Becoming a Welder - Part 1: Learning How to Weld

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Welders help build and connect the world together. The fields are seemingly limitless, everything from manufacturing to auto racing. You can work close to home or on the other side of the world. Best part is, salaries for welders are higher today than they have ever been, and job demand is just as high. Come find out exactly what you need to do if you want to become a welder.


Demands of the job

First of all, it’s important to understand what will be expected of you as a welder. Being a commercial welder means you will need to be mentally strong as well as physically. Welders endure long hours on the job and must maintain their high level of skill throughout. Most welders will be asked to work overtime, so be ready.

Secondly, a good welder is someone who is a self-starter. Becoming a welder means having the ability to freelance yourself. While welders are in high demand these days, it’s you who will have to seek out your jobs.

Last but not least, be aware of the dangers involved. Welding means working around heavy equipment, hot metal, even hazardous materials. To stay safe, you will have to have good knowledge of these items.

Seek out a welding training program

IPT's Metal Trades & Welding Training Manual

While it’s true you can get your start in the field as an apprentice, finding a good training program at a community or vocational college is still a good idea. Trade school will give you the knowledge you need to get your start in the business, and most even have job placement services.

While there are many good training schools, the most prominent are the Tulsa Welding School, the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, and the Lincoln Welding School. Scholarships may be available, as well as federal grants and loans. There is a shortage of good welders these days, especially those with extensive training and experience, so take advantage of the job market right now.

Gain experience in the field

While getting an education is definitely a plus, there’s nothing like the real thing. Gaining experience in the field is really the only way to learn your trade. Apprenticeship programs are available through local unions, or seek out employers. You will find them typically very helpful as they had to go through the same process at one point in their careers.

Initial, essential skills include striking an arc, tacking, and controlling your puddles. These will all make sense in time. While clamps may be used in the beginning, it is the job of the welder to fuse two pieces of metal permanently. Controlling your arc and wire, or rod feed, are important when joining separate pieces of metal. For these processes, there’s nothing like an experienced welder to show you the ropes.

The types of welding needed for specific jobs

welder002.jpgWhile the basic principle of fusing metals together is the same for all welding projects, the logistics of the projects may vary widely. Different types of welding are used for different tasks. You’re going to have to learn these types, like:

MIG Welding – Also known as Metal Inert gas Welding, this type is most often used to fabricate steel, aluminum, or even stainless steel. The process is used by the automotive industry, shipyards, and many other industries. The flux-core variety here is a very common one.

Stick Welding – Also known as Shielded-Metal Arc Welding, this type is a simple and popular method because of ease and low costs. Stick Welding is widely used in construction projects, commercial and residential.

TIG Welding – Also known as Tungsten inert Gas Welding, this is a somewhat slower process that requires the use of clean metal. It does however make for a stronger weld. TIG welding is often used by architectural fabrication shops on stainless steel welding. TIG Welding is considered an advanced skill. Learning this skill and finding job sites that require it will only enhance your job prospects.

Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding – This is also a highly specialized field used now in the manufacturing of bicycles and airplanes.

Finding an apprenticeship program

Of course finding a job where you can gain real-life experience is a must. In the beginning your tasks will be nominal, mostly entry –level tasks under direct supervision. As you gain more hours in your apprenticeship role you will however move on to more meaningful tasks.

The time span of an apprenticeship role will vary from state to state, but it’s safe to say the average time is about 3 years. It usually takes about 3 years as an apprentice to then move up to the position of Journeyman.

While some parts of the world do not REQUIRE the apprenticeship stage in a formal sense, still on-the-job training is a must. In most places this first stage, while not paying a fortune, still will be at least twice that of minimum wage. Once you reach the journeyman stage you will find wages increase significantly, especially when you start getting into overtime.

Recommended Products:

API 1104: Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities  Flux Cored Arc Welding Handbook  Audel Welding Pocket Reference  Gas Tungsten Arc Welding Handbook