While the demand for many hands-on jobs are decreasing, America still needs plenty of welders to help build and keep the country together, two pieces of metal at a time. Welding isn't a career for everyone. It can be stressful and dangerous at times, requiring physical exertion and working in harsh environments at times. However, if you are up for the job, many employers are willing to pay you as you learn through a welding apprenticeship program. While attending trade school to learn how to weld is a good way to start, in many cases you can get a welding apprenticeship with just a high school diploma or GED.
Understanding Welding Apprenticeships
Apprenticeship opportunities can vary from state to state. Some states sponsor companies offering welding apprenticeships, while others may not. In Michigan, for example, the state's Workforce Development Agency actively sponsors welding apprenticeships. Even if your state doesn't sponsor apprenticeships or list apprenticeships on a government website, you may still be able to find companies who offer apprenticeships. Any company that has a need for welders and is willing to train them on-the-job may have an apprenticeship program.
Finding a Welding Apprenticeship
In 2018, the best place to start is through the U.S. Department of Labor's website apprenticeship.gov. Alternatively, you can use careeronestop.org, which is sponsored by the Department of Labor and lists many welding apprenticeships as well. Once you enter your location and do a search for "welder," you should be provided with a list of companies currently offering them. If there are no results in your state, you should get a link to your state's website where apprenticeship information, if available, can be found.
Each apprenticeship opportunity that's listed should include the date the position was posted, the company's name, contact information and the company's requirements for applying for the position. It should also state what type of welding is required such as – stick, mig, tig or flux core welding – as well as other information like whether or not there is travel involved. To apply for the apprenticeship, simply click the "Apply" button and follow the instructions provided.
What to Expect as an Apprentice
While every apprenticeship program varies, with a welding apprenticeship you should expect hands-on training working with welding equipment. You should also expect to assist welders on the job by moving equipment, tools and supplies, or holding or clamping work pieces while welding is being done. At the same time, you will be expected to be eager and willing to learn from a qualified journeyman welder, follow standard safety practices, act professionally and be drug free at all times.
Some employers, like Ingalls Shipbuilding, offer full-fledged apprenticeship schools, where hands-on training is combined with classroom instruction for a period of two to four years, to earn your welding certification, all while you are being paid.
What to Expect as a Welder
In 2017, there were over 400,000 welders, cutters, solderers and brazers employed in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They earned a median annual income of $40,240 that year, meaning half made more than this amount while half made less. The job outlook over the next ten years is about the same as average, with a 6 percent increase in positions expected.
Working as a welder, you should expect to work indoors and outdoors, often in poor weather or in small, confined spaces. You may also be expected to work on scaffolds high off the ground. Working overtime to finish a project is the norm in this profession. Some industries are hiring fewer welders than they did a few years ago, like the automotive industry, while others are hiring more, like the oil and gas industry. Because of the country's aging infrastructure, the BLS anticipates an increased need for welders repairing and rebuilding bridges, highways and buildings. New pipelines and power generation facilities should also require more welders.
Those who continue practicing their trade and keep up-to-date on the latest technologies should be able to find good jobs over the next decade.