There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different industries that utilize welders on a daily basis, there are simply too many types of welding jobs to list them all. In this article we will outline some of the many different career paths that a welder can follow. This can be helpful to those that are wanting to become a welder and for those veteran welders looking for a more exciting or different welding career path.
Types Of Welding Jobs & Career Paths
Structural Steel Welding jobs & Ironworkers
Structural steel welding can mean a lot of different things from welding on skyscrapers to welding in a fabrication shops on parts for a building. The AWS (American welding Society) governs most aspects and codes of structural steel welding.
Many structural steel welders are also what are called “Ironworkers.” Ironworkers are people that actually assemble the steel structures of large buildings often times working high above the ground. Ironworkers have a notoriously dangerous job and is not uncommon to see an ironworker that is missing a finger or at least part of a finger. Wind can easily blow a hanging beam in any direction and cause the ironworker to be pinched causing a severe injury. Welders can be Ironworkers or at least work side-by-side with ironworkers making structural connections and welding on tabs or brackets.
Factory Shutdown Welding
Factory shutdown welding is a unique type of welding job because you will never work in one spot for more than about a month or even less. Regular travel will be required of you and you will be working on a very vast array of different welding projects.
Since the factory or manufacturer is shut down they want to get the maintenance or project done as soon as possible so they rely on temporarily hiring a large volume of skilled tradesmen including different types of welders. These jobs are often high-paying and also included a per diem.
Underwater Welding Jobs
Underwater welding is a very dangerous and unique type of welding job. It takes a very special skill set to be able to get into this type of welding job. In addition to having many years of welding experience you also have to be a certified diver.
Underwater welding is one of the most difficult types of welding jobs that you can pursue. Most underwater welders are employed by either salvage companies, offshore oil platform construction companies or the military.
Production Welding Jobs
Production welding often takes place in a factory or assembly-line type of production facility. Most of the time you will find that MIG welding is utilized in most production type settings because of its speed and cleanliness. A production welder could find him or herself working on anything from a large pressure vessel to simply welding brackets onto a beam or sheet metal.
Production welders can make anything from minimum-wage to over $30 an hour depending on the setting and company that they are working for. Some of the higher-paying production welding jobs are for companies that manufacture heavy equipment like Caterpillar, John Deere, Case and Volvo.
Robotic welding is often used in vehicle manufacturing or plants where many of the same product are manufactured. I personally have not worked in this particular type of welding job but found the video interesting.
Small Local Welding Companies and Fabrication Shops
Working for a small local welding company or fabrication shop can be a rewarding career if you like working on a vast variety of projects. One day you may be working on a piping system in a commercial building then the next day patching up the lawnmower. It is common for small local welding shops to work on farm equipment, custom brackets or braces, semi trailers, garbage trucks and to fabricate small-scale projects.
Some of your small local welding shops can pay a decent wage while others may pay on the lower end. A bonus to working for a small welding shop is that you will learn very wide range of skills that you may not learn in a production type of setting.
Oil and Gas Industry
The oil and gas industry use utilizes many different types of welders with many different skill sets. As you can imagine pipe welding is very common in the oil fields but structural steel welders are often utilized also. Oil and gas industry welders are not just limited to working in the oil fields though as many welders also work in refineries and offshore on oil rig platforms.
Excavation, Earth Moving Companies & Mining
Companies that specialize in excavation and earth moving and have a high demand for welders. If you find yourself working for an earthmoving company you will be tasked with repairing heavy equipment and resurfacing buckets and teeth. You may spend an entire day welding hardfacing onto the leading edge of a bucket or repairing a cracked support on a bulldozer or of other heavy equipment.
You will find yourself working in a shop as well as out in the field. Other job duties include may include things like doing routine maintenance, operating heavy equipment and/or fabricating parts as needed.
Boilermakers are known for their fabrication of pressure vessels and custom plate work. A pressure vessel is any type of container that must hold 15 psi of pressure or more. This can include hot water boilers, storage tanks, steam generators and specialized vessels for the shipbuilding industry. Boilermakers are well-versed in plate welding, pipe welding and pipe fitting.
Industrial Maintenance Welding
Industrial maintenance welders are often found in large manufacturing facilities, factories and oil refineries. Maintenance welders are often tasked with the installation of new machinery, piping, ductwork and repair welding. Oftentimes other skills are needed to complete projects such as basic electrical and pneumatic knowledge.
Most shipbuilding companies in the United States are located on the Gulf Coast and either Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Florida. Most of the larger shipbuilding companies offer apprenticeships where you can start with little to no experience as a welder. After completing your apprenticeship you’ll be a certified welder and will earn a wage that is generally over $20 per hour. If you are experienced in shipbuilding already or have years of experience of welding you will start as a full-fledged shipbuilder.
Shipbuilding companies are almost always higher and it can be fairly easy to get a job because of the magnitude of the projects that they work on in the length of time that it takes him to complete a project. These companies often hire other tradesmen as well including electricians, carpenters, millwrights,riggers and plumbers.
General Construction or Mechanical Companies
General construction companies and contractors employ welders for various reasons including the installation of gas lines, structural welding, rebar welding and other various tasks. Oftentimes we will move from jobsite to jobsite as different stages of the project is completed. It will be important for you to be certified in pipe as well as plate welding.