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Welding, Soldering and Brazing Careers, Jobs and Employment Information

Welding and Brazing Career and Job Highlights

  • Opportunities are good.
  • Several weeks of on the job training or classroom instruction all the way up to several years of school and work training can be expected, depending on the skill level of the job.

Welding, Soldering and Brazing Career and Job Description

The most routine way to permanently connect metals parts is via welding. Welding involves applying heat to metal, melting and fusing the metal pieces in order to create a permanent bond. Since welding can create extremely strong bonds it is utilized in shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing and repair, aerospace applications, and many other manufacturing practices. Beams can be connected through welding in order to build buildings, bridges, and other structures, or connect pipes in pipelines, power plants, and refineries.

There is a vast array of welding equipment that can be used by welders, and it can be used on many different surfaces including flat, vertical, horizontal, and overhead surfaces. Some workers may do manual welding, which is welding performed completely by the worker, while others may do semiautomatic welding where a worker utilizes machinery like a wire feeder to weld.

The most common for of welding is arc welding. Typical arc welding includes two big metal alligator clips which hold a strong electrical current. The first clip can be connected to any section of piece being welded. The next clip must be hooked to a thin welding rod. A strong electrical circuit is produced when the welding rod comes into contact with the piece. The electrical current creates a surge of great heat which enable the piece and the steel core of the rod both melt and connect together, and as they cool a strong bond is formed. An inert gas is created as the flux that surrounds the rod’s core becomes vaporized, serving to protect against any elements could weaken the bond during the welding process. The speed at which one welds is also vital. Fluctuations in speed can cause differences in the amount of flux being applied, which can cause the weld to be weakened, or the metal bond can also be weakened by too much heat.

Some of the most frequent but advanced kinds of welding include Gas Tungsten Arc (TIG) and Gas Metal Arc (MIG) welding. TIG welding commonly employed on stainless steel or aluminum. TIG welding utilizes welding rods, whereas MIG utilizes a spool of wire that is constantly fed, allowing the worker to weld together long sections of metal without needing to stop and get a new rod. TIG welding involves handling welding rod and an electric torch in each hand. The rod and the piece being worked on will be melted at the same time using the torch. MIG welding requires a welder to hold the wire feeder, which acts like the alligator clip used in arc welding. Rather than employing a gas flux which surrounds the rod, TIG and MIG welding form protection for the weld by blowing inert gas onto the weld.

Similar to arc welding, soldering and brazing can connect two pieces of metal by adding molten metal. Since the molten metal that is added to the mix has a lower melting point than the piece being worked, the work piece is not melted. Soldering involves work on metals which have a metal point that is under 800 degrees Fahrenheit, while brazing involves metals with melting points higher than that. Since welding actually melts the work piece it can cause distortions or weaknesses in the metal, but this does not typically occur in soldering or brazing since these processes don’t melt the piece. Frequently electronic, electrical and many small parts are joined through the soldering process. Many metals like brass and with the exception of steel are joined through the brazing process since it creates a stronger joint than that created by soldering. The brazing process is also useful when pieces need extra coatings in order to provide more protection against corroding of the metal or to limit wear and tear.

Most experienced workers that perform welding, soldering, and brazing work by following the plan they create by relying on diagrams and specs as well as their understanding of fluxes and base metals in order to make an analysis of the pieces that will be connected. After planning the weld they will choose and set up their equipment, perform the operation, and then check the welds to see that they hold up to all standards and specs. Greatly skilled workers typically will learn how to perform work using many different kinds of materials, including steel, aluminum, titanium, and plastics. Other welders may have jobs that are more limiting. These welders might only do work that is already mapped out and does not require great understanding of welding.

More and more manufacturing processes are utilizing the automation of welding systems. In automated welding a robot will weld the pieces while a welding machine operator observes the process. Specific layouts, work orders, and blueprints are followed by welding, soldering, and brazing specified layouts, work orders, or blueprints. It is the operators’ job to ensure that all the parts are loaded as desired and they must also observe the machine to make sure the right bond is being created.

Welders and arc, plasma, and oxy-gas cutters do very similar work. Cutters are in the business of utilizing heat from an electric arc, a stream of ionized gas (plasma), or burning gases to cut and trim metal objects to the required specs, rather than joining metals as welders do. Cutters also may break down big pieces of equipment, even things like ships, railroad cars, automobiles, buildings, or aircraft. Other cutters work and watch cutting machines like those operated by welding machine operators. One process becoming more popular is plasma cutting since, unlike other processes; plasma cutting can be utilized to cut many different kinds of metals such as titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel.

Welding, Soldering and Brazing Training and Job Qualifications

Welding, soldering, and brazing workers can typically have training that varies, from a few weeks to several months, receiving instruction in the class as well as on the job, depending on the skill level of the occupation they are desirous of. Many high schools, vocational schools, vocational-technical institutes, community colleges, and private welding schools offer formal training for applicants. Training can be received through welding schools run by the Armed Forces also. Training might also be sponsored by some employers. It is useful to take classes in blueprint comprehension, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy. Also, understanding computers is becoming more essential particularly for welding, brazing, and soldering machine operators since many of them are put in charge of programming computerized machines and robots.

Welders can receive certification, which involves going to an independent testing lab or technical school to be tested by performing a weld and being graded by certain codes and standards set forth by one’s employer. Employers typically adhere to a set of standards associated to the particular industry association they belong to, and the test will be run according to the associations standards. If the welder is able to pass the test according to the employer’s standards, the inspector will grant the welder certification.

To work as welding, soldering, and brazing workers one needs good vision, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity. They should also possess strong concentration skills which allow them to work at length for a long time, as well as be flexible and able to bend or stoop as needed. They also must be willing to be trained and learn how to do work and carry out other tasks associated with other manufacturing jobs.

With time on the job and more training welders can be promoted to more highly skilled welding jobs. For instance, one might advance to a supervisory or inspection position or become a welding technician or instructor. Others with lots of experience might start their own business.

Welding, Soldering and Brazing Job and Employment Opportunities

Opportunities should be great since a lot of potential workers will go to college or choose a job that provides better working conditions. Employment of welding, soldering, and brazing workers is projected to rise on pace with average for all occupations through 2012. Additionally, there will also be opportunities arising from retirements or workers who leave the industry.

The biggest factor that could change employment of workers is the economic conditions of the industries where they are working. Almost all production industries utilize welders in some way during the production process or for repair and maintenance, so good economic conditions will keep the need for welders strong. However, a turn for the worse in the auto manufacturing, construction, or petroleum industries could adversely affect jobs conditions for welders in those parts leading to some layoffs. The amount of government funding allocated to shipbuilding as well as to infrastructure repairs and improvements will be an essential factor in determining the amount of future welding positions.

Despite the economic state, many companies are feeling the pressure to produce more at lower costs which is leading them to increase the level of automated processes, particularly in computer-controlled and robotically-controlled welding machinery. The move to more automation will curb the need for some low-skilled welders, solderers, and brazers since these easy, methodical tasks can be automated. As processes become more and more automated the need for welding, soldering, and brazing machine setters, operators, and tenders will actually grow. Those workers involved in construction and repair will not be affected greatly by automation efforts since their jobs cannot easily be performed by robots.

Advancements in technology are helping create more ways to use welding on the job and helping increase employment prospects. For instance, new methods are being created to join dissimilar materials and nonmetallic materials like plastics, composites, and new alloys. Welding is also becoming more useful in more ways as the results of welding are improved through the innovations of laser beam and electron beam welding, new fluxes, etc. Technological advancements have aided in increasing productivity, allowing welding to become competitive with other ways of joining materials.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, the average wages of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers were $14.02. The middle 50 percent made anywhere form $11.41 to $17.34. The bottom 10 percent made less than $9.41, while the highest 10 percent more than $21.79 an hour.