs. 

If you’ve been working as an apprentice, your employer might already have a job ready and waiting for you.

The connections you made in your career certificate program or during your apprenticeship can also help you find job opportunities and get your foot in the door of your new career.