Welding is a demanding trade—welders work with hazardous materials like very hot metals in environments ranging from manufacturing plants to construction sites. Because of the highly technical nature of the work and the ever-present possibility of injury, it is important that welders are competent and well trained with up-to-date knowledge and skills. The best way to ensure that you are ready to do the job safely and correctly is to pursue formal training. There are five main types of institutions that offer welding programs: high schools, vocational or trade schools, community colleges, private institutions, and the U.S. Armed Forces.
High School Vocational Courses
Some high schools offer courses in welding. These can range from individual metal work courses to full two-year welding programs at vocational high schools. If the school has a special arrangement with a community college, the courses taken at the high school level may be eligible for community college credit.
Vocational or Trade Schools
Vocational or trade schools (also called technical schools) offer programs for students who are interested in entering the workforce right away. The programs at these institutions can take from six months to two years to complete, depending on the format, schedule, and type and level of the courses. The programs at these schools usually focus specifically on technical, rather than general, education, and upon graduation, students earn either a diploma or a certificate.
Many community colleges offer welding technology programs, at either the certificate or the associate’s degree level. The main difference between these programs is that an associate’s degree usually takes about two years to complete and students must complete general education requirements (like math, English, and history) as well as their welding courses.
Private welding institutions are schools that offer programs specifically for welders, rather than a broad range of trade or general education programs. These institutions offer courses at all levels, for beginning welders as well as those interested in upgrading their skills. Because these institutions focus entirely on welding, they often offer specialize training programs that are not available at other types of schools.
U.S. Armed Forces
If you are a former or current member of the military, you may be eligible to attend a welding school operated by the U.S. Armed Forces. For example, the Air Force has an Aircraft Metals Technology program available at the degree level. For more information about these programs, contact the branch of the military with which you are associated.
As you can see, as someone considering a welding education, you have many choices. Which is the best option for you depends on your goals, your schedule, and a variety of other factors. Whichever type of program you choose, make sure that the school you attend is recognized by the American Welding Society—this will help ensure that upon graduating you will have access to the best possible jobs.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
South Puget Sound Community College. Welding technology.
U.S. Air Force. Aircraft metals technology.