As a welder, your career is anything but boring. Each day comes with a slew of challenges in design, testing, teamwork and keeping your clothes from catching fire.
But you long for something more.
Here’s six of the primary ways your career can take a turn for the better. Keep your sights on that long-term goal and work hard to make it happen!
Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)
Though it’s not really a career in itself, you can make your role as a CWI as large or small of a part of your welding duties as you would like. A CWI provides tests for other welders who seek a specific type of welding certification. They grade the welder’s work based on the standards of the specific organization they’re earning the certification through, such as AWS. Standards for becoming a CWI vary according to the organization, but most have to undergo the following tests:
- Physical (vision)
- Mental (written and practical exam)
- Minimum education level and work experience
As a CWI, you can be a huge asset to your company, especially if it’s small. You hold the keys to the certification of welders around you, but you’re also responsible for welding “screwups” if the original testing was performed under your watch. Do us all a favor before you execute your CWI powers, though – learn humility.
There’s a ridiculous amount of types of engineering. Both my dad and my brother are engineers, and I have no desire to follow in their footsteps – too much math. But welding engineers can make serious bank: $50,000 – $80,000. Still, you should probably start when you’re young, as you’ll be required to have at least a four-year degree in specialized engineering (mechanical/civil).
Welding engineers use their smarts to optimize welding processes and procedures. This could be applied to anything from the production line in an automobile factory to fused sheet metal through explosions. They test their hypothesis beforehand and refine the process for maximum efficiency. They work with many others to assist in their efforts, including welding technicians.
Technicians may work under welding engineers, but that fact doesn’t make their responsibilities less vital to the welding industry. To become a welding technician, you need a good chunk of work experience and a two-year degree (though each company has different requirements).
You’re more “hands-on” than your engineering counterpart. Equipped with the right tools, you’ll operate machinery and monitor welding processes to the highest standards. You also may serve a dual role as a CWI to provide certification for welding apprentices.
Unless you’re a company of one, you’re familiar with management. There’s no set “requirements” for management, although the more work experience, the better you’ll operate in this role. Welding managers receive a bigger paycheck, but they also shove around more paperwork and must understand the “big picture” for the company. Their tasks are focused on serving and motivating the people around them to become more effective in their daily operations through technical precision in welding and related areas.
If you aspire to a career in management, try to spend a little bit of time in the boots of the welders and fabricators that you’re over, especially if they have more work experience than you do. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Dilbert’s boss or this guy.
Do me a favor, welders: Stop bashing instructors. There’s no shame in moving into the education field (after at least five years of experience). I’ve heard many welders shaming their own kind into “staying in the shop” and to “stop wasting their time with cocky kids.” Teaching others takes preparation, discipline and passion that can ignite multiple generations of future welders – that’s a responsibility reserved for the best among us.
Earning your place as a welding instructor usually requires a four-year education degree (and yes – hopefully plenty of work experience). It doesn’t pay as well as some of these other positions, but monetary gain isn’t everything. Like working in a shop, everyday presents new challenges as a teacher over students.
Of course I had to include this career, right? Earning commercial diving certification allows you to train as an underwater welder. Some spend years as welding fabricators and others come straight out of commercial diving school. Either way, you should have at least two years of topside welding experience.
Commercial divers work offshore and inland inspecting bridges, welding underwater pipelines, installing footings, salvaging wrecked vessels, burning debris and preparing placement guides for sandbags and pilings. They work with other divers, engineers and welders to accomplish enormous marine construction feats – who wouldn’t want that?