Career Outlook

Work Environment

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers held about 337,300 jobs in 2010. Industries employing the most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in 2010 were as follows:

Manufacturing 61%
Construction 11% 
Wholesale trade 5%
Repair and maintenance 5%

Welders and cutters may work outdoors, often in inclement weather, or indoors, sometimes in a confined area designed to contain sparks and glare. When working outdoors, they may work on a scaffold or platform high off the ground. In addition, they may have to lift heavy objects and work in awkward positions while bending, stooping, or standing to work overhead.

Most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work full time, and overtime is common. Many manufacturing firms have two or three shifts each day, ranging from 8 to 12 hours, which allow the firm to continue production around the clock if needed. Therefore, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work evenings and weekends.

What are Welders?

Welders permanently join metal parts. They apply heat to the pieces to be joined, melting and fusing them to form a permanent bond. They construct and repair parts of ships, automobiles, spacecraft, and thousands of other manufactured products. Welders join beams when constructing buildings, bridges, and other structures, and pipes in nuclear power plants and refineries. Welders usually plan their work from drawings or specifications. The most common types of welding are electric, gas or resistance. Technological advances have resulted in faster and more efficient methods of welding, such as laser beam, electron beam, and inertia welding.

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers typically do the following:

  • Study blueprints, sketches, or specifications
  • Calculate dimensions to be welded
  • Inspect structures or materials to be welded
  • Ignite torches or start power supplies
  • Monitor the welding process to avoid overheating
  • Smooth and polish all surfaces
  • Maintain equipment and machinery

Welding is the most common way of permanently joining metal parts. In this process, heat is applied to metal pieces, melting and fusing them to form a permanent bond. Because of its strength, welding is used in shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing and repair, aerospace applications, and thousands of other manufacturing activities. Welding also is used to join beams in the construction of buildings, bridges, and other structures and to join pipes in pipelines, power plants, and refineries.

Career Outlook (source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is expected to grow 15 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth reflects the need for welders in manufacturing 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.

Growth of the defense industry, including the manufacturing of aircrafts and missiles, is expected to contribute to employment growth.

In addition, the nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of many welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings, resulting in some new jobs.

Overall job prospects will vary by skill level. Job prospects should be good for welders trained in the latest technologies.  Graduates have little difficulty finding work, and many welding employers report difficulty finding properly skilled welders. However, welders who do not have up-to-date training may face competition for jobs.

Pay (source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The median annual wage of welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $35,450 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,940, and the top 10 percent earned more than $53,690.