Justin Friend is the son of two PhD’s, so one might naturally assume that he would be heading for a college education as well. But five years ago, after graduating from high school, Friend decided upon taking another path: a career in welding.
Friend decided to attend Texas State Technical College instead of going the usual bachelor’s route at a university. Instead of a 4-year college, Friend graduated in just two, receiving his accreditation welding. But here’s the real kicker: in his first year as a welder he made $130,000, well above any profession requiring a 4-year bachelor’s degree. For 2014, Friend is expecting to make even more, as much as $140,000.
Just 24 years old, Friend went out and bought himself a brand new Ford F-250 pickup, a $53,000 truck. Besides making more money, he spent less in college, so friend doesn’t have the weight of student loans pressing down on him.
“Not everybody needs a four-year college degree,” says Kathryn Vaughan, his mother, a retired biology lecturer.
Things are changing in the workforce these days. No longer does a 4-year degree from a university guarantee employment, and no longer does it mean you will make more money. The recent shale oil and gas boom, along with an uptick in manufacturing, means that tradesmen, like welders, are in high demand these days. High demand means high pay, and welders like Friend are reaping the rewards.
According to Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, almost one-third of all college graduates with a BA (between the ages of 22 and 26) are currently either unemployed or working jobs that don’t even require a degree.
While Friend’s hourly wage is in the $25 range, the high demand allows him plenty of overtime. These days, who can turn down extra work? At an average of 72 hours per week, Friend is raking in the dough.
From Bryan, Texas, Friend was definitely in the right place at the right time. The booming energy business in Texas made it easy for Friend to find work in what is right now one of the best economies in the country. While the recent downturn in oil price may mean some projects will be cut back (short term), still the demand for qualified electricians will remain high. Texas State Technical College, where Friend graduated from, had an enrollment of 732 for the 2014 fall semester. That’s an increase of 70 percent from just years ago. Most welding students secure employment before they even graduate.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, welding jobs will balloon to as many as 378,000 by the year 2022. That’s an increase of 6 percent in just 10 years. While many welding jobs in the auto industry have decreased in number, still those with higher skills will find it easy to gain employment.
For Justin Friend, finding a job after graduation was relatively easy. Friend landed a good job at Acute Technological Services right out of college. Acute employs about 70 welders currently. For those willing to work overtime, that means double pay for Sundays and triple for holidays.
For Friend, it isn’t just about the money. “At three years old, he was using a screwdriver and a hacksaw skillfully,” says Dr. Vaughan, his mother. Friend also took welding courses in high school and even began doing odd jobs for his neighbors.
While the long hours mean no social life for Friend right now, it’s well worth the investment. Friend says he is planning on obtaining an advanced degree in metallurgy and research welding materials and techniques.
Come check out some other great welding books