Some people just aren't cut out to sit behind a desk in an office. Pipe welders work outdoors all over the world and in all types of weather. Locations for pipe welders can range from the frozen tundras of Canada all the way to the tropical jungles of South America. Although the typical image of a pipe welder is that of someone working on an oil pipeline, pipe welders work on pipes that carry different materials.
The main task of a pipe welder is to complete welds on pipes according to specified standards. Pipes carry many different types of materials, such as liquids or gases. The welds used to seal the pipes must match the pipe specifications. Because most pipes are large and set into place before being attached, pipe welders work out in the field for most jobs. This entails dealing with harsh environmental conditions, as well as cramped and uncomfortable working conditions. The two main types of welding are arc, which uses an electric power supply to generate heat, and oxy-fuel welding, which uses oxygen or some other type of fuel to provide heat. Most pipe welding jobs done out in the field use the oxy-fuel welding process. While on-site, pipe welders must follow safety procedures to minimize chances of accidents.
In addition to welding, pipe welders typically have other duties involved in their job. These can include hiring and training outside contractors, filing paperwork as needed, maintaining supplies and constructing additional equipment to assist on the job site. Some welders may be given the responsibility of training an apprentice welder. This involves showing the apprentice the proper methods and procedures for welding and safety on the job site. Welders also are responsible for the care and maintenance of their welding equipment and drafting new procedures as needed.
For most welding positions, formal educational requirements are at least a high school level education or GED. Welders receive their welding certification by first either attending a trade school, serving in an apprenticeship or a combination of the two. Vocational school lasts for one to two years, while an apprenticeship lasts three or four years. While servicing as an apprentice, a welder candidate is required to pass at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and at least 2,000 hours out in the field. Before serving in the field, welding candidates must pass a certification class offered by the American Welding Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers or the American Petroleum Institute, depending on the welding concentration being pursued.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2016 the median pay for welders was $39,390 per year. For the period between 2014 and 2024, the BLS predicts the job growth rate of this field to be 4 percent, which is approximately slower than the average for all occupations tracked. To secure the best job positions, welders should be willing to seize any further training and certification opportunities as they arise.