Is college (or your major) not what you expected? Perhaps the idea of taking on so much student debt is making you reconsider your choice. Or maybe you need to start a career sooner to take care of your family. These are just a few of the many valid reasons why someone may start college and stop after a year or two.

Deciding not to continue a four-year college does not mean you’re a failure or that you can’t have a successful career. It just means you’re going to take a different path. Plus, in today’s job market, a skilled trade such as welding can lead to a lucrative job with many opportunities for advancement.


There’s even more good news. You can get trained and start a career in welding relatively quickly – in less than a year, in some cases – and you may be able to use some of the college credits you’ve already earned to speed up the process even more.


How to become a welder

While formal training isn’t always required to get a job in welding, becoming an AWS Certified Welder can help you build the skills you need and that employers are looking for. There are three ways you can become a welder. Let’s explore each one.


Certificate program at a technical school.

Attending technical school can be the fastest way to become a welder and start your career. Your program will focus exclusively on welding – you won’t have to take any general studies courses. You’ll receive hands-on training in basic welding skills, including different processes, positions and safety procedures.

A welding certificate program at a technical or trade school can take between 6 to 18 months to complete. Once you’re done with the program, you will have the necessary welding skills to become an AWS Certified Welder.


Associate degree program at community college

Going from four-year college to a community college is called, “reverse transferring,” and it’s more common than you probably think. Compared to your current university, a community college can be significantly less expensive. You may also benefit from smaller class sizes, a more flexible schedule and more direct interaction with your instructors.

An associate degree in welding technology typically takes two years to complete. However, you may be able to transfer some of your college credits, which could be used in place for some general studies classes. After earning your degree, you should have all the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the workforce and become an AWS Certified Welder.



This path to a welding career can take longer than the others but comes with unique advantages and benefits. Apprentice programs are available through employers and trade unions. You’ll work with and learn from experienced welders while on real jobs. In most cases, you’ll even get paid during the training.


Apprenticeships can take three or four years to complete, which includes both classroom and hands-on training. By the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the status of a journeyman or journeyman in a speciality like ironworking, pipefitting, boilermaking and more. This can boost your resume and salary potential.


Taking the next steps

Making the decision to continue with college or change your career path can be difficult. It’s important to remember that there isn’t just one “right” way. Instead, you need to do what’s best for you, your family and your future.

If you’re looking for a field that is in high demand, pays very well and has a high job placement rate after training, then welding is a career to consider and research.

This article originally appeared on

Author: American Welding Society Foundation ­- Publish Date: 7/9/2020.