Welders join metal parts or pipes together using heat to create a bond. Most welding today is done using the arc welding technique, where electrical current generates heat to fuse metals together. The American Welding Society predicts a shortage of as many as 400,000 welders by 2024, as retirements affect the trade. Aging infrastructure such as bridges, highways, and older buildings will require skilled welders to renovate, repair, and rebuild.
Although robotic welding has made inroads in automotive manufacturing, other industries are actively recruiting for welding trainees. Manufacturing industries still in need of welders include metalworking, shipbuilding, aerospace, railroad manufacturing, and the energy industry. Welders trained in operating and maintaining automated welding machines, especially welders with knowledge of computer operations, are in demand.
Welders work in both commercial and residential construction. They help repair bridges, build large utility plants, or lay and connect pipes in new construction. A specialized area of welding is underwater welding. Shipbuilding and marine services need skilled welders to build and repair vessels, as well as other structures that rest on the seabed or float.
Welding services that provide repairs and maintenance for large machinery and structures like oil rigs also use skilled tradespeople. Some welders help dismantle large machines or structures for scrap.
Welders learn their trade either through apprenticeships with trade unions, continuing education organizations, trade schools, or community colleges. There are a variety of paths toward certification as a welder, usually requiring post-high school study and several months or even years of apprenticeship and continuing education.
Another avenue for skilled welders is working for manufacturers, distributors, or retailers of welding equipment. These companies need knowledgeable staff to assist both individual and commercial customers in selecting the gear and equipment they need to complete their jobs.
Welders who master their trade should consider adding coursework in computer programming or artificial intelligence, as technical advances in these fields will continue to integrate into welding operations. The industries that need welders now will need human judgment and knowledge to control quality and ensure safety in welding operations.