Welders join metal parts together by applying heat from a welding tool. The job is vital to such industries as automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding and machinery production. The job can be hazardous due to exposure to heat and intense electrical charges, though wearing protective gear minimizes the risk. Welders can learn their trade from formal post-secondary programs or through on-the-job training.
About 50 percent of welders work a standard 40-hour week, earning a median $34,750. Salaries can go as low as $23,420 or rise as high as $52,420. The remainder of workers work evenings and weekends, part time or in non-standard shifts, especially in factories where production runs 24 hours a day. Such welders receive a median hourly pay of $16.71, with a low of $11.26 and a high of $25.20. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiled these figures in May 2009.
The salaries of welders can increase with experience, starting at $24,271 to $42,500 for new hires, according to PayScale as of November 2010. At five to nine years, they make $32,827 to $53,919, but they peak at 10 to 19 years at $36,120 to $68,643. At 20 years or more, earnings decrease slightly to $36,200 to $61,750.
According to the BLS, the industries offering the most jobs for welders are architectural and structural metals manufacturers, with nearly 13 percent of the total 357,740 jobs. Wages here are slightly below average at $16.03 or $33,330. Salaries increase to $17.12 or $35,610 for manufacturers of agricultural, construction and mining machinery, which comprises 6.5 percent of the jobs in this field.
For geographic areas, the BLS defines employability through job concentration, or the proportion of welder jobs to the population. The higher the concentration, the easier the job hunt. The state with the best job concentration is Wyoming, with 8.8 positions per thousand workers. Salaries there are at $22.45 or $46,690. For cities, the distinction goes to the Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux metropolitan area of Louisiana. The job concentration here is 28.1, nearly three times that of Louisiana. Salaries are at $19.16 or $39,850.
- the welder image by Louise McGilviray from Fotolia.com