Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers held about 357,400 jobs in 2012. The industries employing the most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in 2012 were as follows:
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Welders and cutters may work outdoors, often in inclement weather, or indoors, sometimes in a confined area designed to contain sparks and glare. When working outdoors, they may work on a scaffold or platform high off the ground.
In addition, they may have to lift heavy objects and work in awkward positions while bending, stooping, or standing to work overhead.
Injuries and Illnesses
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers are often exposed to a number of hazards, including very hot materials and the intense light created by the arc. They wear safety shoes, heat-resistant gloves, goggles, masks with protective lenses, and other equipment to prevent burns and eye injuries and to protect them from falling objects.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration requires that welders work in safely ventilated areas in order to avoid danger from inhaling gases and fine particles that can result from welding processes. Because of these hazards, welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing workers have a rate of injuries and illnesses that is higher than the national average. However, they can minimize injuries if they follow safety procedures.
Most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work full time, and overtime is common. Many manufacturing firms have two or three 8- to 12-hour shifts each day, allowing the firm to continue production around the clock if needed. As a result, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work evenings and weekends.
Training ranges from a few weeks of technical school or on-the-job training to several years of combined technical school and on-the-job training.
Formal training is available in high school technical education courses and in postsecondary institutions, such as vocational–technical institutes, community colleges, and private welding, soldering, and brazing schools.
Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy are helpful.
An understanding of electricity also is helpful, and knowledge of computers is gaining importance as welding, soldering, and brazing machine operators become more responsible for programming robots and other computer-controlled machines.
In addition, the U.S. Armed Forces operate welding and soldering schools.
Although numerous employers are willing to hire inexperienced entry-level workers and train them on the job, many prefer to hire workers who have been through training or credentialing programs.
Because understanding the welding process and inspecting welds is important for both welders and welding machine operators, companies hiring machine operators prefer workers with a background in welding.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The Institute for Printed Circuits offers certification and training in soldering. In industries such as aerospace and defense, which need highly skilled workers, many employers require these certifications. Certification can show mastery of lead-free soldering techniques, which are important to many employers.
Some employers pay the cost of training and testing for employees.
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a welder, cutter, solderer, and brazer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Detail oriented. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers perform precision work, often with straight edges and minimal flaws. The ability to see details and characteristics of the joint and detect changes in molten metal flows requires good eyesight and attention to detail.
Manual dexterity. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must have a steady hand to hold a torch in one place. Workers must also have good hand-eye coordination.
Physical stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing or repetitious movements is important for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.
Physical strength. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be in good physical condition. They often must lift heavy pieces of metal and move welding or cutting equipment, and sometimes bend, stoop, or reach while working.
Spatial-orientation skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be able to read, understand, and interpret two- and three-dimensional diagrams in order to fit metal products correctly.
Technical skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be able to operate manual or semiautomatic welding equipment to fuse metal segments.
The median annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $36,300 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,720, and the top 10 percent earned more than $56,130.
Wages for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers vary with the worker’s experience and skill level, the industry, and the size of the company.
Although most welders, solderers, cutters, and brazers work full time, overtime is common. Many manufacturing firms have two or three 8- to 12-hour shifts each day, allowing the firm to continue production around the clock if needed. As a result, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work evenings and weekends.
Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.
Employment growth reflects the need for welders in manufacturing because of the importance and versatility of welding as a manufacturing process. The basic skills of welding are similar across industries, so welders can easily shift from one industry to another, depending on where they are needed most. For example, welders laid off in the automotive manufacturing industry may be able to find work in the oil and gas industry.
The nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to help rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings. The construction of new power generation facilities and, specifically, pipelines transporting natural gas and oil will also result in new jobs.
Overall job prospects will vary with the worker’s skill level. Job prospects should be good for welders trained in the latest technologies. Welding schools report that graduates have little difficulty finding work, and many employers report difficulty finding properly skilled welders. However, welders who do not have up-to-date training may face strong competition for jobs.
For all welders, job prospects should be better for those willing to relocate.
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