If you want to know how to become a welder, you have to understand some basic concepts. A welder is someone who joins, shapes, molds and melts metals.
As a welder, your work includes welding steel components that will be used in cars, pipes, refineries, bridges and other structures.
To become a professional certified welder, you have to meet the following minimum educational requirements.
Minimum Education Requirements and Welding Certification Programs
The American Welding Society (AWS) states that all aspiring welders must finish high school. Take science and math courses as the knowledge will help.
If your high school offers welding classes, you should take it as well. Some high schools offer courses that familiarize you with metal shaping equipment and oxy-acetylene welding techniques.
College Degree and Certification
Though some companies offer on the job training, your chances of being accepted are higher if you have a college welding degree or certification.
Degrees and certifications are available in private schools, technical and vocational schools and community colleges as well.
Certification programs cover basic and advanced training including MIG welding, use of gas metal arc, gas tungsten, oxy-acetylene and more.
Degrees take longer to complete but are more comprehensive.
Aside from the subjects that certification programs cover, degree programs include safety guidelines, metallurgy, drafting, how to read blueprints and more.
How long does it take to become a welder?
• A certificate program takes 8 to 18 months to complete. Getting the certification takes another month.
• An associate’s degree in welding technology takes two years to complete and a month for the certification.
• A bachelor’s degree in welding engineering takes four years plus one month for the certification.
• The AWS certification includes welding examinations, and there is a written test as well. You have to retake the examination every year, so your certification is updated.
• Commercial welders have to get a MIG 3G or AWS GMAW certification. These certifications are for basic skills only, and you may need more certification programs for advanced skills.
At the very least you have to complete the Welding Engineer AWS Certification and learn geometry, fundamental techniques, and other practical skills.
Where do you get these certificates?
College welding degree programs also provide an internship program. Most aspiring welders prefer a certification program as it’s less expensive and only takes 18 months.
Some companies have internal welding certification programs, and another option is the American Welding Society’s Certified Welder (CW), as the exam tests determine your ability to do actual welding.
During the exam, you’re going to learn the processes used in welding for chemical refineries, structural steel, petroleum structures, sheet metal and more.
To keep your certification, you’ll need to provide a maintenance form every six months to prove you’re still employed.
Welding Training Through Apprenticeship Programs
An apprenticeship program is one of the quickest ways to gain hands-on experience while working. These usually consist of entry-level welding work, but this is where you need to start.
The more hours you complete, the higher your accreditation level becomes. The time it takes to finish an apprenticeship varies, however.
There are different types of apprenticeship programs, and in some areas, they’re called job training programs.
In any event, it’s worth your while to take these as they’ll help you develop the skills necessary to find more advanced work.
Another advantage of these programs is they provide you the chance to interact with potential employers.
Types of Welding Jobs Available
Welders have one job, welding metallic materials, but the degree or certification to get depends on your goals.
The most basic welding education qualifies you as a welder, you’ll be able to find employment in manufacturing, the automotive industry, heavy machine industries, ships and so on.
If there’s a process that requires two pieces of metal to be fused together, it’s the welder’s job.
What about welding instructor or engineer?
If you choose to become a welding engineer, you’ll have more responsibilities such as supervising the work of welders, metallurgy, planning and project management.
As a welding engineer, you’ll also be doing CAD work among other projects.
If you want to be a welding instructor you have to pass the AWS Certified Welding Instructor certification exam.
After you pass the exam, you’ll have a lot of job opportunities available.
However, only those with years of experience welding can apply.
A welding inspector is qualified to assess welding projects and ensure they pass the AWS standards. You also have to pass a certification exam, after which you can take part in on the job training.
Those who wish to take the examination must have welding experience and spend time working with a senior welding inspector.
Jobs for Welders and Career Options
Welders are in high demand in the United States. As of 2013, there were an estimated 352,000 welders, brazers, cutters and solders in the country, and the Labor Department says demand will increase 6% annually up to 2022, with demand highest in the manufacturing sector.
However, you can also find work in other industries.
The more training and experience you get, the further you can go and the more career options open up. If you pursue a bachelor’s degree, for instance, you’ll be a welding engineer.
With any of the welding degrees available you can become a welding supervisor or inspector, and with enough experience and financing, open up your own shop.
Tips for Finding a Job
If you completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, it probably includes meetups with prospective employers. If you don’t have a degree, at least complete a certification program and keep your certificate up to date as that will make it easier for you to find a job.
You should also apply in as many locations as possible. We have already mentioned the many industries where demand will be high, so use that to your advantage.
Depending on the state, you may be asked to pass a drug test and provide a resume along with your welder’s certificate.
There are a lot of job opportunities for welders today, and what’s important is you obtain the proper education. Don’t be surprised if after landing the job you’re asked to pass additional tests, but that’s only to ensure your skills are up to date.
Now that you know how to become a welder, the only one thing you need is to start. Good luck!