Welding Careers: 4 Paths for Metal Workers

welding careersFusing metals together with heated metal liquid has been a common practice for centuries. The heated metal acts like a glue to bind the metal together, and is practiced by shipbuilders, boilermakers, modern artists, and designers. With a career in welding, you can attain a degree to work as a sheet metal welder, a welding inspector, or a welding machine operator, and projects like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System use pipe welders on a daily basis to aid in the repair of their 800-mile long oil pipeline. Welding can be physically demanding and simultaneously satisfying, as it is a trade that has been in practice since the Iron Age when forges were used to shape and mold hot molten metal. Perhaps you’re considering ditching your office job for one that involves more physical activity, or perhaps you’ve always wanted to feel the heat of a torch in your hand.

Whatever your reasons, Tim Clark’s Redesign Your Career can help push you in the right direction. Welders can fill a number of professional niches, and it’s never too late to discover your passion. The following are welding careers that may surprise you and inspire you to make a change in your life for the better.

Sculptor

When I worked the art fair circuit many years ago, I often shared a booth with a woman who created beautiful whirligig garden sculptures from scrap metal. She had trained originally as a welder, and taught one of the most popular courses on welding at the local university. Her work was light and engaging, and I was always amazed by how much life existed within all those rusty metal pieces. As a welder, she began her career as a sheet metal worker, and she often worked in construction on rain gutters, outdoor signs for businesses and ventilation. She stumbled across the work of Simon Rodia, an outsider artist who created the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. The enormous structures were created from welded steel rebar and scrap metal that Rodia found around the railroad tracks near his home. He welded the structure together to create a stunning sculptural artwork that has recently become a National Historic Landmark. Rodia’s towers had such an impact on this welder friend of mine, she quit her job and became an artist.

Her outdoor steel sculptures and garden whirligigs are highly sought by collectors across the United States, and if you’d like more information on how to sell your work  as an artist, check out How to Sell Your Art Online and take your welding career to the next level.

Teaching

Once you’ve acquired your welding degree, a process that can take up to 600 hours, consider working in the field before approaching a teaching job. Teaching can be both fun and rewarding on so many levels, and requires a certain amount of patience and knowledge that is often best gained in the field. If you’ve received your certification as a welding inspector or instructor from a reputable national organization like the American Welding Society, consider approaching your local community college or university to teach. Sometimes pitching a course can help you get your foot in the door, and you may be surprised by how many students want to learn from you. Having a lesson plan and knowing how to teach can also add another skill set to your resume. The course How to Find College and University Teaching Jobs can be a valuable resource for those hoping to break into the education field. Teaching a class online is possible too with video lessons and Skype. Think about what kind of welding you’d like to teach and move toward helping others learn about the exciting possibilities of being a welder.

Start a Business

I live in a small town where people love rustic, Old-West-inspired home décor. Because of the style’s popularity, there are at least a dozen metal fabrication businesses in my town. People love the ranch-style aesthetic, and therefore, will pay ample prices to have large iron doors forged, and railings and light fixtures installed. Owning your own business can be a fun and exciting way to get creative with your welding skills, and can lead you to bigger and better projects. Your welding business can also enable you to make your own hours and take on your own projects. Owning your own business can also help boost your confidence; it feels good to be your own boss. Maybe you have an idea for a line of furniture or light fixtures you’d like to make, welders can not only build ships and fuse pipes together, but they can create elegant home furnishings too. While some projects may require you to have a contractor’s license, many projects can be made with simply a bit of elbow grease and an eye for design. Put yourself out there and get started with your welding fabrication business. Check out How to Start a Business if you’re looking for specific guidelines and the basics of starting your own business.

Traditional Welding Careers

While the previous careers involve art, design, and teaching welding, there are a number of traditional welding careers that can be just as rewarding. A career as a boilermaker, for example, involves repairing and fusing tubes and plates of metal together for hot water boilers in large buildings and housing complexes. A blacksmith uses a forge, powered by fuel like coal to create a hot fire in which metal can be hammered and formed. Historically, blacksmiths created horseshoes, weaponry, and tools. Today, many pieces of custom metalwork are created using a forge and an anvil, to mimic an older, more antiquated decorative style. Shipbuilders also have studied welding to assist in the repair and building of large ocean vessels. These early welders, who have worked for thousands of years, build the ships that transport goods and services across the ocean. A welding inspector detects holes and cracks in giant projects like buildings and bridges, and is essential to the safety of where we live and work. Welding machine operators work with heavy machinery to weld and cut metal parts. A welder is an important tool when it comes to creating the world around us.

Whether you’re seeking a traditional welding career in shipbuilding, sheet metal fabrication, or as a welding machine operator, or if you’re more interesting in building your own business as an artist or designer, the role of the welder in society spans thousands of years. By practicing this ancient craft, you’ll not only contribute to creating a safer and more productive society, but you’ll become part of a larger group of workers who have built our skyscrapers, cars, and bridges. With a welding career, you can help build the fabric of our culture. As a welder, you’ll improve your physical endurance and health too, as the practice of welding is often rigorous and physically demanding. If you already work as a welder, consider taking a course to improve your outlook and attitude on your current position. Learn everything you can about your craft. Try 10 Career Boosting Resolutions to help you breathe new life into your present situation. If you’re on the hunt for a career change, consider a welding career, as the work is plentiful and varied, and the network of professionals within the field is vast.