by Housley Carr A w e s o m e C h o i c e s W e l d i n g J o b s : Amazing Pay
have a welding angle. Just ask Scott Shriver. Shriver’s the chief fabricator for research and development at Hendrick Motorsports, the team behind NASCAR superstars like Jeff Gordan, Dale Earn- hardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.
said he wanted to race sprint cars—dirt- track-style cars. I helped him build his first car from the chassis up.” From there, Shriver welded his way to the top of the racing business in just a few years.
“I got started in welding growing up on a farm,” says Shriver. He helped his dad weld farm equipment “to keep things going.” Then, after Shriver took some welding classes in high school, his instructor said he was great at it and should think about welding as a career.
Hendrick Motorsports, where Shriver works, does things old-school but with the latest technology. The company builds its cars from the ground up, and Shriver’s involved in how the cars are put together. Espe- cially the welds, which are key.
“I was into racing motorcycles,” Shriver says. “One day a friend of mine
“I personally get a feeling of satisfac- tion from doing something that not very
“no wAy!” That’s what you’ll say when you hear about the amazing variety of welding jobs that are out there and how much they pay.
You like the idea of working out- doors? Traveling? Getting new skills and moving up in the world? There’s a weld- ing job for you.
The same is true if you want an indoors-only job close to home. Or if you like sales or teaching or science or even research. Or if you want to start your own company.
The starting pay for most welding jobs is pretty basic, especially right out of high school. But, with more experi- ence, the potential to earn two or three times that amount is definitely there.
And making $100,000 or more isn’t out of the question. But only if you are the best of the best—the Tom Brady or Derek Jeter of welding—and you are willing to work in some far-off spots.
Why is welding such a wide-open gig? It really comes down to this—welding is part of just about everything you see and touch every day: the car you drive, the bridge you drive over, and the school or mall you drive to.
Welding’s also part of making airplanes, ships and all kinds of manu- factured products, from lawn mowers to earthmoving equipment.
And then there’s energy. Welding, for instance, plays a huge role in building and maintaining offshore oil rigs. The same goes for pipelines, powerplants and even those big wind turbines.
There are real out-there jobs, too— the kind of jobs you may never think
4 | Careers in Welding
photo left courtesy u.s. navy, photo middle right courtesy of lincoln electric, top right courtesy of derek arnold
does awesome specialty welding, making
cool-looking metal fences, railings and furniture. (Curious? Take a look at his page at www.ghostmine.com).
There are even jobs for welders who like to dive. Welding underwater is part
of what a commercial diver does, says
Allen Garber, who is the chief administrative
many people can do,” says Art Cady, who is a master welder and Certified Welding Instructor (CWI), working at the Bechtel Corporation. He’s been welding probably longer than you’ve been alive, and he’s seen the world while doing it. He’s in Chile now and loving it.
officer at the Commer- cial Diving Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. “Commercial divers have to find it, clear it, inspect it and repair it or build it new”—all in diving gear, says Garber. A lot of that involves welding. It’s challenging work, for sure.
OK, by now you know there is a wide range of jobs out there for welders. Ev- erything from building dinosaur sculp- tures to building nuclear powerplants.
To put it bluntly, though, a big part of the job satisfaction is making money and a good living.
What’s Cady worked on? He’s got a long list. “Coal-fired power boilers, nuclear powerplants, a nuclear-waste treatment plant, computer-chip manu- facturing plants, liquefied natural-gas plants, refineries, pipelines, gold and copper mines, the cooling system for a Cray supercomputer, office buildings, hospitals…I think that about covers it,” he says with a laugh.
No doubt, Cady has charted his own course in life as a welder. So has Derek Arnold, an artist near Baltimore who uses his welding skills to turn old construction equipment (road-paving machines, stuff like that) into huge sculptures that look and move like dinosaurs. He has also put together a car he says looks like a cross between “The Flintstones” and “Mad Max.”
To help pay the bills, Arnold also
So what does welding pay? It depends on the kind of welding you do, where you do it, how long you’ve been doing it and how good you are at it.
Starting just out of high school with only basic welding skills, you are looking at $10, $12 or $14 an hour.
Underwater welding also pays well, but it depends on where you’re working. Garber, from the Commercial Diving Academy, says commercial divers doing “inland” work on bridges and power- plants mostly make $40,000 to $50,000 a year, but some make $60,000 or even $70,000 if they get a lot of overtime.
Work “offshore” on an oil rig, though, and you probably will start out at $60,000, Garber says. After a few years, you could make $100,000 or more. “But that’s a different type of career,” he says. On an oil rig, you usually work 12 hours
Your first welding job may not make you rich, but you will do well over time if you work hard, gain experience and update your skills through training.
Here are some examples of the median pay in different welding- related jobs. Don’t forget, median means that half make more and half make less.
MEDIAN* SALARY IN U.S.
Commercial diver Welding inspector Welding sales representative Welding technician CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY Plumber, pipefitter or steamfitter Structural metal worker Welder, cutter, solderer and brazer Welder, cutter, solderer and brazer aide MANUfACTURINg INDUSTRY Sheet-metal worker Structural metal fabricator and fitter Welder, cutter, solderer and brazer ShIPBUILDINg INDUSTRY Boilermaker
Materials engineer (including welding engineer)
$47,000 $50,000 $50,000 $55,000
$48,000 $40,000 $47,000 $29,000
$67,500 $43,500 $44,000
Welder, cutter, solderer and brazer
SOURCE: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, WELd-Ed (ThE NATIONAL CENTER FOR WELdING EdUCATION ANd TRAINING)
on, 12 hours off, every day for six weeks, then you come back to dry land for a week. It’s not for everyone.
Generally, “the more types of weld- ing you master the more you can earn,” says Richard Seif. He’s the senior vice president of global marketing at Lincoln Electric, Cleveland, which makes all kinds of welding equipment and offers welding training.
If you have math and science skills, going to college to become a welding engineer just about guarantees good pay—more than $50,000 a year to start and thousands more a year after that, Seif says.
So where can welding take you in life? It’s really up to you.✳
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