When starting most careers, there's a set path that you must follow, which can often be very long. For example, if you want to be a public accountant, you'll have to go to college and earn a four-year degree. Then you have to study for and pass a series of exams to be certified, which can add another year or two until you reach your goal.

A career in welding is different because there are a few different ways for you to get started. You can become an AWS Certified Welder and get a job in as quickly as one year. Or, you can extend your training and education to develop a specialty and open the door for more career opportunities.

Here's a quick look at the different paths to becoming a welder and how long they take. Below, we'll go into more detail about each path.


The Basics

To start any of the following plans, you'll need to have a high school diploma or GED. If your school offers a career tech program, you can get a head start by taking welding classes before you even graduate.


The 1-year plan – Technical School

The fastest way to become a welder is by attending a technical school and earning a welding certificate. This program focuses on only what you need to know for a career in welding and typically takes a year or less to complete. After welding school, you should have the right skills to successfully pass the test to become an AWS Certified Welder.

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 The 2-year plan – Associate Degree

Many community colleges offer two-year welding programs that allow you to earn an associate degree. You'll learn all the skills and techniques that you would at a technical school, but you'll also take general studies or related classes such as print reading, metallurgy or welding theory. 

 Having an associate degree can make you more marketable when looking for a welding job, or help you make more money.

The 3-4-year plan – Apprenticeship

With an apprenticeship program, you'll receive a mix of on-the-job and classroom training. These programs are usually set up by an employer or trade union. You'll work alongside an experienced welder and you usually get paid while you're in training. The programs often focus on a specific welding job such as pipefitting, ironwork or boiler making.

When you complete your apprenticeship, you'll earn a journeyman's card that can make you more qualified for a job or entitle you to a higher salary. If your apprenticeship is through an employer and you do an excellent job, there's a good chance they'll offer you a full-time position.

The 4-year plan – bachelor's degree

If you're interested in the science or engineering side of welding, then you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor's degree at a four-year college. Depending on the program, you will gain the same hands-on knowledge as the two-year associate degree route, along with additional education on the science of metal, engineering, computer-aided design, robotics and more.


Once you earn a welding-related bachelor's degree, employers will consider you for high-paying jobs in management, engineering or technical sales. 

What's right for you?

Deciding which way to begin a career in welding depends on how quickly you want to start working (and earning money) and your long-term goals. Keep in mind that you can always add specialized welding certifications or pursue a graduate degree later if you want to advance your career.


This article originally appeared on WeldingDigest.com

Author: American Welding Society Foundation ­- Publish Date: 10/9/2020. 

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