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Becoming a welder can lead to reliable opportunities that are challenging yet enjoyable. A welding school near you may offer hands-on training that teaches you sought-after skills for multiple specialties. It may also prepare you for widely recognized certifications that are relevant to a variety of good-paying industries.

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Education & Training

The typical way to enter this trade is by completing a formal welding program at a vocational college or trade school, getting certified, and continuing to learn while on the job. Some employers also hire inexperienced people who only have a high school diploma (or the equivalent). Many jobs require you to pass on-site welding tests in order to verify your skills before being hired or to become properly certified after you've been on the job a little while.

Length of Training

Welding trade school programs typically take between seven and 24 months to complete, depending on the particular institution and course of study.** However, some schools offer shorter courses for tradespeople who only need to learn one or two welding processes rather than a broader range of techniques.

Most Common Length of School**
(range in months)

  • Plumbing
  • Commercial diving
  • Welding
  • HVAC technology

Program Options

 Welding schools near you may offer the chance to earn one or more of these academic credentials:

Certificate: This type of program is usually the fastest training option. Some courses of study are geared toward people who are new to the trade and cover several welding processes. Others are meant for existing tradespeople who wish to gain skills for particular specialties. At some schools, you can earn stackable certificates in different welding processes that count toward a future associate degree.

Diploma: At this level, the training is fairly streamlined yet somewhat more comprehensive than a general certificate program. It often takes just a year or less.** Some schools make it possible to upgrade your diploma to an associate degree at a future date by taking extra classes.

Associate degree: This level of study is usually the most comprehensive when it comes to the number of welding techniques you can learn. It also tends to include a number of general courses. And some programs incorporate business-related classes in case you ever want to become a self-employed contractor. Expect it to take up to two years to earn this type of welding degree.**

Apprenticeships: Some employers and trades unions offer the opportunity to earn money while you learn to weld through a combination of classroom-based education and on-the-job training. These opportunities have become a little less common than they used to be, and they often go to people who already have some formal schooling or trades experience. But you can find potential openings through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Typical Courses

Each school uses its own curriculum, but here are some examples of subjects you may learn about in welding classes near you:

  • Workplace safety
  • Metallurgy (i.e., the properties of metals)
  • Welding symbols and principles
  • Fundamentals of:
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Electricity
  • Trades math
  • Blueprint reading
  • Mechanical drawing
  • Human relations
  • Methods of fabrication
  • Setup and maintenance of tools and equipment
  • Material selection and handling
  • Various types of welding methods, such as:
    • Oxyacetylene welding
    • GTAW
    • GMAW
    • SMAW
    • FCAW
  • Weld inspection and quality control
  • Plasma and thermal cutting
  • Automated systems

Skills You Can Learn

Welding programs can teach people how to carry out tasks such as:

  • Interpreting welding codes, specifications, and technical drawings
  • Setting up and safely using various kinds of welding equipment, tools, and accessories like:
    • Safety gear
    • Electrodes and wire feeders
    • Torches and welding guns
    • MIG pliers
    • Clamps and magnets
    • Angle grinders
    • Chipping hammers
    • Wire brushes and metal files
  • Taking accurate measurements
  • Making precise calculations
  • Preparing materials to be welded
  • Using direct and alternating current to create arc welds
  • Choosing and performing the most appropriate welding process for each project
  • Producing different types of welded joints like:
    • Lap
    • Tee
    • Butt
    • Corner
    • Edge
  • Creating clean and precise welds in flat, horizontal, vertical, and overhead positions
  • Cutting materials using plasma or thermal equipment
  • Fabricating durable goods

Licensing & Certification

Most states don't require welders to be licensed unless they are self-employed contractors with their own businesses. For the few states that do have a government licensure, registration, or certification requirement, it is generally just for a particular area of the trade, such as inspection or structural steel, pressure vessel, or pipeline welding. Those states include:

Some cities in the U.S. also have their own requirements for welders who work for local government.

Although it isn't usually required by government regulations, many employers insist on certification through an organization such as the American Welding Society (AWS). Depending on the types of projects you work on, you also may need to get certified by:

AWS offers some of the most widely recognized welding certification programs, which can lead to professional designations like:

  • Certified Welder (CW)
  • Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT)
  • Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS)
  • Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)

To become AWS-certified as a CW, you'll need to pay a registration fee and pass an in-person weld test that demonstrates your skills. More advanced certifications may have additional exam, education, and experience requirements.

Education & Training FAQs

Can you become a certified welder without going to school?

Technically, you can. For basic AWS certification, you don't need to meet any educational requirements. But you do need to pass a skills test. Most people who enter this trade learn fundamental welding skills through a nearby vocational school. That said, it's also possible to learn everything on the job, if your employer is willing to train you as a true beginner.

Can I teach myself to weld?

Some welders are self-taught, but that isn't the norm. Experienced people in the trade often recommend that newcomers go to trade school to learn the proper techniques and safety procedures. However, you can learn some of the fundamentals by watching online videos and getting lots of practice with the right materials and equipment. Most importantly, you need repeated practice at welding various kinds of joints.

Many people consider MIG and oxyacetylene welding to be the easiest processes to learn. The equipment for those techniques also tends to be some of the least expensive to purchase. Just make sure that you always wear proper safety gear and follow all recommended precautions.

Try to find some experienced welders in your area before you get started so that you can ask for some tips and advice. And keep in mind that without formal instruction (or at least an in-person mentor), it can be difficult or impossible to recognize and correct any improper techniques you may be using.

Featured Schools

Lincoln Tech

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UEI College

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Arizona Automotive Institute

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Delta Technical College

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Midwest Technical Institute

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ETI School of Skilled Trades

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Summit College

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South Texas Vocational Technical Institute

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Fortis College

  • Atlanta, Georgia
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Advanced Technology Institute

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Tulsa Welding School

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Career Information

Welding is an essential trade that offers the possibility of travel as well as numerous opportunities in several different industries.

Career Snapshot

Career Outlook*
3.4% growth from 2018 to 2028

Median Salary*

Job Openings*
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings


GMAW, GTAW, SMAW, FCAW, weld inspection, underwater welding, industrial pipe welding, and more

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education


Welders in the U.S. earn median wages of $42,490 a year, according to estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. The highest earners in the trade make over $64,240.

Many of the top-paying welding jobs involve working in remote or inhospitable locations, such as constructing gas or oil pipelines in the wilderness. Pay also tends to be higher for jobs that involve elevated levels of risk.

Median Annual Wage Comparison

Job Openings & Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes welders as part of an occupational group that also comprises brazers, solderers, and cutters. BLS projections show that employment in this vocational category is expected to grow 3.4 percent from 2018 to 2028. On average, about 48,800 job openings could be generated each year, including:

  • Newly created positions: 1,400
  • Openings because of welders retiring: 11,100
  • Openings due to tradespeople changing careers: 36,300

People in the welding trade can often maximize their job prospects by being willing to travel or relocate for work.

Key Benefits

  1. Enjoyment: Many welders find this type of work to be exciting and challenging. The heat, sparks, and distinctive work settings can provide a satisfying adrenaline rush and leave you with a fulfilling sense of accomplishment.
  2. Travel opportunities: Some jobs in this trade enable welders to see all kinds of cool and interesting places across the nation or even around the world. That's especially true for those who have highly specialized skills for the oil, gas, or underwater construction industries.
  3. Long-term security: People who've completed welding school and earned certifications for multiple techniques often have the ability to work in several different industries. So if one industry slows down, you can move into another one. Plus, as you gain experience, you may have the chance to apply for a wider range of opportunities, including advanced positions such as foreman, supervisor, manager, or weld inspector.

What a Welder Does

 Welders apply heat to pieces of metal (or, less commonly, plastic or wood) in order to join them together in a way that's permanent. As part of their work, they may carry out tasks such as:

  • Interpreting welding codes, specifications, drawings, and blueprints
  • Preparing structures or materials to be welded by:
    • Cleaning and inspecting metal pieces
    • Calculating dimensions
    • Taking and marking measurements
    • Cutting or trimming metal parts as necessary
    • Repairing holes or cracks
  • Choosing, inspecting, and starting up the best welding equipment for each project
  • Monitoring gas flows, flame levels, or other factors while fusing metal pieces
  • Examining welded joints for defects or potential areas of weakness
  • Performing maintenance on welding equipment
  • Operating automated machinery
  • Coordinating with other tradespeople

Work Settings

More than 60 percent of people in the soldering, brazing, cutting, and welding trades work in the manufacturing sector. But welders are also employed in many other industries like construction, mining, shipbuilding, power generation, and oil and gas production and distribution. Their work environments can include places like:

  • Workshops
  • Factories
  • Construction sites
  • Shipyards
  • Repair facilities
  • Oil rigs
  • Refineries
  • Mines
  • Power plants
  • Military bases


Although more than 30 different welding processes currently exist, most welders learn and specialize in only some of them. Deciding which specialties to go with often depends on the industries you want to be part of and the types of projects you want to work on.

Most people who attend a trade school for welding get to learn skills for multiple processes. For example, they typically learn about the most common types of arc welding (used in many construction and industrial applications) as well as oxyacetylene welding (used primarily for repair and maintenance jobs).

Other processes, such as many types of resistance and solid-state welding, are often for highly specialized applications in advanced manufacturing for products like automobiles, airplanes, and space vehicles.

Some of the most popular areas of specialization include:

GMAW (gas metal arc welding): Also known as MIG (metal inert gas) or MAG (metal active gas) welding for its two subtypes, this process involves feeding a consumable stick electrode through a welding gun and using gas to shield the weld area from water vapor and oxygen. An electrical current creates an arc, which melts the electrode, fills the weld joint, and bonds the metal pieces together (usually steel or aluminum). The process is prevalent in shipbuilding and automotive fabrication.

GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding): Known informally as TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding, this process is versatile yet time-consuming. Unlike GMAW, it requires the use of a non-consumable electrode and often the manual application of filler. It tends to produce some of the strongest, most precise welds. And it can be used with almost any kind of metal. That's why it's frequently used in pipeline construction and aerospace fabrication.

SMAW (shielded metal arc welding): Also known as stick welding, this process employs the use of a flux-coated consumable electrode. It's considered easier and less expensive to carry out than many other methods, but it produces large amounts of metal splatters and slag (i.e., stony waste matter). It's used a lot in the construction, maintenance, and repair of steel and iron structures.

FCAW (flux-cored arc welding): This process utilizes some of the same equipment as GMAW, but it requires a consumable electrode that has flux in the center of it. Also, you don't need a shielding gas. FCAW is frequently used in less-than-ideal environments, such as on construction sites or ships where wind or bad weather may be a factor or materials have surface contaminants.

Weld inspection: People with several years of experience in this trade can move into roles that involve examining and testing welded joints for defects (such as cracks or other signs of weakness) that could cause them to fail.

Underwater welding: In this highly specialized career, welders get certified in scuba diving and help inspect, construct, maintain, or repair structures below the surface of the ocean or other bodies of water.

Industrial pipe welding: People who go into this specialty focus on constructing and repairing pipelines and other piping systems, such as for companies involved in producing and distributing oil and gas or generating nuclear power.

Career FAQs

How is welding different from soldering and brazing?

All three processes use heat to join metal pieces. But soldering and brazing employ lower temperatures so that the base pieces of metal are not melted. In soldering and brazing, a filler metal is melted, joining the pieces together.

Soldering is used extensively in the assembly and repair of small electrical or electronics components (such as circuit boards). Brazing utilizes higher temperatures than soldering and is often used in the fabrication or repair of major appliances, HVAC equipment, engine parts, and other products made of thin metals that welding might distort.

Is welding dangerous?

If you follow all of the proper safety precautions, then this trade is relatively safe. But it does come with potential hazards. For example, the bright flashes of a welding arc can cause eye injuries unless you use the right equipment. Other possible dangers include ear damage from loud noises, lung problems from inhaling unhealthy fumes or fine particles, injuries from falling objects, and burns from sparks and flying pieces of molten metal.

Most welders stay safe from those dangers by adhering to standard safety protocols, including wearing protective equipment such as:

  • Auto-darkening welding helmets
  • Earmuffs or ear plugs
  • Masks or respirators
  • Heat-resistant gloves
  • Flame-resistant welding aprons or jackets
  • Safety boots

In 2018, workers in the occupational group that includes welders experienced 2,490 injuries that resulted in time away from the job. Only 41 workers in that vocational group suffered fatal work-related injuries. In total, about 424,700 people were employed in this trade category. So the injury rate was roughly one case for every 200 workers. And the occupational fatality rate was just one death for every 10,000 workers.

* Salary and job outlook information is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates for the occupational category that includes welders, brazers, solderers, and cutters.

** Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant program lengths from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.