How To Become a Welder in 6 Steps

When you think about a welder, you might imagine sparks flying into their face shield as they torch machine parts. Welders do work with their hands in extreme conditions, but they also spend time studying blueprints and learning about various metals’ properties and welding techniques.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), welders earned an average salary of $46,690 in 2020. But welders can increase their pay significantly by expanding their versatility and investing in continued education and training.

What Does a Welder Do?

A welder is a professional trained in using heat to join different types of metals together to build or repair various products or goods. Since there is an array of products welders can build, there are several types of welding you can pursue. The tasks of welding can include building and repairing housing or commercial structures, automobiles, bridges, ships or aircraft.

Common responsibilities of a welder may include:

  • Making sure each project completed is durable and safe for consumers to use.
  • Following safety regulations to handle flame usage safely and responsibly.
  • Maintaining the proper temperature of the flame and metals during the welding process.
  • Cleaning and storing welding equipment.
  • Viewing blueprints to determine the length and dimensions of the product being welded.

A welder can also work as a welding inspector and help ensure that welding practices adhere to the prescribed quality and safety standards and checks for welding defects that can hamper the joint’s strength and quality.

Welding requires welders to possess certain qualities that include good physical fitness, attention to detail, skill, vision, and the ability to develop solutions in challenging work environments.

Becoming a welder also requires you to possess a strong technical background and a thorough understanding of welding practices.

What Skills Are Needed to Become A Welder?

Here are the skills most successful welders have:

  • To be thorough and pay attention to detail.
  • Knowledge of engineering science and technology.
  • The ability to work on your own.
  • The ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools.
  • Design skills and knowledge.
  • Knowledge of math’s.
  • The ability to work well with your hands.
  • The ability to analyze quality or performance.
  • To be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device.

How To Become a Welder?

If you love working on the practical aspects of things, welding can be a good career option for you. Along with the passion for building things, you require plenty of training and practice to become a successful welder.

You must also know the industry trends, types of welding processes, and potential employers for building a successful career in welding.

If you wish to become a welder, follow the steps below to pursue a welding career:

  1. Research the different types of welding jobs.
  2. Take welding courses.
  3. Earn your welding certificate.
  4. Gain hands-on experience.
  5. Become a certified welder.
  6. Begin your job search.

1. Research the Different Types of Welding Jobs

Welding is a diverse field as you can almost join all kinds of metals such as mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, etc. Depending on the metal that you have to join and the application’s criticality, the type of welding differs significantly. Some common forms of welding are:

  • Gas metal arc welding (GMAW) or metal inert gas (MIG) welding: is commonly used to fabricate metal joints for general applications. MIG welding finds its application in shipbuilding, automobiles, bridges, and steel components.
  • Shielded-metal arc welding (SMAW): also known as stick welding, SMAW is a very popular, inexpensive, and simple-to-operate type of welding. In construction jobs, home projects, and repair activities, welders use SMAW for quickly welding small components.
  • Flux-coated arc welding (FCAW): uses a consumable flux-cored electrode continuously fed through the welding gun, making it ideal for mass production lines.
  • Gas tungsten arc welding or TIG welding: a specialized type of welding that welders use to join aluminum, magnesium, copper, and brass alloys. Tungsten inert gas welding creates high-quality weld and hence requires highly skilled welders.

The skills, training, and certifications required for different types of welding can vary.  You must learn the skills associated with welding techniques that align with your capabilities and strengths.

Getting trained and certified in specific welding techniques such as MIG welding can help you achieve high-paying welding jobs.

2. Take Welding Courses.

Once you’ve chosen the type of welding career you’d like to pursue, research what the educational requirements are for that specialty.

Most welding careers require a high school diploma or GED. If your high school offers welding courses, take these to learn more about the various types of welding.

It’s also best to take math courses that complement welding, like geometry, since welding often involves measuring dimensions.

3. Earn Your Welding Certificate.

After receiving high school education, you can pursue further education by enrolling in welding certificate programs or community college.

Welding certificate programs typically last approximately six months to two years and can help you build your general knowledge of welding duties and responsibilities. Some welders, based on their specialty, may choose to continue their education and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Welding.

4. Gain Hands-On Experience.

Once you’ve gained accreditation as a welder, you can begin hands-on training through an apprenticeship for the specific type of welding you hope to pursue. With an apprenticeship, you can shadow and complete supervised work to learn more about the regular schedule and responsibilities of a welder.

Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship, you can either stay with the company you served the apprenticeship for if they allow it, or you can take this experience and apply it to a new, full-time welding position.

5. Become A Certified Welder.

The American Welding Society (AWS) oversees the AWS Certified Welder program. You can become certified in many different types of welding. These certifications show employers you know your stuff, and they can qualify you for higher-paid work.

The AWS offers 19 certifications for welders, preparing them for different types of welding:

  • MIG welding
  • Automobile welding
  • Construction and repair work
  • Shipbuilding
  • Pipeline welding
  • Manufacturing
  • Welding wind-exposed structures

Technically, certified welder tests don’t have prerequisites. However, the exams will rigorously test your knowledge of a specified codebook. You will also need to produce a high-quality weld. So, it’s best to take the test after completing some education and on-the-job skills training.

To become an AWS-certified welder, you need to pay the $50 application fee. Each certification exam has a testing fee of a couple of hundred dollars, depending on the test.

6. Begin Your Job Search.

Before you begin your job search, you must look up roles that closely match your skillset and strengths. Some welding jobs may require you to work in hazardous locations and require exceptional hand-eye coordination.  The salary you receive will also differ as per the job description.

These are the roles that you can step into after completing your welding training:


Most welding certificate programs offered at community colleges can equip you with the basic training and skills required for welding. Welders can work in manufacturing, construction, heavy machinery, automobiles, ships, and aircraft industry. However, such jobs will restrict you to entry-level jobs such as a wire feed welder or tack welding operator.

Welding Supervisor/Engineer

The skills you learn in an associate degree program expose you to higher-level skills. Once you complete your associate degree, you can pursue a supervisor or welding engineer’s role. Such roles often have higher responsibilities such as project management and planning, microstructure analysis, and overseeing daily production.

Welding Instructor

To become a welding instructor, you must pass the Certified Welding Instructor (CWI) certification examination from the American Welding Society. If you have a passion for teaching aspiring welders in the different welding programs offered at welding schools, you can find several job roles. As an instructor, you also need experience with different styles of welding.

Welding Inspectors

Such job roles are well-suited for the welders interested in taking up quality control roles. Welding inspectors also perform various tests such as radiography to test the weld quality. They also ensure that welders adhere to safety standards such as wearing a welding helmet or using eye protection.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Welder?

Depending on the training program, becoming a welder takes 6-18 months. Future welders can access training immediately after high school at postsecondary schools. They may apply to community college or vocational school programs or pursue on-the-job training by landing a position.

Certificates and diplomas in welding can take anywhere between three weeks and 18 months to earn. An associate degree program in welding usually takes two years to complete. The length it takes to gain certification varies by professional organization, but all welders pursuing certification usually take an exam.

Average Salary of A Welder

A welder’s pay varies based on industry, company, and educational experience. According to the BLS, the bottom 10% of welders earned less than $30,640 per year in May 2020, while the top 10% made more than $66,250.

The most lucrative industries for welders include specialty trade contracting, repair and maintenance, and manufacturing, which paid median annual salaries of $42,650-$48,420 in May 2020.

Welders sometimes must work in the evenings and on weekends; companies usually have 2-3 shifts every day. According to the BLS, welders earned a median annual salary of $44,190 in May 2020. The organization projects positions for welders to grow 8% — or as fast as average — between 2020 and 2030.


Attaining welding certification opens up a range of job opportunities and the potential for higher earnings as it proves your knowledge and experience to any prospective employers.

However, certification also comes with a degree of responsibility as it means you should be trusted to weld in line with the specifications of your particular certification without supervision. This is even more important when you are being called upon to make critical welds that could affect the lives or property of other people.

Your certification also needs to be maintained periodically so that employers know you are still able to produce the required level of welding for a particular task. The more certified you are, the higher the wages you can command, so it is worth investing the time, money, and effort to keep updating and improving your industrial skills and qualifications.