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What is a welding degree?

Welders tend to be artisans that are self-directed and independent with an interest in how things work. Due to the almost universal need for their skills, welders are in high demand worldwide.

Welders work on all types of industrial, manufacturing, and construction applications; some even work underwater to repair oil rig foundations, ship hulls and other types of subaquatic structures. Possible careers opportunities include welding inspector, welding fabricator, welding sales representative, welding educator, welding supervisor, welding engineer, and foreman.

Welding educational requirements vary by employer. Some employers may be willing to train individuals on the job. Increasingly, however, most prefer applicants who have a certificate or undergraduate degree from a technical school, vocational school, or community college, or have learned techniques through welding apprenticeships. Depending on the type of education, one could end up with a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. These programs can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to complete.

Required classes in a welding program may include advanced mathematics, metallurgy, blueprint reading, welding symbols, pipe layout, and a welding practicum. Methods and techniques taught may include arc welding, soldering, brazing, casting and bronzing. Hands-on training may include oxyacetylene welding and cutting, shielded metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and gas metal arc welding.

Program options

Welding programs are most commonly found as associate degree programs. However, there are several colleges throughout the U.S. that do offer four-year welding programs that will lead to a Bachelor of Science in Welding Engineering Technology.

Certified Welder Program
A certificate program covers the basics of welding, such as specific welding technologies, how to safely use welding equipment, how to read blueprints and work orders, and how to work as part of a team. This type of certificate is typically enough to secure an entry-level position.

Associate of Applied in Welding Technology - Two Year Duration
Associate of Applied in Welding Technology programs provide students with in-depth knowledge and a well-rounded skill set that prepare them for full-time work as practical welders. With considerable experience, graduates can move up to work as welding inspectors.

Both classroom lectures and hands-on training is provided, broadly covering multiple technologies and topics such as blueprint reading and interpreting, technical math, physics, tungsten inert gas welding methods, metal inert gas welding methods, drafting, metallurgy, pipe welding, arc welding, welding safety, and site safety. Many associate programs include an internship.

Bachelor of Science in Welding Engineering Technology - Four Year Duration
Those who are interested in the mechanical design and manufacturing processes that are related to welding can go on to take a Bachelor of Science in Welding Engineering Technology. Some colleges may require students to already possess a two-year associate degree.

A bachelor's degree program expands on the subject material covered in an associate program. Coursework may include: materials science, engineering, testing techniques, project management, manufacturing planning, estimating strategies, alloy fabrication, computer-aided design for engineers, welding construction, welding codes, and automated machine welding.

This type of program is designed to train and test students at the highest level on the importance of product and machinery testing, maintenance, and quality control. This education will equip students with the skills necessary to take on professional roles such as welding engineer, or educator. Welders with a bachelor’s degree earn more than their counterparts with either a certificate or an associate degree. Graduates may also qualify for additional industry certifications.

Advanced Certifications
In addition to the Certified Welder designation, the AWS offers more advanced professional certifications to bachelor's degree holders, such as:

  • Certified Welding Inspector
  • Certified Associate Welding Inspector
  • Senior Certified Welding Inspector
  • Certified Welding Educator
  • Certified Radiographic Interpreter
  • Certified Welding Supervisor
  • Certified Welding Sales Representative
  • Certified Welding Engineer
  • Certified Robot Arc Welding

To qualify, individuals must meet educational and experience requirements and pass a written exam. Renewal and/or recertification requirements are associated with each credential.

Degrees similar to welding

Sheet Metal Apprenticeship
Sheet metal workers typically complete formal apprenticeship programs (four to five years) or learn through on-the-job training. Apprentices learn safety procedures, algebra, trigonometry, physics, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, welding, sheet metal installation, and sheet metal fabrication. Sheet metal workers must stay up-to-date on the current advancements in the field and often complete additional training throughout their careers.

Boilermaker Apprenticeship
Boilermakers work on a variety of different products including bridges, blast makers, and other mining equipment. Most boilermakers learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship program. Candidates are more likely to get into training programs if they already have welding experience and certification. Most boilermakers learn their trade through a four to five year apprenticeship. Each year, apprentices must have a specified number of hours of related technical training and another large number of hours of paid on-the-job training.

Machining
Individuals who want to become machinists, tool, and die makers require a high school diploma. They may then attend apprenticeship programs or get a degree at a technical or community college. The most essential part of becoming a machinist is on-the-job training, which is where candidates acquire the necessary skills and experience to operate machinery individually. The duration of training may be up to five years, and a continuous refining of skills and knowledge is further required on the job.

Plumbing
Plumbers work primarily in the construction industry to help work on building projects that are still getting completed. They often work on plumbing and pipefitting in both commercial and residential buildings. Their jobs are to ensure that the plumbing, piping, and ductwork in buildings is up to the building code and safety standards outlined in that area.

Both diploma and associate degree plumbing programs are offered by trade and technical schools. While completion of a formal training program is not mandatory to become a plumber, it is a definite advantage when applying for very competitive apprenticeships. Many students look for programs that provide assistance with apprenticeship and/or job placement. Most apprenticeships last from four to five years and combine on-the-job with classroom instruction.

Metal
The skill level needed from a metal worker ultimately depends on the particular project. A job that uses basic machines usually involves only a few weeks of training for workers with little to no experience. With a year or more of on-the-job training, advanced jobs that need a higher skill level are within reach.

A specialized metal worker is often required to be able to test, measure, adjust, and work different machines. Advanced duties include forging machines, operating metal-refining furnaces, controlling computer-operated tools, and handling punching or pressing tools. Most high level processes will need either further training or extensive experience.

Skills you'll learn

Welders need both physical strength and proper skills to be a welder. There are many transferable skills that students learn while in school, such as:

  • Ability to read and interpret engineering drawings and blueprints
  • Knowledge of various welding techniques
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Mechanical and manual welding practices
  • Analytical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Conceptual skills
  • Creative thinking skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Interpersonal skills (interaction with other tradespeople and clients)
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem-solving skills (troubleshooting, spotting flaws, finding solutions)
  • Project management skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Technical skills
  • Time management skills
  • Math and science skills (estimating costs, making calculations, knowing chemicals)
  • Physical and mental endurance (maintain focus under extreme conditions)

What can you do with a welding degree?

Welding graduates can be employed in a variety of industries, including:

  • Construction
  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Industrial
  • Manufacturing
  • Underwater
  • Medical
  • Civil engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Agricultural engineering
  • Shipbuilding and repair
  • Renewable energy
  • Oil and gas
  • Overseas construction projects

Welding Careers

The career trajectory of people with a Welding degree appears to be focused around a few careers. The most common career that users with Welding degrees have experience in is Welder, followed by Auto Body Repairer, Sheet Metal Worker, Millwright, Pipefitter, Boilermaker, Automotive Service Technician, Lawn Care Specialist, Carpenter, and Logistician.

Career % of graduates % of population Multiple
Welder 15.7% 0.2% 92.6×
Auto Body Repairer 1.8% 0.0% 43.9×
Sheet Metal Worker 3.2% 0.0% 87.4×
Millwright 0.8% 0.0% 51.5×
Pipefitter 0.7% 0.0% 33.5×
Boilermaker 3.3% 0.0% 193.6×
Automotive Service Technician 3.1% 0.3% 12.4×
Lawn Care Specialist 1.1% 0.1% 17.2×
Carpenter 3.1% 0.3% 9.6×
Logistician 0.5% 0.2% 2.6×

Welding Salary

Welding graduates earn on average $k, putting them in the bottom percentile of earners with a degree.

Percentile Earnings after graduation ($1000s USD)
25th (bottom earners) -
Median (average earners) -
75th (top earners) -

Welding Underemployment

Welding graduates are highly employed compared to other graduates. We have collected data on three types of underemployment. Part-time refers to work that is less than 30 hours per week. Non-college refers to work that does not require a college degree. Low-paying includes a list of low-wage service jobs such as janitorial work, serving, or dishwashing.

Employment Type Proportion of graduates
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