Career Guide: How to Become a Certified Welder in Virginia

If you learn to become a welder, you’re pretty much set for life. You’ll join a sought-after profession that serves as the backbone for any industry that uses parts or builds just about anything. Think about it. From cars to construction and manufacturing to the little metal parts that hold the world together—a welder probably touched all of it. There are three million welders in the U.S. today and they are highly employable with an average salary of more than $40,000. Demand for these workers is expanding by 15% through 2026 with no real end in sight for welding jobs in VA—or anywhere else for that matter. Welders can advance to six-figure jobs if their skills are specialized or if they end up as estimators or foremen.

If you’re looking for a skilled job where you’ll be in demand, our recruiters share what you need to know to break into the field.

What is a Welder?

A welder is a skilled tradesperson that uses welding equipment in their job. Welding is the art and science of fusing things together. This includes plastics or polymers but most often metals including:

Aluminum

Brass

Stainless steel

Steel

Welding used to be unhealthy and dangerous. Today, though, personal protective equipment and newer technology allow you to protect yourself. When taking on a welding Job in Virginia, you will wear full headgear that protects you with a dark faceplate to protect your eyes. You’ll also wear long leather gloves and a long sleeve protective coat. Your workplace may even have a polyvinyl chloride plastic curtain around you to protect others from the UV light that comes off of the welding equipment. Ventilation equipment in your workspace also protects you from breathing fumes from the weld.

Welding is actually a pretty sophisticated job. Did you know there are more than 100 different techniques that welders use to fuse materials together? Some welders work underwater. Others are high in the air on skyscrapers. A welder put together the international space station. As far as “cool jobs” go, you might not think first about welding. But the Mars Rover spacecraft was welded together. It’s safe to say that if there were no welders, most manufacturing, construction, and other important fields that are a part of our everyday life would simply disappear. A certified welder plays an important role in:

  • Creating new products in manufacturing and industry
  • Building commercial airliners
  • Repairing aging infrastructures
  • Constructing ships for our nation’s military
  • New construction of power generating facilities
  • And much more

The next time you drive your car to work and take an elevator up to your office, thank a welder.

What are the Job Duties of a Welder?

Structural welding jobs include several types of tasks:

  • Reviewing blueprints that show the schematics for the product being welded.
  • Sourcing the materials or parts to be welded.
  • Measuring and cutting materials to the project specs.
  • Completing the weld to the best of their ability ensures the project is durable and long-lasting.
  • Following all safety rules for handling spark, flame, and electric current.
  • Maintaining best practices for the proper temperature of the welded surfaces as well as the flame from the torch they’re welding with.
  • Checking the welding work to be sure the completed project falls within acceptable parameters.
  • Cleaning and storing the welding equipment meticulously.

While these are a few of the basic job duties of a structural welder, what do they actually do on the job all day?

What Does a Welder Do?

What a welder does depends on the job itself. They may work with any size project, from small car parts to piping to huge steel beams that hold up some of the largest buildings in our cities. Welders must understand very specific measurements to complete their job. One miscalculation and the piece they’re working on is over. Then, in the end, they must have the attention to detail to inspect their work for any imperfections that could cause the part to fail.

Imagine how important that is for a moment. Say you’re working on welds for commercial airplanes. If the weld fails, lives depend on your work. So, while becoming a certified welder may not seem that glamourous, in fact, this is a very important job with a lot resting on your shoulders.

What Skills do Welders Need?

The job duties of a welder require several skills that can be taught but are also innate. The hard and soft skills necessary to be a welder include:

  • Understanding of metallurgy.
  • Practice in some of the various welding techniques, sus as MIG, TIG, or oxy-fuel welding.
  • Some arm strength and hand steadiness.
  • A methodical nature that allows you to concentrate precisely on the task at hand.
  • Multi-limb dexterity and coordination.
  • Good close-up vision to see the weld in front of you.
  • Physical stamina that allows you to stand for long periods or to perform repetitious movements.
  • Good troubleshooting and deductive reasoning ability.

In addition to these skills, you will need mathematical ability, attention to detail, and excellent communication skills. Let’s delve more closely into those areas.

Mathematical Ability

You’ll actually use the math you learned in high school—and then some. When you take on the job duties of a welder, you will learn to read blueprints and 2D or 3D diagrams to determine the exact volume of materials you’ll need. You’ll measure parts and will need fractions and decimals in addition to geometry, formulas, and trigonometry. You must also be able to know and calculate the various melting points of the different materials you’ll weld.

Attention to Detail

Welding is a job that requires a great deal of attention to detail. For example, you’ll need to understand what the scale is on the blueprint you’re reading. Your welds must be incredibly neat and precise. One miscut means the project could be ruined. Even minimal flaws in the project are unacceptable. Too, if you’re not paying attention, you or someone else on the job could be injured. This isn’t a job where you can sleepwalk through it.

Communication

You won’t be working alone on your project. There are workers both in front and behind you so your ability to listen and talk is critical to the job. Miscommunications at any part in the work chain can have serious ramifications. It’s a team job, and your ability to ask questions, listen carefully, and then execute are all important.

You will also need to be skilled in the type of welding you’ve learned. For example:

  • Arc welding is typically used in manufacturing and construction.
  • MIG welding is used on aluminum, mild steel, and stainless steel.
  • TIG welding uses a tungsten inert gas that is a higher quality weld that are more complex to learn.
  • Hyperbaric welding can be used underwater and is often used on pipelines, oil platforms, and ships.
  • Oxyacetylene welding uses acetylene gas and oxygen.

How to Become a Welder

If you think you have what it takes to become a welder, then there are basically six steps to become one:

1. Do some research into the types of welding jobs in VA. Virginia is known for its shipyards, so you may consider maritime work. Or, there may be a different type of structural welding job that may be a better fit. Research the types of education you can undergo, whether it’s through a certified school or an apprenticeship.

2. Take some welding courses as the next step. At the very least you’ll learn if you’re really going to like being a welder. Most welding jobs in Virginia require at least a high school degree. You may want to brush up on math courses you’ll use in the job, like geometry.

3. Go after a certificate of welding. Community colleges typically are great places to seek out certifications. Welding certification programs generally run from six months to up to two years. Not only do these programs offer classroom education you will get to practice your craft. You can even pursue a BA in welding to increase your marketability to employers.

4. Then you make seek out an apprenticeship. Some welding certification programs place you in jobs where you get to try your skills. It’s a great opportunity to shadow seasoned welders and learn more on-the-job tricks of the trade. You may even decide to stay on in the company you’ve apprenticed to.

5. You’ll also complete a certification in the type of welding you’re pursuing. There are many welding certifications out there, but typically we see the basic AWS Certified Welder as the groundwork for a good welding job in the Virginia market. There is a written portion of the test as well as a test of your welding skills as part of the process.

6. Pursue a job. While you may say on in your apprenticeship, you may also decide to begin a job search. Like any job, you’ll need to develop a resume that lists your skills, experiences, and credentials.

Find a Welding Job with CTR Today

Now that you know the job duties of a welder, it’s time to look for Virginia welding jobs. CTR Corporation specializes in welding staffing, so if you’re interested in Temp to Hire, Permanent Placement, or Temporary welding jobs, CTR is the employment agency for you. We work closely with our business clients and talented candidates looking for welding jobs. The CTR team can help you find the best jobs with the best pay in the best work environments. Contact our skilled trades staffing agency to find out more.

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