Welding is a physically demanding job that requires focus, consistency, and specialized knowledge of the right equipment. The average wage for a welder is $48,000, although the median salary for welders working on a construction site is $54,000.
While the pay range might be decent enough to survive, it’s important to take into account the added fees involved with supplies such as welding jackets, welding machines, and other protective equipment if not already provided by an employer.
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What Do Welders Earn?
As with any other field, expertise pays. The more experienced a welder is, the more industries in construction and manufacturing will be willing to pay for higher-quality services. In addition, welders specializing in different fields, such as underwater or military equipment welding, can earn significantly more.
The two most significant determinants of salary for welders are location and experience. These two factors influence the salary range from $36,000 to over $200,000.
What Do Beginner Welders Make?
Inexperienced welders can make between $15 and $18 per hour, depending on the state or industry pay the welder receives. For reference, that’s a salary of $25,000 to $35,000 for entry-level welders.
Certification is also an impactful factor in determining a welder’s salary. An applicant who graduated from a welding school will likely learn more than a novice in the field and be a more desirable candidate.
Different welding jobs come with varying certification requirements since not all of them require the same skillset. Of course, industries seeking specialized welding experience or skills will likely pay above the median welder’s salary for relevant certification and experience.
For example, underwater welding, a job that requires specialized knowledge and equipment, has a starting salary of $40,000, a little over the base pay of $36,000 for an entry-level welder.
Welders with 5 years of experience can expect to make around $60,000 to $75,000—even more for specialized skills like underwater welding, which can have a high-end salary of over $100,000.
What Do Welders in Different Fields Make?
Welding is a broad term that can refer to several different skill sets across various industries, and welders operating on varying projects will earn different amounts.
While MIG welding requires knowledge and experience to perform correctly, it is widely considered the easiest. As such, MIG welders get an average pay of $16.24 per hour. Many manufacturing industries require MIG welders. Remember that a welder with the appropriate certification can acquire a better salary than a MIG welder starting from scratch.
Rig welders serve an essential role on heavy and dangerous machinery like cranes and offshore rigs, as well as any other welding equipment repair that may need to be done.
Their responsibilities are vast, and maintaining large, heavy-duty equipment requires a good deal of prerequisite knowledge. The average pay for a rig welder is $37 per hour.
A fitter can earn an average pay of $19.25 an hour, and their responsibility is the installation and fitting of pipework, valves, fittings, and other machinery like boilers, generators, and turbines.
These jobs can be dangerous and complex, requiring an intimate understanding of the industrial machinery for proper installation.
Fabricators earn around $17 per hour and specialize in manufacturing equipment or devices. They must be capable of reading schematics, following product specifications, ensuring product quality and fit, and participating in product development meetings.
The job can be physically demanding and complex, with significant exposure to heat, noise, fumes, and hazardous welding equipment.
As you might imagine, underwater welding is a complex and dangerous job, requiring advanced knowledge of shipyards and ships, and other underwater equipment. They earn an average pay of $25.96 an hour and are responsible for repairing and replacing ship sections as needed.
Pipe welders earn an average pay of $24.50, which is much more complex than it sounds. Welding itself is challenging enough, but pipe welders must have superb hand-eye coordination to make a continuous weld around the circumference of a pipe, making it equally strong under pressure.
An incorrectly welded pipe can cause the contents to seek the path of least resistance and inevitably burst out of it at the weak point. Pipe welders must be familiar with both manual and mechanical welding tools used in the oil and gas industry, recognizing the design and construction of oil pipes to ensure they can weld them safely.
With an average pay of $20.55, structural welders are the tradesmen you’re most likely to see creating permanent or temporary welds on bridges, buildings, or vehicles on a construction site.
Structural welders must be familiar with several different welding methods, including the following:
- TIG welding
- GMAW welding
- SAW welding
- Plasma arc welding
- Electron beam welding
- Arc welding
- Resistance welding
Familiarity with the appropriate welding method for the job and understanding the metals they are working with are paramount to a structural welder’s success.
As you might imagine, nuclear welders must possess a specialized skill set to create safe welds on reactor components, selecting the correct welding technique and material for proper manufacturing. Nuclear welders earn an average pay of $32 an hour.
What Other Factors Impact Welding Salary?
Experience and education can significantly impact the amount a welder can expect to earn working in a particular industry. Excellence in work performance and reliability can lead to higher pay over time. Still, location is crucial in determining what a welder can expect to earn in their annual salary.
In Alaska, for example, welders earn an average of $31.04 an hour, while in most other states, starting pay ranges from $16 to $18 an hour.
The Bottom Line
Welding is a reputable job requiring good coordination, understanding of welding equipment, and job-specific knowledge. As such, a welder’s salary is respectable; more importantly, reliable and accurate welders are a valuable asset to the industry, giving welders relatively high job security.
Aspiring welders looking to master their craft can look forward to a significant salary increase simply by gaining experience in their field. At the same time, specialized training can also boost a welder’s salary into the six-figure range with enough time.