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The Average Salary of Oil Rig Welders
Oil rig welders generally make about twice as much money as manufacturing-based welders. Offshore welders often live away from home on an ocean-based oil rig, day and weekly schedules are long, and many rig welders have skills beyond welding, such as underwater welding. Not only are oil rig welder salaries higher than manufacturing salaries, but offshore welders can further save money because lodging and meals are provided for rig-based welders. Some welders are transported daily to and from offshore rigs via boat or helicopter.
Training and Education
Oil rig welders must be certified welders, typically by the American Welding Society. Underwater welders must meet AWS D3.6M Underwater Welding Code requirements. Underwater welders are both certified welders and licensed commercial divers. Most underwater divers are welders first, then receive diving training. Most underwater welders spend a couple of years as diver tenders, or apprentice divers, before becoming fully certified as underwater welders.
According to the website “Oil Rig Jobs,” rig welding jobs pay approximately $62,000 per year. Oil rig welding jobs are considered entry-level positions, similar to roustabouts, who basically are manual laborers on an oil rig. The website “Oil Rig Job International,” reports an average pay for an oil rig welder of $42,000 a year. The website “Entry-Level Offshore Jobs” writes that a typical offshore pay rate for two weeks work, working 12 hours a day for seven days a week, is $5,500. The starting pay is $66,000 annually for six months out of the year on a rig. Indeed.com lists an average U.S. salary of $61,000 for an oil rig general laborer welder, based on September 2011 data.
Variables like water depth, environment and diving methods all affect salary levels for underwater welders. Many underwater welding jobs aren’t permanent positions, but rather, are paid on a project-by-project basis. Salaries range from $100,000 to $200,000 a year, according to the American Welding Society. "Entry-Level Offshore Jobs" reports a starting salary of $80,000 for underwater rig welders, with $200,000 a year typical for experienced underwater welders. Day rates average about $1,000 in the United States, $870 a day in Australia and $450 per day in Thailand.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 2010 median U.S. salary of $35,450 for all welders, cutters, solderers and brazers. The 10th percentile salary is $23,940 and the 90th percentile figure is $53,690. The 25th to 75th percentile pay range is $28,840 to $43,700 a year. The median hourly wage is $17.04. The largest employer is the architectural and structural metals manufacturing sector with 39,960 workers being paid an average of $34,000 a year. Not surprisingly, the highest-paying state is oil-rich Alaska with an average salary of $66,260.
People looking to become oil rig welders may have to start at another position, such as a roustabout. Roustabouts are general laborers on oil rigs and the position often serves as a stepping stone to more senior jobs on a rig. You’ll also have to complete and pass various written tests and pass physical exams. Offshore oil rig welding is rigorous work, including schedules that generally include 12-hour days and rotations of seven days on and seven days off, 14-day rotations and even 21-day rotations. You may want to complete an underwater diving class if you hope to perform underwater welding.
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John Kibilko has been writing professionally since 1979. He landed his first professional job with "The Dearborn Press" while still in college. He has since worked as a journalist for several Wayne County newspapers and in corporate communications. He has covered politics, health care, automotive news and police and sports beats. Kibilko earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.