You love building things and working with your hands, so you want to become a welder. What kind of credential do you need to launch your welding career? Is a one-year certificate enough or do you need a degree?
Welding is a trade, and there are many ways to learn: in school, on-the-job, or in an apprenticeship program. In the past, most welders learned the trade through an apprenticeship, but today the most common introduction to welding comes from completing a vocational program. However, for most welders their education doesn’t stop there—there are more than 100 different welding processes, and with advances in technology, the field is becoming more complex. Now, in addition to vocational courses and apprenticeship programs, there are certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s, and even graduate degrees available in welding technology.
Over a series of two articles, we will look at the types of welding credentials available and the jobs they can prepare you to do.
One-year certificate in welding technology
Beyond high school vocational courses, the most basic type of welding credential is the one-year certificate in welding technology. This credential is offered by most technical schools and community colleges that have welding programs. It prepares students to take the introductory American Welding Society (AWS) certification exams and enter the trade as an entry-level welder. Students in one-year certificate programs take courses in basic math and science, how to read blueprints, welding principles, and common welding processes like gas tungsten arc welding. The programs combine classroom work with time spent in a laboratory, where students can practice their techniques and gain hands-on experience.
If you are looking for the fastest way to enter the welding trade, this is it. After graduating from an accredited, AWS-approved program and passing the certification test, you will be ready to enter the workforce as a beginning welder.
Associate’s Degree in Welding Technology
Getting an associate’s degree is a great way to move beyond entry-level positions and increase your lifetime earning potential. Students in associate’s degree programs complete the same basic coursework as those in certificate programs, as well as classes in computer-aided design, electronics, inspection and fabrication, and metallurgy. They also take general education courses, including social science and the humanities, to round out their education.
Associate’s degrees generally take two years to complete, and graduates are prepared to move up the career ladder as welding technicians and supervisors. In addition, degrees are becoming more important as the job market becomes more competitive, and today many employers prefer to hire candidates with degrees, even for entry-level positions. Many schools offer both one-year certificates and two-year associate’s degrees, so you can complete the certificate first and then transfer your credits into a degree program later.
In the next post, we’ll look at bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees available in welding.
Stark State College. One-year certificate in welding technology.
Ferris State University. Associates degree welding technology.