If you enjoy working with your hands, you might consider a career in the welding industry. Although many welding jobs do not require formal training, welders with formal welding education and certification have more job and salary opportunities than those who don't. To become licensed, you don’t necessarily need formal school training. However, you will need to prepare for the certification exam and take a certification course. These can be offered by your employer, at a school or at a licensed testing center in your area.
Without a Degree
Locate a welding shop, fabricator or manufacturing company where you can apprentice as a welding assistant, if you do not plan on getting formal welding training. Apply for a job as an assistant.
Work and train with a welder at the job site.This training method may require a training period of several years because the experience is limited to the work you do. Expect to work for a few years before receiving better job opportunities or earning a higher salary.
Get certified for the training and knowledge you acquire on the job. Even if you decided not to take formal welding technology classes, you should validate your on-the-job experience by becoming certified. Locate a certification center in your area on the American Welding Society Web site (see Resources), through your local community college or through the public library. Many local colleges and technical schools are also AWS testing centers.
With a Welding Technology Degree
Obtain your high school degree or get your GED and attend technical school for welding technology. Starting your career in this way will broaden your job and salary opportunities much more quickly than if you apprentice. The degree validates your knowledge of welding methods to potential employers.
Look into different technical or community college programs. Visit schools in your area, pick up informational pamphlets in libraries, at community colleges or at your local technical school. Compare different programs and look for programs that offer courses in fabrication, metal and pipe welding.
Decide on the type of coursework you want to take. There are beginner certification programs that offer basic welding skills, intermediate courses and more complex training programs where you learn to weld a variety of different alloys in many different situations. Of course, the more training you have, the more work opportunities you will receive. Consult with school counselors from certified Virginia technical schools. Visit welding shops and talk to other welders about the types of skills you will need. Visit job boards and look at the job requirements being solicited. Enroll in a program and finish your course work. These training courses should offer AWS certification included in the program, but be sure to ask the school agent about this before enrolling.
- welder image by Allyson Ricketts from Fotolia.com