Welding might be hard, hot work, but it doesn't have to be low-paying. As of May 2012, the average welder brought home annual wages of $38,410 per year. However, if you live in the right place or you work in the right industry, you could fall into a niche where you make significantly more than that. Some subsets of the industry achieve average wages of well over $50,000 with some falling over $60,000.
The best-paying welding careers are in the utility sector. The average mean wage for these positions falls around $61,120 per year, with welders working in electric power generation and distribution making $62,850 on average. Welders working in the air transport industry also do well, making an average of around $59,100 per year. Welders who work for the government earn a mean of almost $52,500 per year.
The city in which you choose to work has an impact on how much you earn as a welder. Three of the highest paying cities for welders -- Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, and Honolulu, Hawaii -- are also some of the most expensive places to live in the country. The other two high-paying cities -- Peabody, Massachusetts, and the Vallejo-Fairfield area between San Francisco and Sacramento -- are less expensive. Other cities in the top ten for welders include the Bakersfield-Delano area, on the south end of California's Central Valley; Bremerton-Silverdale, Washington; and Grand Junction, Colorado. Northeastern Massachusetts and the area around Wilmington, Delaware, also make up the remainder of the top 10. All of these areas have an annual mean wage over $50,000.
Rural Area Welders
Many of the most lucrative welding careers aren't located in cities at all. The highest-paying area in the country for welders is Southwestern Alaska, also known as the Railbelt. Welders there make an average of $73,510, while welders in Southeastern Alaska average $57,560 per year. The Upper Eastern Shore near Washington, D.C. hosts welding jobs that average $58,040 per year. Welders in energy-rich areas such as western North Dakota and Southeastern Wyoming also do well -- averaging $60,350 and $59,840 per year, respectively.
High-Pay Related Industries
Instead of working as a welder, welding skills may also open up additional high-paying jobs to you. Boilermakers both manufacture and work on steam equipment and sometimes use welding skills. As of May 2012, they earned a mean annual wage of $55,830. People working as plumbers, pipers and steamfitters earned an average annual wage of $52,950. In the eyes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both are similar jobs to welding.