Did you know that more than 50 percent of products in the United States require welding at some point in their manufacturing process, including items we use every day such as cell phones, automobiles, and computers? Likewise, welders are crucial to the construction and maintenance of structures the nation depends upon – power plants, gas and oil pipelines, bridges, and buildings, to name a few.
Think you might be well-suited to a career in welding? If you enjoy working with your hands, possess good hand-eye coordination, pay attention to detail, and understand spatial orientation, this enduring trade could be a great match.
However, becoming a welder does not happen overnight. Aspiring welders need to learn about different welding techniques and practice performing the craft under the supervision of experienced welders. Attending a trade school for welding provides such opportunities.
What Is Welding?
Basically, welding is an efficient way to join pieces of metal together. Welders use heat to soften the metal and then use pressure or fusion to connect pieces to each other. Once cooled, a sturdy bond results.
While this process is at the heart of welding, being a skilled welder involves more than just the physical act of connecting. Based on the materials being used, welders need to select the most appropriate welding technique and joint style from among many possible options. They also may need to figure out the best filler material and insert gas for the particular application. Welding trade schools develop these problem-solving skills in their students.
Welding Trade School
What is a Welding Trade School?
A welding trade school is an institution of higher learning that provides students with classroom and hands-on training to develop a solid foundation for their future career. Many of the places offering welding education are commonly referred to as vocational or technical institutes. Numerous junior colleges also offer welding among their trade programs.
Attending a welding trade school can do more for your career than just providing job-related skills. Smart students take advantage of school services such as:
- Resume writing
- Finding employment
What to Expect at a Trade School for Welding
Welding trade schools provide the training necessary to pursue a career as a welder. Students learn about common welding styles and when to use each based on materials involved in the project and the desired outcome. They learn how to operate tools and practice performing actual welds. As welding involves potential danger, especially if not done properly, instructors continuously convey information about safety gear and measures.
Classroom instruction generally involves lectures, reading, homework, and assessments of comprehension. The hands-on portion of welding trade school occurs in a campus lab. There, students find a variety of equipment to use under the guidance of knowledgeable instructors. Aspiring welders practice welding plates in various positions, including horizontal, vertical, and overhead. They also learn how to cut and prepare metal for welding procedures.
Welding Trade Schools Online
Because welding education, especially at the introductory level, requires so much supervision and actual practice using tools, beginners should not expect to find many online programs. Experienced welders looking to refresh their skills or study new techniques have more possibilities for virtual learning, sometimes with a hybrid online and on-site arrangement.
How Much Does Welding Trade School Cost?
The cost to attend a welding trade school varies by institution and scope of program. Tuition and fees fall into the range of $5,000-$15,000. Note that some schools include basic hand tools and safety gear within program costs; others expect students to furnish them on their own.
Types of Welding Trade School Classes or Topics
Classes individual students take vary by their interests and the requirements of their welding trade school. Offerings often found in the curriculum include courses in:
- Shielded metal arc welding
- Gas metal arc welding
- Flux core arc welding
- Gas tungsten arc welding
- Blueprint reading
- Pipefitting and layout
- Basic sheet metal
- Fabrication and repair
- Welding metallurgy
- Weld inspection
- Industrial manufacturing technology
- Shop mathematics
- Cutting processes
- Introduction to engineering design
- Welding power sources and set-up
- Applied welding theory
Types of Welding Degrees
Welding trade schools commonly offer different types of programs that award a diploma upon completion. These programs can take 4-16 months to finish, depending on the amount of material covered and skills taught. Earning a diploma can be a great way to acquire welding skills that help get a foot in the door with employers. From there, entry-level employees often receive further on-the-job training to advance their career with the organization.
Diploma programs vary in name but often go by titles such as:
- Welding, Vocational Specialist
- Arc Welding, Basic Vocational Specialist
- Gas Metal Arc, Basic Vocational Specialist
- Professional Welder
Like other associate programs, those in welding usually require 60 credit hours (two years of full-time study). In addition to welding-related courses, students take general education classes in subjects such as communications, social science, math, and composition. The depth of education puts graduates in good stead for welding-related careers involving leadership or increased responsibility, such as welding inspection or quality control.
Here are some common associate degrees you can earn from a welding trade school:
- Associate of Applied Science in Welding Fabrication Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Welding Engineering Technology
- Associate of Science in Welding Technology
- Associate of Occupational Studies in Welding Technology
What Can You Do With A Welding Trade School Degree?
Graduates of welding trade schools often find job opportunities in industries such as:
- Trucking and railroad
The following are some common occupations taken on after completing welding trade school. All figures cited are per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- Median Salary: $47,010
- Career Outlook: +2% (2020-2030)
Because of the similarities in the type of work performed, the BLS categorizes these four occupations together. Welding involves creating very strong bonds between similar metals and typically is performed when the connection must be able to withstand significant weight and stress, such as in cars and airplanes. Solderers create weaker bonds at lower temperatures, often in devices where components need to connect to each other electronically. Brazing is similar to soldering in that they both rely on filler material to join pieces together. Cutters trim metal objects to specific dimensions.
- Median Salary: $38,580
- Career Outlook: -2% (2020-2030)
These workers attend to the variety of equipment used in welding, soldering, and brazing. They make sure machines function properly and safely, and they also may load or feed materials into production equipment. The ability to follow work orders and read blueprints helps them adjust settings to ensure outcomes meet desired specifications.
- Median Salary: $60,330
- Career Outlook: +5% (2020-2030)
Welding skills come in handy for millwrights – workers who install, maintain, repair, reassemble, and disassemble industrial machines. Millwrights read blueprints and similar plans to understand what each individual project involves. Commitment to precision is a must for these industrial mechanics since errors can harm or destroy complex mechanical systems. Knowledge of computerization and robotization can increase job opportunities and pay.
Welding Certification and Licensure
Many states require welders to obtain a certificate or license before they are able to work in the discipline. Even in regions where it is not required by law, employers often demand or prefer their welders to hold certification from the American Welding Society (AWS). Obtaining the distinction of AWS Certified Welder involves passing a welding performance test at an AWS Accredited Testing Facility. Welders may obtain multiple certifications to prove their competency with various processes and materials.
Those aspiring to advanced positions often pursue AWS professional certifications. These credentials can boost candidacy for positions such as welding inspector, welding supervisor, welding educator, welding sales representative, and welding engineer. Certain levels of education and/or work experience are necessary to qualify to take these exams, which test both knowledge of welding-related topics and hands-on skill.
Salary and Career Information by State
All parts of the country need the services of trained welders. However, it still is a good idea to think about where you might want to land a job after training at a trade school for welding. Geographical region plays a significant role in terms of opportunities and pay. Some states employ more welders than others, possibly due to the size of their population or the types of industries common to their region. Similarly, the pay rate for welders differs by location.
As of May 2021, the BLS listed the following as the states with the highest employment level of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers:
The five highest-paying states include:
- District of Columbia ($71,230, annual median wage 2021)
- Alaska ($70,490)
- Hawaii ($66,020)
- Wyoming ($63,280)
- North Dakota ($57,550)
Scholarship opportunities exist at all educational levels, including for students attending trade schools and junior colleges. Pursuing scholarships is well worth the time and effort. Unlike student loans, scholarship money does not need to be paid back.
Here are some quick scholarship tips:
- Read eligibility requirements carefully so as not to waste time applying for scholarships for which you are not a match.
- Put your best self forward for those for which you do meet the criteria.
- A thoughtful essay or a thorough list of past accomplishments may give you an edge over other candidates.
- Always remember that neatness and applying on time count!
The American Welding Society is a great place for welding trade school students to begin their scholarship hunt. The AWS Foundation awards more than $2 million in scholarships. Criteria varies by scholarship. When you create a profile through its website, the Foundation matches you with opportunities for which you seem eligible.
Other scholarship opportunities that students interested in welding may want to check out include:
This large corporation awards up to $5,000 to as many as 150 recipients each year. Applicants need to be U.S. citizens who are enrolled or are planning to enroll in a vocational technical school, trade school, or two-year community college or state college to pursue an associate degree or other industry-recognized credential in welding or another discipline on the list of acceptable fields of study. Candidates should be prepared to fill out an online application, secure a transcript, give information on their work experience and other activities, and provide contact information for a reference. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and members of other traditionally underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
The well-known industrial gasses company Air Products invites female high school graduates interested in pursuing a welding career to apply for this $2,500 scholarship. Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a two- or four-year welding-related program and possess a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. While financial need is not a requirement, the awards committee prioritizes those demonstrating it.
If you are the child or grandchild of someone who belonged to the American Postal Workers Union, look into this scholarship. Five high school seniors interested in programs of study leading to trade, technical, industrial, or vocational occupations will receive up to $3,000 each toward their education. A heavily weighted factor is demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the importance of unions in a required essay on one of three given prompt topics.
For additional possibilities, use our scholarship tool to find scholarships just for you. Its filters can help target scholarships based on criteria you select, such as career aspirations, gender, ethnicity, or state of residence. With more than 5,000 awards available, you’re bound to find many for which you’re a great candidate.
How to Get Started on a Welding Degree
Think attending a welding trade school might be a good career move? Here are the four steps to take to pursue higher education in this trade:
If you haven’t already, get your high school diploma.
Examine higher education options thoroughly. Programs range significantly in time necessary to complete and cost. Likewise, you may save money by selecting a welding trade school near where you live instead of one in which you would need to relocate or experience a long commute.
At every educational level, money is bound to be a chief concern. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to see what type of grants, loans, work study programs, and other sources of help may be available based on your need and circumstances.
Lastly, learn about licensure requirements for the state in which you hope to get a job. Often, this involves obtaining AWS certification. Instructors at your welding trade school can help you understand what is involved.
What is a welding trade school?
- A welding trade school is an institution of higher learning that provides students with classroom and hands-on training to develop a solid foundation for their future career. Many of the places offering welding education are commonly referred to as vocational or technical institutes. Numerous junior colleges also offer welding among their trade programs.
What education do you need to become a welder?
- Aspiring welders benefit from post-secondary education. Many attend a welding trade school to earn either a diploma or an associate degree. Employers like to see candidates possess basic competency. Once hired, welders continue to develop their skills through on-the-job training specific to their industry.
Can students at welding trade schools get financial aid?
- Yes. Students in vocational programs typically go through the same general process as peers seeking four-year degrees. Usually, this starts with completing the FAFSA to assess need. Seek guidance from the financial aid department at your institution of interest. And remember that numerous scholarship opportunities exist for students pursuing trades.
What do you do at a trade school for welding?
- Welding trade schools involve both classroom instruction and hands-on learning. Students take classes in which they read, listen to lectures, do homework, and get tested on what they’ve learned. They also spend a great deal of time in the campus lab performing welds using a variety of equipment. This combination of knowledge and skill makes graduates of welding trade schools attractive to employers.