With liberal arts colleges making up the vast majority of todays higher education, some young folks just want something different.
For me personally, I graduated high school and went to CU Boulder. It was tons of fun, but there were some drawbacks that ultimately led me to leave. My randomly assigned roommate in the dorms turned out to be one of my best friends. I joined a club. Made new friends. Went to new parties. It was all fun and games at the beginning.
Later in my freshman year, I realized that I wasn’t passionate about any of the classes I was in. I was still “open choice” meaning that I hadn’t picked a major yet. I felt very unfulfilled no matter which classes I took. Learning facts didn’t interest me, and I was jealous and perplexed by my friends who loved to be in class.
I started thinking about other career routes. What if I could work with my hands and make a living? What if I didn’t have to be in an office waiting for the day to be over?
I started thinking about the trades I could see myself doing. Welding came to mind. It always looked intriguing to me even though I knew nothing about it. I started chatting with my Mom about leaving CU to go to welding school. It ended up happening and I never looked back.
I didn’t go visit the school or meet any of the faculty. I knew I wanted to learn and I enrolled after leaving CU.
The first classes were pretty boring. We had to learn how to cut with oxy-acetylene before we could enroll in welding classes. After completing the cutting class, we had to take the oxy-acetylene welding course. This is a very antiquated process which is very hard to master. Similar to TIG welding, but it is even more annoying. Your torch is powered by the two gases, and you are adding filler rod with your non dominant hand (just like TIG welding). All in all, it is very hard for a beginner to get a good weld.
Moving on – then came the stick welding classes, then the MIG classes, and then the TIG work.
What was uncommon about my welding school is the crazy hours we had to be there. A normal college student might be in class for 4 hours a day. We were there for almost 9 hours a day. Each class was 4 hours and we had to take 2 at a time to complete the certifications. This made my college experience very unusual, I didn’t have the free time that my friends did. I couldn’t do some of the fun things that my CU friends did – I just didn’t have the time.
Completing welding school, I was now able to be hired as an ironworker or a fabrication apprentice. After working several jobs, I ultimately landed with the mobile welding profession. It was my favorite way to work, and having my own machine and tools was a really rewarding feeling.
I ended up seeing a lot of my college friends not even use their degrees. Moving back home, working odd jobs, and being dependent on their families seemed to be the norm.
Welding allows me to afford my own place without falling back on anyone. It gives me freedom and financial stability. Plenty of liberal arts kids end up landing great jobs – but it is luck of the draw.
Having a tangible skill will allow you to work anywhere you want. Whether it is welding, plumbing or electrical work, you can take that skill set anywhere.
As with most professions, running your own business has the most potential for the higher profit income. If you are a singlehand (employee) welder, you won’t be making the wages that your employer is making off of you. With this being said, finding a full time list of clients can be hard for a new welder. You’ll have to build enough connections so that you can stay busy throughout the year. This is definitely a risk that some folks may not be comfortable with.
A lot of singlehand welders may end up saving enough to start their own business. Once you buy a nice welder and tools, you could be on the way to a successful lifestyle. Personality types definitely come into play. Some people are comfortable remaining an employee their whole life, while others want to be their own boss.
Being your own boss requires a different set of skills than just welding alone. Personal relationships, people skills, and a good personality are essential. Most successful business owners have these traits, it’s just the way it is.
I’ve known plenty of great welders that wouldn’t have made good business owners. They showed up to work and did an incredible job, but they wouldn’t have landed that bid on their own.
No matter which route you take, welding is a rewarding trade. Once you lay your first decent bead, you will know if you have the bug or not. If welding doesn’t feel addicting, it may not be for you. Try it out and see what it’s all cracked up to be!
Thanks for reading.
Featured image credit : Pikist.com