How to Advance (Advancement)
Welders can advance to more skilled welding jobs with additional training and experience. For example, they may become welding technicians, supervisors, inspectors, or instructors. Some experienced welders open their own repair shops. Other welders, especially those who obtain a bachelor's degree or have many years of experience, may become welding engineers.
In 2008, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers held about 412,300 jobs and welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders held about 54,100 jobs. About 65 percent of welding jobs were found in manufacturing. Jobs were concentrated in fabricated metal product manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, architectural and structural metals manufacturing, and construction.
Employment is projected to experience little or no change over the next decade. Good job opportunities are expected for skilled welders because some employers are reporting difficulty finding qualified workers.
Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is expected to experience little or no change, declining by about 2 percent over the 2008–18 decade, while employment of welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders is expected to decline moderately by about 7 percent over the same decade. Continued enhancements in productivity and increased automation will reduce the need for welders, although the outlook for welders in manufacturing is stronger than that for other occupations in this industry because of the importance and versatility of welding as a manufacturing process. The basic skills of welding are the same across industries, so welders can easily shift from one industry to another, depending on where they are needed most. For example, welders laid off in the automotive manufacturing industry may be able to find work in the oil and gas industry, although the shift may require relocating.
Automation will affect welders and welding machine operators differently than other manufacturing occupations. Semiautomated and automated welding machines can be used for many types of welds, but welders still are needed to operate the machines and to inspect the weld and make adjustments. In addition, much of the work in custom applications is difficult or impossible to automate. This type of work includes manufacturing small batches of items, construction work, and making repairs in factories.
Job prospects for welders will vary with the welder’s skill level. Prospects should be good for welders trained in the latest technologies. Welding schools report that graduates have little difficulty finding work, and many welding employers report difficulty finding properly skilled welders. However, welders without up-to-date training may face competition for job openings. For all welders, prospects will be better for workers who are willing to relocate to different parts of the country.
Median wages of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers were $16.13 an hour in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.20 and $19.61. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.85, and the top 10 percent earned more than $24.38. The range of wages of welders reflects the wide range of skill levels in the occupation.
Median wages of welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders were $15.20 an hour in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.62 and $18.63. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.47, and the top 10 percent earned more than $23.92. Median wages in motor vehicle parts manufacturing, the industry employing these workers in the largest numbers, were $15.34 an hour in May 2008.
About 20 percent of welders belong to labor unions; the particular unions that welders belong to depend on the industry and company in which the welder is employed.
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