The work of a Welder, Solderer or Brazer is not limited to a handful of industries or regions. Welders are apt with a hand-held torch or they may direct a stream of plasma at almost the speed of sound and approaching 20,000 degrees C. Soldering is critical in the construction of circuit boards for electronic devices. Welders help produce mining equipment and agricultural implements, and they may even program robots.
Manufacturers, fabricators and construction companies are always looking for experienced people who can either join or cut metal and plastic pieces.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the mean average salary for welders is $17.61 per hour, or an annual salary of $36,630. The top five highest hourly rates range from $26.04 to $29.73 per hour. The lowest hourly rate is $11.26.*
Of the top five highest paying careers in welding, electrical production and transmission companies have the most positions. The best paying wage is in the American spectator sports industry, notably auto racing. The Bureau estimates there are only 90 of these positions, far less than one percent of all welders.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Many construction companies supplement their work force through overtime. Around twenty percent of welders, solderers and brazers work 50 hours or more a week.
Job Description and Outlook
Welders, solderers and brazers need many skills beyond operating torches and machines at high temperatures. The advance of technology has brought about more robots and automated welding into factories. A welder must be able to work with these machines while still understanding the physical traits of metals.
The welder’s basic function is to join two or more pieces of metal or plastic together with a joint strong enough to withstand the tension and pressures exerted on the finished product. In the US there are over 100 different processes to join metal. The welder must choose the right type of torch, from the simple arc welder to more sophisticated machines like the plasma welder.
The arc welder sends an electric current through the metal which creates enough heat to bond the two pieces together. An oxy welder uses gases for fuel. The plasma welder emits a stream of ionized gases to join or cut metal.
In soldering and brazing the pieces are joined by melting them together. The welder creates a joint by adding a molten substance that forms a meld after it cools.
All may work in various environments. Tunnel construction may happen underground. Rigs may be welded underwater. The welder may set up and tend to automatic welding machines. The welder feeds the material, inspects the product and often assists in moving the product to the next phase of the process.
Welders, solderers and brazers must have the skills and flexibility to work in awkward positions. They must concentrate on fine details for extended periods of time. Communication skills are important. Welders must be able to read blueprints.
The more experienced welders may become inspectors. The inspector monitors the work of other welders, evaluates the joints and compares them to the requirements of the job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not predict many new positions for welders, solderers and brazers over the next ten years. The increase of automated processes is eliminating many welding jobs. However, welders are still needed to monitor these operations. Welders are not necessarily limited to a few job areas or industries, because welding processes and skills are still relevant. Overall, the Bureau estimates a decline of about two percent. The Bureau does note that demand is good for experienced welders.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
A high school degree is not necessary for employment as a welder. Many high schools and community colleges offer courses in welding and soldering. Some outfits may hire and train welders, but competitive market forces usually compel companies to hire applicants with training or experience. The higher paying jobs go to welders with experience and knowledge of the latest technologies. Training is available in the US Armed Forces.
Important skills for welders to possess are reading blueprints, shop mathematics, communications and some electrical and computing knowledge. A diploma from a one year training program in either welding or robotics is beneficial. Many junior colleges offer a two year Associates Degree in welding, robotics or electronic technology.
The American Welding Society (AWS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1919 to assist and promote welding and welding skills. The AWS issues certificates upon the successful completion of testing. The certification starts with the Certified Welder program and advances into engineering, robotics, supervision and inspection. The certificate must be renewed every six months.
Other organizations providing certification include the Institute for Printed Circuits, the Edison Welding Institute and Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. Some companies provide their own certification programs for employees.
The AWS is one of the major associations recognized by companies in the US. An ancillary group of AWS is the Pacific Ocean Coalition of Welding Association.
Welders, solderers and brazers may join the International Titanium Association, the Edison Welding Institute and Fabricators and Manufacturers Association. These groups promote the skills and training of welding.