Welder Salary Guide
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Welders work in shops, on oil rigs, and even underwater. As a career welder, you can earn top dollar, but you will need to invest in your training and certifications — and you may need to uproot your life. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), welders can increase their pay by traveling around the country to where high-paying jobs exist.
In this guide, we'll refer to salary data from the BLS. Still, it's important to remember that your income as a welder will depend on how far you're willing to follow work and how many certifications you rack up throughout your career.
How Much Do Welders Make in the United States?
The BLS reported that the average welder salary in 2020 was $46,690, almost $10,000 a year lower than the national average. However, your welding salary can vary widely. Many welders fresh out of school start by making $16-$18 per hour. On the other hand, the highest-paid welders make six figures.
As a welding apprentice, you will get paid for your work, but the income is low. According to salaries reported on Payscale.com, welder apprentices make an average of $20,000. Welding apprenticeships last four to five years, which means that you should not expect to earn much right away.
The American Welding Society (AWS) develops several exams and certifications that show employers you know your stuff. Once you become an AWS-certified welder, you can begin earning more income than an apprentice or non-certified welder. You can also accumulate more certifications for different types of welding.
Your pay as a welder will largely depend on the jobs you take. Here are some examples:
- Most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work in fabricated metal product manufacturing, earning $43,650 on average in 2020.
- Welders working in natural gas distribution (on pipelines) earn more than the average welding salary. Their pay averaged $77,850 in 2020.
- The BLS reports that the top-paid welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work in air transportation. They make more than $90,000 a year, on average. However, these positions account for less than 1% of jobs.
Welding supervisors build on their years of experience to lead others. They monitor the quality of welders' work and manage other workplace needs. The AWS offers certification for welding supervisors to demonstrate their expertise to employers.
Welding supervisor salaries on Payscale.com average $62,280 a year.
Welding technicians have welding experience and a strong understanding of math and engineering.
You can earn AWS's certification to become a certified resistance welding technician (CRWT). This certification can set you apart in your job search and potentially help you land a higher-paying job.
According to Payscale.com, welding technicians earn more than $63,140 a year on average.
Welding inspectors monitor welders' work to ensure quality and compliance. The AWS provides associate inspector, inspector, and senior inspector certifications.
Certified welding inspector salaries on Payscale.com averaged more than $67,500 a year.
Welding engineers have experience in the practical application of welding and know the science behind it. To become a welding engineer, you may need to continue your education and earn a bachelor's degree in welding engineering, manufacturing, or something related.
Welding engineer salaries reported on Payscale.com averaged $77,344 a year.
Other Job Opportunities for Welders
It takes time, some sacrifices, and a significant investment in ongoing training and certification to boost your welding salary. If you want a job that allows you to work with your hands and apply math and engineering principles in your day-to-day work, consider some related careers below:
- Work alongside architects to design, plan, and build structures
- Requires bachelor's level education and additional certification
- Usually have many years of experience in a trade before managing an entire construction project
- Could suit experienced welders who also have experience in other aspects of construction
- Perform highly investigative and hands-on work to find and fix electrical problems
- Like welders, must understand blueprints and know building code
- Usually don't complete formal postsecondary education, but start their careers with apprenticeship
- Install and repair heating, cooling, and refrigeration machines
- Some work outdoors, though most work inside
- Tend to be busier in seasons with extreme heat or cold
- Specialize in repairing cars and learning new car technology
- May work repairing construction equipment, large vehicles, or other machines
- Install and fix pipes that carry chemicals, liquids, and gases
- Use welding torches, like welders, and also must complete a 4-to-5 year apprenticeship
Pay Difference By Location
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Career Opportunities and Job Growth for Welders
The BLS projects that employment for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers will grow by 3% through 2029 — that's just shy of the projected growth rate for all jobs.
These areas have the most positive job outlook for welders through 2029:
In 2020, the top-paying cities included the following:
Other Benefits of Becoming a Welder
As a welder, your benefits depend on a couple of factors:
- Whether you work for a company or as a contractor
- If you are a union member or not
Company-employed and union welders can typically expect the following benefits:
- Sick leave
- Health and life insurance
- Pension plans
Self-employed and non-union contract welders are on their own for health insurance and retirement savings. However, depending on the gig, they might receive other benefits, such as relocation pay and overtime hours.
Salary for Independent Contractors
Some of the highest-paid welders work as contractors. They purchase their own tools, a truck with all their gear, and they travel the country, finding the highest paid work, frequently on industrial pipelines.
On major infrastructure projects, contract welders can earn $75 an hour or more. However, a significant portion of that paycheck must cover your overhead costs, including:
- Your transportation
- Protective equipment
- State and local taxes
How Much Does it Cost to Become a Welder?
You will most likely need a high school diploma or a GED credential to advance your career as a welder. GED fees vary by state but generally cost around $80 to $140.
Welding programs can cost around $5,000-$15,000. Many community colleges and trade schools offer financial assistance. Find more information about paying for school in our guide to become a welder.
To become an AWS-certified welder, you need to pay the $50 application fee, and $25 monthly to maintain certification. The certified welder testing fee may range from $100 to $300.
The AWS charges heftier fees for advanced certifications, including those for welding engineers, supervisors, and inspectors. The application fees for these certifications cost members around $500 to $1,000 each — double that for non-members.
The AWS provides online education programs you can take to help advance your career. For instance, you can prepare for the welding supervisor certification through an 80-hour, $1,000 online course.
If you become a certified welding inspector, you will need to complete 80 hours of continuing education credits every nine years to stay certified. This can total around $3,000 that you invest in your professional development every recertification period or over $300 a year.
Other potential costs to become a welder include:
- Union dues: If you join a welders' union, you will need to pay dues, ranging from 1% to 4% of your paycheck, depending on the chapter.
- AWS membership dues: Membership costs $100 for individuals' first year and $88 annually after that. Students can join for just $15 a year. At the same time, your membership qualifies you for discounts on professional development courses and tickets to industry events.
Salaries for Related Jobs
- Salary: $95,440
- Cost to become: $10,000-$40,000 a year for a four-year bachelor's degree, plus exam and licensing fees, which may cost $200 to $400 depending on your state.
- Salary: $107,260
- Cost to become: $4,000-$10,000 a year for a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degree. Depending on your state, licensing fees may cost around $200-$400.
- Average salary: $61,550
- Cost to become: Up to $1,000 for apprenticeship costs, including books and tools. Depending on your state, licensing fees may cost around $100.
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