An apprentice welder is a person who is learning the process of welding under the tutelage of an experienced welder. Sometimes an apprenticeship program is required, and the potential apprentice welder must apply to the program and be accepted so he or she can begin searching for full-time employment. If the region in which the candidate lives has a welder's union, he or she will most likely need to apply with the union to secure an apprenticeship and eventually join the union as a full-time worker.
In most cases, the apprentice welder will undergo two types of education: a classroom-style education that covers the basic concepts of welding practices and the science behind it, and a hands-on education in which the apprentice welder will actively work on welding projects. The classroom education can vary in length and content, but almost all courses will cover both the basic techniques of welding as well as safety techniques, the scientific aspects of welding, and job site information. Once the apprentice welder is prepared for on-site work by participating in such training, he or she will work directly with an experienced welder to practice his or her technique.
Job sites can be dangerous places, so safety must be taken into consideration. The apprentice welder will wear the same safety equipment a full-time welder wears, and he or she will take on the same safety practices. In addition to welding, the apprentice is likely to work on other menial tasks such as hauling equipment and materials, cleaning up a job site, prepping a job site for welding, and so on. The experienced welder will often do most of the welding work, though the apprentice will also have plenty of opportunity to work under the guidance of the more experienced welder.
The duration of the apprenticeship can vary from a few weeks to several months. In some regions, the apprentice welder will be required to earn a certification by passing an examination; this is almost always done at the end of one's apprenticeship, as he or she should be prepared by then to pass the certification exam. At that point, the apprentice is no longer an apprentice; he or she can enter the welder's union, seek out independent employment, or even continue working for the company that served the apprenticeship. It is often beneficial to join a union, as job opportunities become more readily available to members.