Are you stuck in an unfulfilling, dead-end career? Ever consider welding? I know what you’re thinking: you don’t want to be stuck in a dirty shop all day and besides don’t welders get paid very little? Wrong. Take a look at 6 of the highest paying welding jobs.
Industrial Pipeline Welders – $36,414 – $106,348
Industrial pipeline welders weld – you guessed it – pipelines.
They use a variety of welding techniques and equipment to install and maintain pipeline in a number of wide ranging environments.
If you want to be a pipeline welder, you can expect to works long days under all sorts of conditions: from hot, humid and bug infested swamps to the cold, unforgivable wasteland of rural Alaska.
Because of the size and scope of a lot of pipeline projects, most jobs are set up in fixed positions that make welding difficult and even dangerous – requiring you to contort your body to all sorts of awkward positions. Standing in knee deep water to weld the underside of a pipe is not uncommon.
Pipeline welders must be well-trained and adaptable. As a result, they have highest paying welding jobs and highly are sought after.
Underwater Welders – $54 750 – $300 000
Underwater welders are the MVPs of the welding world.
Their job is dangerous and carries a lot of risk. It involves diving to the depths of the ocean (or any body of water) with 300-400 amps of direct current in order to weld.
Typically, underwater welders use shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) to do the job but there are times when flux-cored and friction welding are preferred.
Underwater welders can work in a variety of industries including oil and gas, military and shipbuilding.
Because of the risk involved underwater welders must go through a lot of training. First they need to be expert welders on land, obtaining the proper certifications and experience. Depending on how skilled the welder is, this can take years.
Next they need to know how to SCUBA dive, which is a fairly short course which teaches them the fundependals of diving. Divers will need a certain amount of dives before they can go on to the next step.
After that they get their commercial diving certifications where they’ll practice welding underwater in a variety of different scenarios. This can take months depending on the school they go to. The right diving school can make all the difference.
Finally they can apply for an underwater welding job. However, with no real experience yet it’s unlikely they will be diving any time soon. They often start out as dive tender which is like an apprentice – to learn the ins-and-outs of the industry.
If they still haven’t quit by this time (and many do) they can expect a fulfilling, high paying career as an underwater welder.
Military Support Welders – up to $160 000
Military support welders have (potentially) some of the most dangerous jobs around. While they are unlikely to see combat there is always a risk and they are paid handsomely for it.
They are also in huge demand.
There are a ton of options for welders in the military – some risky and some less so. The jobs range from repairing and maintaining equipment stateside to welding pipeline in the Middle East to underwater welding in shipyards.
All branches of the military need welders. Here’s what you can expect from each:
Army – Welders in the Army are on the ground, in potentially dangerous situations. While they spend most of their time in repair shops, maintaining vehicles and other equipment they will often have to go out into the field to repair broken down vehicles.
In addition, they can expect to help build and repair infrastructure like bridges or constructing bases.
Airforce – Airforce welders are a special breed. Because of the sensitive nature and complex design of military aircraft, they are highly specialized and high skilled workers. They spend most of their time in the shop doing everything from troubleshooting to final fitting to fabricating and welding the metal components that are critical to an aircraft.
Marines – Because of the combat focused nature of the Marines, these jobs are very risky but also very rare. Referred to as Military Occupational Specialization (MOS), welders in the Marines will usually work with other branches where their specialization is needed. They are incredibly versatile and are paid accordingly.
Navy – The Navy is the ideal training ground for new welders in the Military. Complete with their own welding school in the shipyards of Norfolk Virginia there’s no shortage of ships that need to be fabricated, maintained and repaired. They are, after all, made of metal. Navy welders may even choose to specialize in underwater welding to give them even more options.
National Guard – One of the safest in terms of likelihood to see combat, National Guard welders are expected to perform a broad range of applications stateside. From making repairs to fabricating metal parts for various equipment welders are required to have a great deal of precision and attention to detail.
Coast Guard – Welders working for the coast guard don’t even have to be in the military to find a job. They’ll work on a variety of different jobs ranging from lighthouse repairs to boats and small vessel maintenance.
Nuclear Industry Welders – Varies
Welders in the nuclear industry will find work in all of the above job categories – pipeline, underwater and military. The difference is that they must pass a rigorous screening process in order to become nuclear certified.
They not only need to have extensive knowledge of the nuclear industry they also need to pass an FBI clearance process.
Nuclear certified welders probably have the most dangerous job of all. In addition to potentially diving or being in a combat situation they are also exposed to alpha, beta and gamma radiation.
There are 3 classes of nuclear welding:
Class 1 – Deals with the nuclear reactor and its cooling system. This involves diving into the hot water that cools the reactor. They can only do their job for minutes at a time so they have to be fast and weld with extreme precision.
Class 2 – Deals with components that are part of the cooling system but don’t carry radioactive water.
Class 3 – Deals with components that support class 2 without as much exposure.
Nuclear welders need to pass a litany of tests and certifications before even being considered for a job, making it one of the most difficult positions to get.
Aerospace Welders – $29 540 – $60 000
Welders in the aerospace industry are some of the most skilled welders around. While they don’t get paid as much as other industries, their pay is still quite lucrative.
Welders work on equipment and technology found in airplanes, space shuttles and their support structures. They also weld a variety of metals and other exotic materials that require specialized welding processes.
The highest paid welders in the aerospace industry are those who can demonstrate the ability to quickly adapt to new fabrication technologies.
Certified Welding Inspector – $70 000+
Certified welding inspector (CWI) jobs are some of the most sought after positions in the welding industry.
They get paid very well and have the responsibilities to match.
CWI’s perform safety checks on welds done by the welders to prevent catastrophic failures. They check for cracks, defects and durability of the material using magnifiers and stress testing tools to see if the weld is up to par.
In addition to checking on the weld after it’s complete they also pre-inspect certain aspects of the job including material quality, equipment checks and documentation review.
To be a CWI welders need to have at least 5 years industry experience or an associate’s degree in engineering technology and 3 years experience.
Certified welding inspectors carry a lot of responsibility. If someone gets hurt or dies as a result of a bad weld they are almost always at fault.
Furthermore CWI’s have a lot of options when looking for work. They can choose to work for a particular company or they can become independent contractors and travel around the country. Not to mention they have some of the highest paying welding jobs around.