WHAT ARE THE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES AND PATHWAYS IN THIS FIELD?
What is the outlook and pay range from entry-level to high end employment in this field?
There are over one hundred different types of welding (structural, MIG and TIG, etc.) with some types very common and more “entry-level than others that demand much more skill. The welders capable of doing the high skill tasks are much rarer (translate that to higher wages).
While nation-wide the growth in demand is moderated by a shrinking industrial base, there is a huge demand for structural welders in the booming construction fields. These are employees who, on the job site, tie into “I” beams (think of them as framing with steel), hang pipe and do assorted welding tasks on the job. To provide some sense of the need locally, consider that Siemens an international employer with a plant in Sacramento alone recently put out a call for 100 MIG certified welders.
Professor Roberts says that welders with no experience will make about $14 per hour but the typical journeyman level pay ranges up to $45 per hour depending upon the type of welding being done and experience. EDD, the California Employment Development Department reported that the average hourly rate for all workers in 2006 was $16.02 and that those at the 75th percentile earned $19.3 per hour. Remember that this cuts across all types of welding, cutting, brazing jobs, union and non-union, construction, industrial and manufacturing. Pay varies greatly among these types of employers and in different locales.
A welder can do very well by operating his or her own portable rig for field fabrication. A skilled field fabricator can demand $150 per hour.
At the very upper end of the skill level, the demand is also critical. Consider that the Diablo Valley Nuclear power plant is looking to employ 2000 highly skilled welders. A very high end, talented and money-focused welder on such a job can earn up to $30,000 per month (yes, that is $30,000) according to Professor Roberts.
In order to maximize earnings and retire at forty, the welder needs to be mobile and go where the high paid work is. It may mean living away from home for long periods of time and working in tough physical conditions but there is a reason these jobs pay so much. If one is unwilling or unable to do this, a solid living can be made in the general construction field particularly through union membership with one of the following: the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Iron Ship Builders and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry.
What other jobs are related to or made possible by experience or training in this field?
What is the potential for advancement in this career? Welders often progress to become lead or foreman on jobs or enter supervision & management. They may also become certification testers, welding inspectors and instructors, welding supply sales people; pursue welding engineering; sculpting; or start their own businesses.