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Let’s go over the most popular types of welding jobs today. Finding your niche can take awhile, but we hope this comprehensive guide steers you in the right direction. You may be partial to a specific field that you have mastered, but being a one trick pony doesn’t maximize your earnings!
These positions are usually referred to as single hand welding. This means that the employer has a shop and equipment ready for use. They pay for your consumables, material etc… In return you make less than an independent welder. This is because the shop has extensive upfront costs. Average pay for a fabricator in the U.S. is between $18-$28 an hour. Fabricators use mostly MIG processes, with some TIG as well.
Shop fabricators produce a large variety of projects. Every handrail and gate you’ve ever seen has come from some form of a welding shop. The shop bids many jobs, and the ones they land will be drawn up and given to the welders to carry out. Larger shops will have project managers and detailers on site. These people will draw up the approved projects for production.
To land a job, welding shops must be competitive in their bid because other contractors are eager to win as well. This can involve bidding a strict number of hours, which can leave fabricators feeling rushed to complete the project within the bid requirements.
What You Will Learn
Working as a welder/fabricator will teach you so much. This is because you are always working on different types of projects. The older guys at the shop will also teach you the ways in which they work efficiently. You will soon realize that most of a welders day does not involve welding at all. Cutting material, doing layout, and fitting pieces up take so much time. Learning to put a nice finish on a weld with abrasives can be more challenging than running a nice weld bead.
Many welder/fabricators can become frustrated because their hourly wage is lower and it can only go so high. The company owners have to make a good profit at all times. This means that the welders pay is often super low on their list of priorities. This sparks some welders to buy their own equipment and start their own hustle. The problem is that most welders aren’t skilled with managing their own business or bidding on jobs. They can weld like no ones business, but their business knowledge is often subpar at best.
Becoming a welder/fabricator is a great way to learn your trade and gain a steady paycheck. However, if you want to make the big bucks, you might consider becoming your own boss.
These positions involve being out in the field working with large I-Beams and angles. This is often referred to as “hanging iron”. This is how large skyscrapers are built as well as apartment buildings and office buildings. This job is very tough on the body. Ironworkers have to be out in the elements all the time. Working with large cranes and hoists, these workers will install the entire steel structure of a building.
Being an ironworker usually pays more than a fabrication job. This is especially true if you work your way up through a union and become a journeyman welder. Ironworkers pay range in the U.S. is starts at about $24 an hour and goes upwards of $60 an hour.
Just like a fabricator, a large part of structural work doesn’t involve welding. Hoisting and rigging beams is all part of the process. Many times beams are bolted together instead of welded.
Some structural workers will work in a shop versus being out in the field. They will fabricate large steel pieces (including beams). This is all prep to get them ready to be installed on a job site. Some folks will even do both jobs – structural shop work and field work.
Mobile Welding/Rig Welding Jobs
These folks will generally have their own business and insurance policy. You will need your own welding truck and must also have a wide variety of problem solving skills. Rig welders do tons of repair jobs around town, and many will work on the pipeline as well. Some guys can support themselves by only doing mobile repair and fabrication; others resort to working on the pipeline for steadier work. If you are looking to do mobile welding, having a large client base will help keep the dollars rolling in. Failure to run your business properly can result in huge losses.
Less Common Welding Jobs
These jobs are harder to find and require extensive skill sets. Underwater welding involves repairing ships and structures below sea level. This is extremely dangerous due to oxygen deprivation and intense pressure. Underwater welding pays 6 figures usually. Unfortunately, these welders have a short life expectancy.
Aerospace welding involves welding parts or welding directly on airplanes and spacecrafts. The parameters are very strict and only the best TIG welders will land these positions. Aerospace welding is a job to work up to eventually, but it can take many years to build a worthy resume.
There are literally thousands of specific welding positions based on companies needs all over the world. Find what processes you like best and become great at them. Build a great welding resume and put the word out!