Welders and cutters weld components in vertical, flat or overhead positions. They start power supplies and strike arcs by touching electrodes to metals being welded. Welders and cutters tack-weld, heat-bend, grind, clamp, hold or bolt component parts to obtain required configurations and positions for welding. They detect defective materials or faulty operation of equipment and notify supervisors.
Solderers and Brazers use gas torches, soldering irons or electric-ultrasonic equipment to melt and apply solder along adjoining edges of work pieces. They also use gas flames or electric current to heat soldering irons or work pieces to specified temperatures. Solderers and Brazers rework defective joints or broken parts and examine seams for defects. They use hand torches, irons or furnaces to melt and separate brazed or soldered joints.
- Welders and cutters use processes such as tungsten, gas metal arc, arc, flux-cored arc, plasma arc and more to fuse metal segments.
- Solderers and brazers use soldering equipment to melt and apply solder to fill indentations, holes and seams of fabricated metal products.
- Welding, soldering, and brazing workers are often exposed to several hazards, including very hot materials and the arc intense light.
Work Environment for Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers
Welders and cutters may work in inclement weather outdoors, or indoors, sometimes in a confined area designed to contain sparks and glare. Outdoors, they may work on a platform or scaffold high off the ground. They may be required to work in odd positions and lift heavy objects. They might also bend stoop or stand to perform work overhead.
Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers wear goggles, safety shoes, hoods with protective lenses, and other devices designed to prevent eye injuries and burns. About 50% of welders, solderers and brazers work a 40-hour week. Overtime is common and nearly 1 out of 5 welders work 50 hours per week or more. Welders also may work in shifts as long as 12 hours. Some welders, solderers and brazers work in factories that operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Education, Training and Licensing
To work as a welder, cutter, solderer or brazer, formal training is available in high schools, vocational-technical institutes, community colleges and private welding schools. Also, the U.S. Armed Forces operate welding schools. Although some employers provide training, they prefer to hire workers who already have experience or formal training. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy are helpful. An understanding of electricity is also beneficial. Since understanding the welding process and inspecting welds is important for both welders and welding machine operators, companies hiring machine operators prefer workers with a background in welding.
Some welding positions require general certifications in welding or certifications in specific skills such as inspection or robotic welding. The American Welding Society certification courses are offered at many welding schools; however some employers have developed their own internal certification tests.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings
Welders, cutters, solderers and brazers held 357,740 jobs in May 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some positions in this field include maintenance welder, mig welder, welder-fitter, fabricator and sub arc operator.
The Occupational Information Network (ONET) expects employment in this field to increase only 2% from 2008 to 2018, which is little or no growth as compared to all occupations.
BLS reports indicate that the median annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $34,750 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $28,300 and $42,420. While the lowest 10% had an annual income at or below $23,420, the top 10% earned upwards of $52,420 per year.