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If you wish to become a welder, the first thing you should do is look for a formal training program in which to enroll. Welders do not usually need college degrees, but some training is typically required. This can range from vocational courses offered through some high schools to associate’s degree and certification programs at many community colleges and trade schools.
There once was a time when welders could simply hire on with little or no experience, then learn all that was required on the job. This can sometimes still happen today, particularly in small, family-owned businesses. On the larger market, however, training and certification is almost always required to become a welder.
The welding profession is unregulated in most places, which means that there are generally no specific welder requirements: no certificates or degrees that someone must possess in order to hold himself out as a welder. This has the advantage of creating a relatively low barrier of entry to the profession. A downside, however, is that degree-granting programs are similarly unregulated, and the quality of education can vary greatly from school to school.
Depending on where you live, you will probably have a number of nearby options for schools and training programs to become a welder. Large high schools often offer basic welding skills classes as a part of their vocational skills curriculum. Community colleges in your area are likely to offer welding training and certification programs as well. Independent welding schools — that is, schools that only offer welding training and coursework — are also increasingly popular.
You will need to consider a couple of factors when deciding between programs. Tuition is one of the first things to ask about. Expected program length, required courses, and percentage of time spent in the classroom versus in a welding lab is also important. You should also ask about what sorts of degrees or certifications are available, as well as the sort of career placement opportunities offered.
Welding is a career that is almost always in demand. Welders are essential laborers for most of the developed world. Once you become a welder, you can usually find work anywhere metal needs to be joined or bound together, in settings as diverse as home construction, car repair, and major manufacturing operations.
It is not usually necessary or often even possible to tailor your training to fit a particular welder career. Most training programs cover welding broadly. You will learn basic welding skills in the classroom and in the lab, which you will adapt to whatever job you end up taking professionally. Welding jobs in different disciplines can vary rather dramatically, but they all work out of a basic set of core skills.
When you first become a welder, you will usually work as an apprentice to a more seasoned professional. Apprenticeships usually last between six months and two years. The apprenticeship will both give you hands-on experience working in real-life scenarios and will help you view the welding process through a broader lens. Upon successful completion, you will typically either be hired on by the welder for whom you apprenticed or receive his recommendation when looking for work as an independent agent.