How to Start a New Career in Welding

One of the most important decisions you can make is what you’ll do with your life. Your career choice not only determines your earning potential and job opportunities. It can also impact your happiness and satisfaction with your life. If you’re detail-oriented and enjoy working with your hands, a career as a welder may be ideal. Learn more about how to start a career in welding and what to expect in your new career.

Why Start a Career in Welding?

Welders use heat to join materials together, either to build objects from scratch or to make repairs. It’s a hands-on job that requires physical stamina, dexterity, and the ability to read diagrams to turn 2D drawings into 3D objects. 

Welding is a good career choice if you’re looking for a job that lets you work with your hands and that lets you see the results of your work at the end of each shift. 

As a welder, you can typically expect a full-time, reliable schedule. Depending on the type of welding you end up doing, you may work outdoors or inside a factory.

How to Train to Become a Welder

You can take one of two paths to become a welder. Option one is to enroll in an apprenticeship program for welding. Apprenticeships typically take about three years. As an apprentice, you’ll work as a welder and will get to take home a salary as you build your skills and complete your training. Once you finish the apprenticeship, you’re qualified to work at the journeyperson level, earning a higher salary. 

Training option two is to enroll in welding school in a career certificate program. You can complete a welding career certificate in under one year. In the program, you’ll learn welding basics, including techniques such as shielded metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding.

Once you complete the introductory career certificate in welding, you can enroll in an advanced program to deepen your skills and knowledge of welding techniques.

At the end of the introductory and advanced certificate programs, you can take the Certified Welder exam from the American Welding Society.

In some cases, a company may hire a person who has no experience as a welder and who isn’t part of an apprenticeship program and train them on the job. Those jobs are rare, though. If you’re interested in working as a welder and pursuing it as a career, your best bet is to either pursue a career certificate or an apprenticeship.

Welding Certificate vs. Apprenticeship: How Do You Choose?

Should you go the certificate or apprenticeship route on the path to becoming a welder? It depends. It takes less time to earn a certificate than to complete an apprenticeship, meaning you’ll be certified as a welder and working in the field sooner. However, apprentices get to work as they learn and finish their apprenticeship program at a higher level than those who earn a certificate.

Apprenticeships are more competitive than career certificate programs, so you may not get chosen for the program you want. If that happens, a career certificate program can be a good fallback option.

What Can You Expect as a Welder?

Once you’ve earned your certificate or finished your apprenticeship program, what can you expect from your new career? The median salary for welders was $47,450 annually in May 2022. Some industries pay more than others and the number of years you have on the job also affects your salary.

Your day-to-day work life will depend on the type of job you find. You may work a standard 9-to-5 day inside a factory, or you may work the night shift or overnight shift. Some welding jobs are mostly outdoors,  meaning you may have to work in rainy or hot conditions. When searching for welding jobs, think about the schedule you need and the working conditions that will be more comfortable for you.

Ready to jumpstart a new career in welding? Request more information about Orange Technical College’s welding certificate programs.