Looking to study welding as a career? You have several options available. What your intermediate and long term goals are will help you to determine if you should attend a trade and technical school or consider an associate’s degree; along with how long it will take you to finish.
You’ll want to choose a school that offers the best combination of methods in the areas that interest you. Professional welders must master the three basic welding processes. You’ll want to be sure your welding school offers SMAW/Stick, GMAW/MIG and GTAW/TIG welding training. These three basics processes will help you to tackle most welding projects you’ll face on the job.
Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), also known unofficially as stick welding, is a manual arc welding process that uses an electrode covered with a flux to lay the weld. Because of the flexibility of the process and the straightforwardness of its equipment and procedures, shielded metal arc welding is one of the world’s first and most popular welding processes.
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), sometimes referred as metal inert gas (MIG) welding or metal active gas (MAG) welding, is a welding process in which an electric arc forms between a consumable MIG wire electrode and the workpiece metal(s), which heats the work piece metal(s), causing them to melt and join. Originally created in the 1940s for joining aluminum and other non-ferrous materials, GMAW was then quickly applied to steels because it provided faster welding time when compared to other welding processes.
Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is an arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. GTAW is most commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. The process grants a welder much greater control over the weld than rival processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding. This allows for stronger, higher quality welds. GTAW is more complex and difficult to master, and it is significantly slower than most other welding techniques.
Combination welding – These courses will help you learn pipe welding and plate welding, too. Combination welding is considered a specialty within the field of welding. Combination welders will often put together different types of metal to create machine parts, equipment and motors. They also have to repair metal pieces.
Reading blueprints – Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics along with having pipefitting skills will be absolutely critical to your professional success. To enhance your learning, you can also enroll in classes like metallurgy, welding theory and metal identification.
Welding certifications – Keep the end of this process in mind. Find out if your school offers in-house welding certification tests. You can always take these on your own with the help of a third party, but a school that offers these courses present a good sign that they fully understand welding jobs.
Welders who are truly skilled at their trade never stop learning. While nothing replaces what you learn working in the field, the more experience and knowledge you can gain before you take your first job, the better you will be able to handle whatever comes up in the real world. But never bluff or assume that you know something you don’t. The costs and delays can add up and effect the reputation of the company that you are working for.
Earning a Degree
The length of associate’s degree welding programs will require time. When attending a welding school that offers an associate’s degree, you will find that the length of welding school can typically range anywhere between twelve and twenty-four months. While a degree is not required to become a welder, many employers will be impressed when they see the depth of training, experience and certifications on your resume. Earning your degree is a highly positive thing. In fact, it could prove to be quite helpful if you decide to apply for a leadership or management position, change employers or return to school sometime down the line to either advance your studies or pursue a different degree.
Exotic Welding Programs
Another option you can consider is welding exotic metals and alloys. Not everything that is welded together is based around steel. There are a host of manufactures, plants and factories that utilize different metals for the various products they create. If you become a more specialized welder, you can earn both professional respect and even more money. But learning how to weld different metals will require a longer time to learn these specialized techniques. Understanding all of the chemistry, metallurgy and physics that underlay this type of welding is key to your long-term success.
Typically, underwater welding schools require about 7 to 12 months for you to complete a standard training program. Learning about welding types and techniques is only one component of your underwater welding school experience. You will also have to become a certified diver and an expert in salvage operations. While you do not need prior welding experience to go to underwater welding school, knowledge is a powerful tool in dealing with the uncertainties that can occur in an environment like this. Realize that you can ultimately wind up working in situations that vary with climate and season, as well other variables in which you find yourself operating.
A final warning
Take the time to prepare the proper foundation for your welding career. Take the time to learn the skills and lessons which will make you a valued employee. Check to see if your program is certified by both industry and the state. Be willing to put in your time to learn all the ins and outs. Some trade schools will make a claim that you can be a certified welder in as little as 90 days. Any experienced welder will tell you this simply isn’t enough time to learn little more than the bare minimum.