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Welder

Job Duties

Welders join metal parts together permanently. They may perform manual or semiautomatic welding. Manual welding allows the worker to control all movement of materials and equipment by hand, whereas semiautomatic welding requires the welder to operate machinery that moves some of the materials and equipment. The most typical type of welding is arc welding, in which two metal clips are attached a section of the workpiece and to the thin welding rod. When the two touch, it creates a powerful electrical current that melts them together.

The other two common types of welding are Gas Tungsten Arc (TIG) and Gas Metal Arc (MIG). TIG is used for aluminum and stainless steel, and MIG utilizes a continuous spool of wire to join long stretches of metal. Some welders also specialize in soldering and brazing. These are both similar to welding, but they use metals that join the workpieces without melting them. Instead, only the joining metals are melted. Welders plan their work using drawings and sketches, and analyze the parts to be joined and the metals to be used.

Job Skills

Welders need to have excellent eyesight. They should also have good manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. They must have the ability to concentrate on small details for hours at a time. They need to be able to bend, stoop, and work in awkward positions. They also need to be open to continuing their training throughout their career.

Income

In 2002, welders earned a median hourly wage of $14.02. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $9.41, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $21.79. Wages differ based on factors such as experience, training, and the location and size of the company.

Training and Education

Training for welders is incredibly varied. Some welders have only a few weeks of on-the-job training. More highly skilled workers may have several years of school training and on-the-job experience. Training is available in high schools, vocational schools, vocational-technical institutes, community colleges, private welding schools, and the Armed Forces. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy can be very advantageous. Workers can become certified by passing practical examinations at independent testing labs. Welders can advance to positions such as welding technician, supervisor, inspector, or instructor. A few welders with a great deal of experience start their own businesses. Visit this page about welding schools for more information on related careers.

Employment

In 2002, welders held about 452,000 jobs. 2 out of 3 worked in manufacturing.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of welders is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Employment is dependent on the industries in which welders work. A strong economy usually boosts employment in the manufacturing sector and increases demand for welders. Economic downturns can decrease employment. Widespread emphasis on raising productivity has lead many companies to increase their investment in automated welding systems. This decreases the demand for lower-skilled workers.