Choosing a career field whether it be welding or not is a very important and life altering decision that should be well thought out. Our site, Class One Welding has all the information that you need to help guide your career choices within the welding community.
The question “how to become a welder” is not a simple one as there are many different approaches to entering the welding world. The article below will cover everything you need to know!
The Complete Guide: How To Become A Welder
As a former welder of many years I can tell you welding is just not a job but is more of a brotherhood of men and women that perform a very unique and often critical job. A good welder is an artist, mechanically inclined, knowledgeable about metal and is often tasked with doing very difficult things in less than ideal environments or circumstances.
It is important for you to understand what the job really entails before you ever start school or an apprenticeship. Many people enter the welding field with high hopes of making a lot of money and having an exciting career. While this can happen it is not as easy as many people believe and it takes the right type of person, skills and knowledge.
Step 1 – Determine You Have The Personality Traits Of A Welder
Before we get into the meat of how to become a welder I want to provide some information that may be helpful to you in making sure that you are choosing the right career path. Welding is not for everyone but is great for others! I could elaborate on this much more but simply wanted to give a snapshot of what skills and personality attributes will be necessary to become a welder.
I can’t tell you if you will enjoy welding or not but I can tell you a few things that can either make you or break you in the welding career field.
- Manual Dexterity – The ability to make coordinated hand and finger movements. It is important that you have a steady hand and good hand eye coordination. If you suffer from tremors or have shaky hands then it is going to be really hard for you to become a good welder.
- Attitude & Independence – It is important to have a good attitude even in bad situations. You may sometimes be the only welder on site and will be working independently with literally no supervision. You will be required to make welds in positions that are nearly impossible. Many times you will find yourself having to fit into tight spaces that are dark, hot and dirty all day long.
- Claustrophobia & Fear of Heights – A number of welding jobs will require you to either be in tight areas or up high at times. If this is something that will not work for you then this will limit the amount of jobs that will be a fit for you.
- Mechanical Aptitude – Being a welder is about much more than just welding in most cases. Connecting valves, threading pipe, drilling holes in I-beams, welder maintenance and other tasks are a commonly done by welders. Being mechanically minded will make your daily life easier as a welder.
Here are a few tips I have come up with for new welders just entering the welding field. They are not about how to weld but more about how to fit in, perform your job and what to not do.
Step 2 – What type of welding job is right for you?
Something else to consider is what type of welding job you are willing or interested in doing. The reason I say this is that there are welding schools, specific certifications and apprenticeships that specialize in particular types of welding processes.
It may pay off to think about what type of welding job you will want in the future before you are committed to a particular welding school. Here are just a few of the industries welders work in.
- Construction – Construction welding jobs are often outdoors and can range from pipe welding, structural steel, rebar welding, bucket hardfacing and repair to light fabrication. Welders that work for construction companies are often multi skilled and do a variety of jobs on site. You will find that stick welding is primarily used in this field.
- Oil & Gas Industry – As you can imagine working in the oil and gas fields will require you to weld a lot of pipe. The downside to working in this industry is that it is either very busy or completely dead. You will find that stick welding is primarily used in this field also.
- Production – Production welding is indoors in a plant or factory setting. MIG and TIG welding are primarily used in production welding.
- Fabrication shops – Most fabrication shops use MIG and TIG welding to construct or scratch build a vast array of different things. Fabrication will require you to have a good working knowledge of shop equipment like a shear and press brake.
- Turnarounds/Shutdowns – There are many companies that specialize in plant shutdowns. Basicly what happens is that a large factory or plant will shut down in order to do overhauls, large scale maintenance or retooling. You will come in and do whatever welding is necessary. You can expect most of this work to be pipe, plate or structural stick welding. Some more specialized shutdowns may utilize TIG, particularly power plants and reactors. You will be expected to travel from shutdown to shutdown.
- Ironwork/Structural Steel – This is pure structural steel work. You will be up high in the air and will be stick welding. Iron workers have a reputation as being a bit “on the crazy side” but I have always found them to be highly professional and close knit. Without a doubt Ironworkers and structural steel welders face adverse outdoor conditions and safety hazards.
- Underwater Welding – This is one of those famous jobs within the welding community. High pay and unique working conditions make this a very interesting job. You can learn more about underwater welding schools here.
You cab find more information on types of welding jobs here.
Step 3 – Is A Welder’s Salary Enough For Your Lifestyle?
Money, the reason we work? Most people would agree with that statement/question though I hope that money is a byproduct of something that you enjoy doing, like welding. Welding salaries vary greatly, immensely to be honest. I have a dedicated an entire page to “How Much Do Welders Make?“.
Step 4 – Choosing A Welding School
Starting a welding career is not very hard and you really only have three options; attending a welding school, welding apprenticeships and on the job training. What can be hard though is choosing the right welding program, with the right school and the steps to take. It is very important to get the right education, training and experience to start with!
I have a series of articles that will help you find the right type of welding training/school/education. I cover the following:
- National Welding School Directory
- The Top Welding Schools
- Tips For Choosing A Quality Welding School
- Welding School Cost
- How Long Is Welding School
- Underwater Welding Schools & Commercial Diving
There are many welding schools in in the in the United States and it can be hard to choose. You may be wondering what makes one school better than the other or what are the most important things to look for in a welding school? I have seen people that come out of welding school well prepared to go to work and weld independently and others that lack the knowledge and skills needed to perform well in the field.
Being a good welder is more than just welding! Blueprint reading, geometry, cutting, metallurgy, math and mechanical knowledge are all excellent skills to have.
How To Choose A Welding School & What To Look For
There are a few very important things to keep in my when looking for a welding school. Class size, teacher to student ratio and cost are all obvious things you should look at. Here are a few key points to look for that maybe you wouldn’t think of.
Is the Welding School Accredited?
This is important for a number of reasons. The first is that if you ever decide to move forward with your education you will get credit for the classes that you completed already. Another reason is that an accredited welding school is legitimate and can you offer you a real degree and transcripts. There are many fly by night welding schools that will give you a “certificate” at the end of their program that is pretty much worthless. You should always check and see if a school is accredited.
Welding Booth to Student Ratio
Having three people crammed into a welding booth is not only uncomfortable but will not allow you to get the time needed to become a welder. A huge part of becoming a welder, or should I say a good welder is simply practicing. A good welding school should have a one student per booth, two students per booth is manageable and three is just ridiculous.
When I completed my welding program I walked out the door as a certified welder. I received two certifications, AWS D1.1 (all positions) and ASME Section IX (all positions). These certified me for plate and pipe welding and greatly helped me get my foot in the door to a pipe welding company. Having a certification(s) tells employers that you are a solid welder that has the skills and knowledge to produce quality work. I highly recommend welding schools that offer certification tests as part of their curriculum.
Specific Classes A Welding School Should Offer
Remember that becoming a welder is about much more than just welding. Any good welding school should offer some of the classes as follows:
- Blueprint Reading & Mechanical Drawings
- Math (Geometry & Trigonometry)
- Metal Cutting
- Pipe Fitting
- Welding Codes
- Basic Weld Inspection Knowledge
The welding school you choose should also teach you all the major welding processes such as Stick, MIG and TIG welding. If you want to work as a production welder you will most likely utilize MIG welding the most. Construction welders generally stick weld and specialties use TIG.
Back in the day it was much easier to obtain a welding apprenticeship than in 2016 and beyond. Generally apprenticeships last for 3 to 4 years and will consist of on the job training and classroom work. There are many unions that offer apprenticeships throughout the USA and Canada.
Step 5 – Finding A Welding Job
After you complete welding school it is going to be important to find the right employer for you. Don’t feel pressured to accept the first thing that comes to you.
The reason I say this is because it is important to to stay with your first employer for three years if at all possible, five is outstanding. Many really good (high paying) welding jobs want experience and three years is a good amount to have. If you are having trouble finding work in your area then it may be time to start thinking about moving. Another option is to travel working factory shutdowns.
Welding Job Advice
After you get your first welding job and go to work you may feel a bit overwhelmed but it is important to keep a good attitude and try your hardest. Pay attention to detail and always ask questions if you have the slightest doubt about what you are doing.
The first welding job I got was at a small welding shop doing repairs and fabrication. I felt lost, unprepared and stupid. I had never used a plate roller, press brake, shear or just about any of the other large machines in the shop. I ended up leaving after about three months and went to a construction company where I welded and installed gas lines for new commercial construction. I ended up liking this job and stayed there for a long time.
Here are a few of the things that surprised me when I was a new welder that you may also run into or think about.
- I didn’t realize what a slow welder I was. More experienced welders welded 20 times as fast as I did.
- Threading and hanging pipe was a challenge at first and something I knew nothing about.
- Having to use a mirror to see your weld is fairly common.
- I knew just enough to survive each day! Talk to experienced welders, listen and thank them for sharing their advice with you!
- Not burning your rods all the way down is a waste of materials in the company’s eyes.
- Working in wet conditions is common
- Cutting skills are VERY important and can make or break your day
This is a helpful light hearted article filled with tips for new welders.
If you have any questions about how to become a welder please leave them in the comments section at the bottom of the page!