Learning how to become a welder can lead to a successful career and one that offers excellent pay and job security. But in order to land a higher-paying job, you’ll need to obtain certifications for each of the welding processes. We’ll go over the fast track to a welding career and what you need to do to make it happen.
How to become a welder can take six months up to two years, depending on the training program. After the completion of a program, the welder is urged to obtain certification through the AWS, which will qualify the welder for higher-paying positions. Of course, the welder must also pass employer certification tests in which they will be required to show their skills and knowledge of welding based on material type, metal thickness, position, and process.
Now that you know what it takes to become a welder, read on to learn about the different certification options and training programs available that can qualify you for employment in this exciting field.
How to Become a Welder
Welding involves excellent hand-eye coordination, skill, and a high level of knowledge regarding different welding processes. Welding is used for creating everything from lawn furniture to bridges and planes. The stability and strength of large major structures are obviously important to public safety, which is why many employers now require welders to obtain certification in order to qualify for employment.
In order to obtain certification, you’ll need to demonstrate your welding skills. Because of this, you may want to consider enrolling in a welding training program, where you’ll learn how to master each type of welding process. Some schools will offer programs that are one to two years in length. While other schools will have shorter programs that are just six or seven months in length with an instruction that’s focused on welding certification preparation.
Once you’ve completed a training program, the next step is practicing for the certification test. This will involve going over each of the welding processes you’ve trained in and completing a solid weld for each technique. Because you have to pay for the testing, we recommend only taking the tests once you’re confident in your welding skills.
Since you may need to prepare for and take more than one test, the timeline for testing can vary for each person, especially when it comes to the types of processes the new welder wants to become certified in.
There are a couple of types of certifications that most employers will require:
- Employer certification
- AWS certification
Employer certification is basically a traditional welding certification. Employers have done welding testing for years in order to confirm that a potential employee is able to produce a quality weld before they’re hired.
But becoming a certified welder means that you’ll be required to demonstrate your skills for a variety of welding processes, not to mention metal thickness ranges, position, and metal type. Usually, the employer will test you on specific processes and metals, often the ones that are used for the job you’re applying for. You may need to take additional tests during employment if new materials or processes must be used.
Each employer will have unique certification requirements. Below is a list of the different types of certifications offered through employment testing:
Shield arc welding, gas tungsten arc gas welding, flux-cored arc welding, and gas metal arc welding will each require certification.
You can be certified for a specific process regarding one type of metal such as stainless steel or aluminum. If you’re certified for flux-cored welding on aluminum then you’ll need to be retested in order to be certified to work with stainless steel.
Metal base thickness is another area in which you’ll be tested. The thickness of base metal is what will be used to determine what type of welding jobs you’ll be qualified to work on. To learn more about welding tough metals, click here to read our article on how to weld stainless steel.
This organization utilizes a standardized way of verifying a new welder’s skills. After you complete a training program, seek this type of certification. Adding this certification to your resume can show any potential employer that you’re qualified for certain welding processes.
Certification for this organization includes hands-on practical testing in which you’ll be judged on the quality of your welds based on material type, position, process, and metal thickness. The practical knowledge portion of the exam will also test students on their knowledge of safety practices.
How Can You Prepare for Employer Certification?
The time it will take an employer to provide documentation for your test results will depend on the employer, but the American Welding Society offers a set range of time to process welder certifications, which is approximately one month.
Unfortunately, certification doesn’t last forever. In fact, you may need to get recertified every six months depending on the process, in order to maintain your certifications.
When you’re applying for a welding position, make sure you ask which type of processes you’ll be tested on. During the testing portion of the interview, you will also need to bring all of the required gear for the test, including the best MIG welder. I recommend the Sungoldpower MIG 150A Welder, which is a versatile, great entry-level model. Some employers may require you to perform the welding test portion of the interview if the sitdown portion goes well, while others will give you a date and time to come back to complete the testing portion.
How can I Prepare for AWS Certification?
This American Welding Society certified welder program is considered standardized compared to employer testing. This means the student will be able to take online practice exams and use study guides. The AWS will test a student’s safety knowledge and practical knowledge in addition to their skills for specific processes.
How to become a welder will involve completing an accredited welding training program at a local vocational school and obtaining certification through the AWS and certification through an employer, for each type of process you will be expected to perform, in addition to base metal thickness, position, and metal type. These certifications do expire after a certain period of time, so it will be up to the welder to ensure they maintain valid certification.