Welders join metals in factories, repair shops and construction sites using more than 100 methods, including electrical current or arc welding. These days, many welders learn the trade in classes in high schools, technical schools and two-year colleges, although some employers hire inexperienced workers and train them through apprenticeships. After completing training classes or an apprenticeship, you qualify to work as a journeyman welder for a welder's salary.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups welders in its "Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers" job category. The average pay for these workers was $18.46 an hour or $38,410 a year as of 2012. The lowest-earning 10 percent received annual salaries of $24,720 or less, while the highest-paid 10 percent earned $56,130 or more. Half of welders surveyed earned yearly incomes of $29,730 to $44,970.
A welder's pay depends in part on the type of employer. Architectural and structural metals manufacturing firms were the biggest employer of welders in 2012, paying an average annual income of $35,310, according to the BLS. Welders in agriculture, construction, and mining machinery manufacturing averaged $36,290 per year, while those in motor vehicle manufacturing averaged $33,420. Welders averaged $38,040 working for companies in the commercial and industrial equipment field. The top-paying industry for welders in 2012 was electric power, at an average of $62,850 per year.
Pay by Location
As with most jobs, a journeyman welder's pay also depends on the location. The BLS reports that welders in Alaska had the highest average salaries in 2012, at $69,390 a year. Hawaii ranked second at $58,430 a year, followed by the District of Columbia at an average of $56,580. Among metro areas, Anchorage, Alaska and Peabody, Mass. had the highest average pay for welders. In both places, average annual salaries exceeded $65,000 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 15 percent job growth for welders between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent for all jobs. Manufacturing, defense and infrastructure repair will all produce more positions for welders. New welding school graduates and welders who are up-to-date on the latest technology will have the best job prospects. Those unfamiliar with the latest techniques will find the job hunt more competitive. However, welders able to relocate will have an easier time finding work.