California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers in San Diego County

May also be called: Cutting Torch Operators; Fabricators; Iron Cutters; Maintenance Welders; Metal Welders; Arc Cutters; Arc Welders; Combination Welders; Gas Welders; and Steel Welders.

Specialties within this occupation include: Underwater Welders.

What Would I Do?

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers use manual or automatic arc or gas equipment to join metal parts together by melting metal. Welding is used in the construction of ships, spacecraft parts, buildings, bridges, and refineries, among others. Welding processes are used by ornamental ironworkers, sheet-metal workers, and structural and reinforcing iron and metal workers. There are over 80 different welding processes recognized by the American Welding Society.

Cutters use heat from an electric arc or stream of ionized or burning gasses to cut and trim metal objects to meet blueprint or work order specifications. Cutters may dismantle large objects such as ships, railroad cars, buildings, or aircraft.

Solderers use welding to join metal pieces together by melting an additional filler metal to bind the pieces. Soldering is commonly used in electronics and electrical manufacturing to connect items to or on a circuit board.

Brazers use metals with a higher melting point than soldering to join (or braze) metal parts using a hand torch and melting only the brazing material used to join the pieces. This process can be used to cover parts to delay corrosion and is often used in the construction industry.

An apprentice Welder begins as a helper to an experienced Welder performing manual labor and routine, repetitive welding processes while progressing to more difficult tasks. Once reaching journey-level status, employers expect the Welder to be able to read blueprints, perform layout work, and possess basic manipulative welding skills. A master Welder is expected to be knowledgeable in welding metallurgy, correctly identify the different metals being used, know their characteristic reactions under intense heat, and understand the welding processes best suited for each metal. All Welders need a practical knowledge of fabricating and assembling operations in the field in which they are working.

One of the most common types of welding is shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). The SMAW procedure involves using two welding electrical leads carrying a strong electrical current. One lead is attached to any part of the piece being welded and the other to an electrode holder that controls the actual welding rod (electrode) used. When the electrode touches the piece, a powerful electrical circuit is created which produces an electrical arc that provides heat. This heat melts both the base metal and the electrode together forming a solid bond (weld) when cooled. The speed in which the Welder moves the heat source can ultimately affect the physical and mechanical properties of the finished weld.

Other electrical arc welding processes exist such as gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding. These processes use specialty shielding gasses to protect the weld metal from atmospheric contaminants that can affect the finished weld.

Combination Welders are skilled in the use of both electrical arc and chemical welding apparatus processes. They join metal parts together according to layouts, blueprints, or work orders using gas welding, brazing, or a combination of other electric arc welding processes. They also perform related tasks such as flame cutting, silver soldering, and silver brazing. They may position and clamp together components of fabricated, cast, forged, or welded metal parts in preparation to perform the weld.

Underwater Welders are commercial divers—not scuba divers—skilled in underwater welding. The most skilled Underwater Welder can plan the job through use of video or photography and report on the requirements to complete the job. The skilled Welder-Diver spends the most time preparing for the weld by cutting, cleaning, and outfitting the welding site.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Operate safety equipment, and use safe work habits.Mechanical
Weld components in flat, horizontal, vertical, or overhead positions.Manual Dexterity
Ignite oxy fuel torches or start power supplies and establish electrical arcs by touching electrodes to base metals, thus completing the electrical circuits.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Clamp, hold, tack-weld, heat-bend, grind and/or bolt component parts to obtain required joint configurations and positions for welding.Equipment Selection
Detect faulty operation of equipment and/or defective materials, and notify supervisors.Critical Thinking
Heat soldering irons or work pieces to specified temperatures for soldering, using gas flames or electric current.Finger Dexterity
Melt and separate brazed or soldered joints to remove and straighten damaged or misaligned components, using hand torches, irons or furnaces.Multilimb Coordination
Melt and apply solder to fill holes, indentations, and seams of fabricated metal products, using soldering equipment.Near Vision
Examine seams for defects, and rework defective joints or broken parts.Quality Control Analysis
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Welders work under normal shop conditions. Welding is used by so many industries that the working conditions vary considerably from indoors to outdoors and light to heavy jobs. Those who work contract jobs, such as construction, are required to drive to work sites. Welders may work on scaffolds or platforms high off the ground or in confined areas designed to contain sparks and glare. Physical activity depends on the type of job and may include lifting heavy objects and equipment, reaching, walking, climbing, stooping, kneeling, and crawling. A journey-level Welder can weld in horizontal, vertical, and overhead positions. Welders must be physically fit, able to reach out in any direction, bend, and stoop. Workers should have good muscular coordination and dexterity as they may be required to weld in awkward positions for long periods of time or work in cramped quarters.

Welders are exposed to a number of hazards including ultraviolet light, dangerous fumes, and super-heated metals. Welders wear safety shoes, goggles, hoods with protective lenses, and other equipment designed to prevent burns and eye injuries. They normally work in well-ventilated areas to limit their exposure to fumes. Welders must always be alert to avoid injury to themselves or others.

The normal workweek for Welders is 40 hours. They may be required to work overtime and weekends to meet project deadlines. Some work in factories that operate around the clock requiring shift work.

Welders work in many industries that are represented by trade unions. Many of today's welding occupations are covered by bargaining agreements for iron workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, ship builders, plumbers, automobile makers, and construction workers.

Will This Job Fit Me?

This occupation appeals to those who like practical, hands-on problems and solutions dealing with metals, tools, and machinery. The job of Welders satisfies those with realistic interests who enjoy building things.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2015 for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers in California was $39,034 annually, or $18.77 hourly. The median wage for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers in San Diego County was $46,199 annually, or $22.21 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2015Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$31,390$39,034$52,367
San Diego County$36,571$46,199$56,286
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2015 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits usually include holidays, vacation, and sick leave. Many are also covered by health and life insurance and pension plans through either company or trade union agreements. Self-employed Welders are responsible for providing their own benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Manufacturing companies have reduced their need for low-skilled Welders by investing in automated welding techniques, such as robots. However, as demand for machinery and equipment and other steel products continues, the need for welding will continue for repair and maintenance. Also, opportunities will continue to grow as technology improves the quality, reduces the cost, and increases the application of welding. Opportunities will be greatest for those who are certified or skilled in current welding processes and equipment.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers are expected to increase by 6.5 percent, or 1,600 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers are expected to increase by 6.1 percent, or 180 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
24,70026,3001,6006.56,100
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
2,9403,1201806.1720
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 160 new job openings per year is expected for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers, plus an additional 610 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 770 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 19 new job openings per year is expected for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers, plus an additional 72 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 91 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
160610770
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
197291
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Employers prefer to hire candidates with a high school diploma or equivalent. Training in welding is offered in some high schools, several adult schools, the military, vocational schools, community colleges and private welding schools. Several trade unions also offer welding apprenticeship training. An associate's degree in welding—particularly in combination welding—will increase earning potential as a skilled craftsman and possibility of advancement.

Experience

Most employers prefer to hire Welders who have experience or formal training. The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. Experience can be obtained through apprenticeship programs which require many hours of on-the-job training along with classroom instruction.

Early Career Planning

High school students should take courses in English, math, welding, mechanical drawing, metal working, physics, chemistry, computer programming, and other shop courses to prepare for a career in this occupation.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

Apprentice Welders learn their trade while working on the job. They also attend evening classes for technical training. Many apprenticeship programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. Training in welding is offered by various trade associations since welding plays a part in many industries. These programs offer training in many specialty areas such as welding, soldering, and brazing. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Welding training programs are offered through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP).  To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is not required; however, workers are encouraged to update their knowledge and skills to keep pace with new developments in metals, equipment, and processes. Unions offer lifelong training for journey-level members to update and expand their skills by attending classes. Trade associations offer various conferences and training to learn new skills and update current skills.

Licensing and Certification

To become a licensed Welding Contractor, one must pay the licensing fees and pass the appropriate exams and fingerprint background check to obtain a contractor's license through the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. Licenses are valid for two years and must be renewed. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Welders working on jobs in which failure of welds can be dangerous or life threatening must be certified. Voluntary certification is available through the American Welding Society and other trade unions in a variety of welding processes. The certification demonstrates that the holder has the knowledge, education, and experience to competently perform welding operations. To qualify for certification, the Welder must take a written exam, pay appropriate fees, and successfully pass a welding performance test. The renewal process requires submittal of maintenance forms every six months to verify that the certificate holder is still performing the qualifying welding process. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Architectural and Structural Metals 11.1%
Utility System Construction 5.9%
Building Foundation/Exterior Contractors 5.5%
Ship and Boat Building 3.9%
Commercial Machinery Repair/Maintenance 3.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Welders find jobs through labor organizations or by directly contacting employers. Newspaper and Internet ads also provide helpful resources for local job openings. Trade associations may also provide job search assistance. Students can register with their school placement center for job leads and use other career services. Those seeking employment should be prepared to take on-the-spot written and welding performance tests. Other pre-employment screening requirements may include submission of union cards verifying journey-level status and proof of Welder certification. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers.

  • Brazing
  • Metal
  • Ornamental Metal Work
  • Welding

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

If Welders wish to advance in their trade, they should keep abreast of innovations in the field. Routes to advancement vary with company policy, location, and type of work. The most common step is from journey-level to lead or shop foreperson or supervisor.

In the few plants that employ large numbers of workers, Welders can advance to various teaching, foreperson, inspector jobs, or to a job as layout worker. Knowledge of layout procedure, blueprint reading, welding costs, materials, and welding machine maintenance will increase promotional possibilities. Some enter business for themselves.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems AssemblersProfile
Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Drilling and Boring Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Foundry Mold and CoremakersProfile
Molding, Coremaking, and Casting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Plating and Coating Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and PlasticProfile
Pourers and Casters, MetalProfile
Tool and Die MakersGuide
Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and TendersProfile

Other Sources

  • American Welding Society
         www.aws.org
  • Contractors State License Board
         www.cslb.ca.gov
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers
         www.ironworkers.org
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
         www.goiam.org
  • International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
         www.boilermakers.org
  • International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
         www.uaw.org
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
         www.ua.org
  • United Steelworkers
         www.usw.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification51-4121
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Welders, Cutters, and Welder Fitters51-4121.06
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
   Solderers and Brazers51-4121.07
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Welding Technology/Welder 480508
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Welding Technology095650