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Welder


Description

How are two separate pieces of metal fused together? What does the process of welding look like? Welding involves joining two pieces of metal together by heating the edges and fusing the pieces together. Welders are skilled tradespeople who do exactly that. They permanently join or sever metals in beams, girders, vessels, piping and other metal components.

Welders may specialize in certain types of welding such as custom fabrication, ship building and repair, aerospace precision welding, pressure vessel welding, pipeline construction welding, structural construction welding, or machinery and equipment repair welding. Despite the many types of welding techniques, the most common kind used is called a filler rod. The filler rod is a metal rod that heats and melts the metal.

Electric arc welding uses this type of metal rod. It creates heat through electric currents flowing through an arc between the tip of the welding electrode and the metal. Other techniques are gas welding such as oxy-acetylene welding, in which the flame from the combustion of burning gases melts the metal. In both types of welding, filler materials are melted and added to fill the joint and make it stronger.

Welders are responsible for cutting all the metals to be welded. Another type of welding is resistance welding, in which the metal piece itself is melted as current flows through it, and no filler is added. Welders may also build up worn parts by welding layers of high-strength hard-metal alloys onto them.

Welders also have to finish welds, to smooth and round the edges and remove any sharp or jagged edges. Then the piece is often painted with a primer coat to protect the metal. Welders work on all kinds of objects, from tiny plant hangers to high-pressure pipes, construction machinery and submarines.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$19,573
 
Median Salary:
$29,162
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$45,323

  Interests and Skills  
Successful welders need good manual dexterity, and a steady hand. Good vision and hand-eye coordination are essential along with having the ability to concentrate on detailed work with a great deal of patience. Welding can be most rewarding for those who enjoy building and working with little supervision.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Read and interpret blueprints or welding process specifications
  • Develop patterns for projects or follow directions given in layouts, drawings and work orders
  • Operate manual or semi-automatic welding equipment to fuse metal segments using processes such as gas tungsten arc (GTAW), gas metal arc (GMAW), flux-cored arc (FAW), plasma arc (PAW), shielded metal arc (SMAW), resistance welding and submerged arc welding (SAW)
  • Operate manual or semi-automatic flame-cutting equipment
  • Operate brazing and soldering equipment
  • Operate metal shaping machines such as brakes, shears and other metal straightening and bending machines
  • Clean, check for defects and shape component parts, sometimes using a cutting torch
  • Weld parts together
  • Welders work in a wide variety of environments. They may work outdoors on construction sites, or indoors in production and repair shops, which are usually dirty, hot and smoky. Travel may be required on jobs such as oilfield-related welding. A 40-hour workweek is normal, but longer hours are sometimes required. There is risk of injury and burns involved in working with torches and hot metals, and working near the resulting sparks and toxic gases. Therefore, welders must wear safety goggles and gear. Welders are routinely required to lift heavy items.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Welders work in a variety of industries, including companies that manufacture structural steel and platework, boilers, heavy machinery, aircraft and ships and by welding contractors, welding shops and other industrial sectors such as commercial and industrial manufacturing. They also work at mines, construction sites, shipyards, logging camps and mechanic shops. They may also be self-employed and own their own welding factory or shop and work on a contract basis.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced welders may advance to positions such as welding inspector, welding foreman or supervisor, or plant supervisor. Some open their own repair shops, or work as portable rig welders who contract out their services. With additional training, welders can transfer their skills to related occupations such as steamfitter-pipefitter, ironworker, structural steel and plate fitter, or boilermaker. Some welders also become welding artists and sculptors creating custom-made objects for architects and interior designers.
 

  Educational Paths  
Welders receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a welder, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the welder a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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