How Much Do Welders Make?

A career as a welder is a smart, blue-collar choice because a college diploma is not required. You can enter this field and start earning an entry-level welder salary with moderate on-the-job training.

Demand is high primarily due to a lack of skilled welders.

In the next ten-year period, the field is expected to add 14,500 employees. One of the first questions asked when considering this field is: what’s the starting welder salary?

How Much Does Welding Pay Per Year?

Welding pay varies. You’ll enter the field requiring training, and if you stay in the field long enough, you’ll become a specialist who is earning a top-tier salary.

The American Welding Society estimates that there will be a shortage of 375,000 welders by 2026 and 200,000 by 2020.

Lack of skilled workers is likely to push welder salaries even higher than the average.

The Average Welder Salary

Welder salary varies by skill and industry. The best means of narrowing down your potential salary is to find the salary in your niche. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the median pay in 2019 for welders.

Median pay was:

  • $42,490, or
  • $20.43 hourly

If we dig deeper into the figures, we see Indeed.com list the average base salary of welders at $17.88 an hour. There is, however, a big discrepancy because there’s also a listing of:

  • $18.96 for welders with less than one-year of experience
  • $16.31 for welders with 1 to 2 years of experience
  • $20.43 for welders with 10+ years of experience

What I surmise from these figures is that the average hourly pay is up this year because there’s not enough skilled labor available. Shortages of skilled labor have allowed many welders to enter the field at a higher salary than just a year prior.

Starting Pay for a Welder

Welders today are making more than in years past, and this is reflective in the salaries listed above. Based on those salaries, a welder making $18.96 an hour would earn $39,400 during their first year in the industry.

It’s important to negotiate a higher salary as soon as possible because once you have skills and experience, you can seek a position as a welder in another field.

Between 2015 and 2019, the average worker entering the field making more than $17 an hour rose from: 26% to 43%.

A lot of companies reported turning work away because there weren’t enough welders to fill demand. Lack of skilled workers led to a boost in wages in 2018 in an effort to lure in more laborers.

There has also been a shift in the market because of minimum wage growth.

Many metropolitan areas in the United States increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the rise in minimum wage has also helped bring up salaries for starting welders.

But you need to be careful.

You’re entering a field that is in high demand, and while the percentage of people making $17+ an hour has risen sharply, there has also been an increase in the number of workers earning less than $10 an hour.

Demand higher pay if you’re being offered this low rate – you have a valuable skill.

Experience and Education Matter

You can enter the field with a high school diploma, making it an attractive choice for anyone who doesn’t want to go to a traditional four-year college. Trades are a great way to make a good wage, and a welder salary demonstrates this very well.

There are two ways to increase your welder salary:

  1. Experience
  2. Education

Experience comes with time, and if you want to make the most of your time, make sure that your skills continue to evolve. Tackle new niches, work to learn about new welding techniques, and make the years building up experience count.

Education is still a great way to make the most out of your time.

If you want to start off with a higher salary, there needs to be a tradeoff for your employer. The tradeoff can be not having to undergo training while on-the-job. Technical schools eliminate the initial learning curve, allowing you to make more money.

The current landscape is allowing many welders that go to technical school to earn $30 to $35 an hour after being in the industry for 7 to 8 years.

That’s double the pay of an entry-level welder.

It’s great money.

Another quick note about maximizing your salary is to demand more. Quit rate, of the percentage of welders that quit to go to a higher paying position, is near all-time highs. Welders are following in the footsteps of the tech industry:

  • Work in a position for a year or two
  • Seek a new position paying $1 to $2+ more per hour

You may not want to switch careers rapidly, but the issue is that your employer will not give you a pay bump to match current industry rates. Looking back at the hourly wages before, you can see that welders that have one to two years of experience are earning less than those with less than a year of experience.

Why?

Employers may have started these welders at $15 an hour and have given them a $1 raise. But the welder isn’t keeping on top of the market or doesn’t know that the new guy is making more with less experience.

Management may not want to give you a $3+ raise, so they’ll keep you in your position for as long as you accept the lower wage.

Welder I to Welder III Salary Progression

Salary progression is expected in every field. As you move from a welder that needs to be supervised and trained to a welder that companies depend on to keep their operations moving along, you’ll be able to demand a higher salary.

You may find a lot of positions for:

  • Welder I
  • Welder II
  • Welder III

Think of these positions being entry-level to senior positions. Each position will demand a higher paying salary and experience.

Welder I

An entry-level position, with compensation being $38,110 – $48,110. The average salary is around the $42,700 range. The salary range only goes up from here. Keep in mind that this is not total compensation and doesn’t include bonuses that you may receive.

Welder II

The second level welder will have a median salary of $49,850. You’ll notice a much larger discrepancy between the bottom 10% of workers and the top 10% of workers in this position. Lower level workers will earn near $39,000,while the top 10% of workers will earn upwards of $61,000+.

Welder III

The highest position where you’ve put in years of work and have been working as a welder for near or over a decade. When you enter this position, you’ll enjoy a median salary of $60,300. The top 10% of welders in this position will earn $78,000+ while the bottom 10% earn $45,800.

Some welders can enter this position in 7 years. Work hard, continue advancing and don’t be afraid to seek new positions to demand a higher wage. You will be the one that companies rely on for inspecting structures and the welds to ensure that they’re sound.

Cities pay their workers differently, with some cities paying significantly more than others.

Cities Paying the Highest Salaries

A welder salary is also dependent on the city in which they’re employed. If you’re in Newport News, VA, you’ll earning the highest pay of $27.22 per hour because demand is higher. There are a lot of other cities where the pay is great:

  • San Diego, CA – $25.20
  • Houston, TX – $20.53
  • Phoenix, AZ – $19.75
  • Jacksonville, FL – $19.35

States where welders earn more are:

  • Alaska – 54% higher salary
  • Connecticut – 32% higher salary
  • Wyoming – 30% higher salary
  • New Mexico – 29% higher salary
  • Rhode Island – 27% higher salary
  • North Dakota – 21% higher salary
  • Louisiana – 16% higher salary
  • California – 14% higher salary
  • Montana – 10% higher salary

You’ll also find a few states where the average salary is lower than the national average. While it may be impossible to not work in these states if you have friends, family or a house in them, others may not want to work in the following states because welder salary is below average:

  • Ohio – 12% less than the average salary
  • Nebraska – 15% less than the average salary
  • West Virginia – 15% less than the average salary
  • Arkansas – 18% less than the average salary

There are a few additional states where the welder salary is lower, but none of the states have the same difference level as those listed above.

If you don’t mind moving to another state to land a job, you’ll find that the following states have the most welding jobs:

  • Texas – 52,000+
  • California – 28,000+
  • Ohio – 18,000+
  • Pennsylvania – 16,000+
  • Wisconsin – 15,000+

Maximizing your earnings means going to work in hotspots where welding pay is higher. But there’s one other way to raise your welder salary: choose one of the highest paying jobs.

The high-end jobs, primarily underwater welding, are some of the most dangerous in the world. The work is intense, and landing a position is very difficult, but salary can be as high as $300,000 a year as an underwater welder.

Choose the industry you want to work in carefully for a quick boost to your earning potential.

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs for Welders?

The best paying welding jobs demand the most experience, and they’re in the highest demand. You’ll find it difficult to find many welding opportunities in the highest paying fields because the welders in these fields rarely leave their positions.

With that said, if you’re willing to put in hard work and wait for your opportunity to move up, you have the potential to enter any of these high paying jobs.

Opportunities exist at some of the largest corporations in the United States:

  • Toyota – $39.41/hour
  • SpaceX – $36.99/hour
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries – $26/hour
  • General Electric – $23/hour
  • Caterpillar – $21/hour
  • Trinity Inc – $17/hour
  • Eaton Corp – $17/hour

You’ll also find jobs from many other companies, including but in no means limited to:

  • Great Dane Trailers
  • Waste Management
  • Lippert Components
  • McDermott
  • Bechtel

Top Paying Welder Positions

Welding is a career that can be very satisfying. You need to consider the dangers that come with the industry and the position. The following positions offer the highest welder salary and risks:

Pipeline Welder

Welders in this field are the lifeline of the infrastructure industry, including positions in:

  • Oil
  • Gas
  • Water

As long as basic resources are required in society, you’ll find room in this industry. Salary ranges in this industry are $35,000 to $58,000 per year. You’ll find that the vast majority of positions are on oil rigs and in refineries.

You can also find pipeline welder openings in the following industries:

  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Fabrication
  • Nuclear
  • Shipbuilding

The military is known for hiring pipeline welders. You’ll be working on hard-to-reach infrastructure with responsibilities of producing high-quality welders. The positioning and scope of the work is intense, but it’s a position that is in high demand with a lot of upside.

Underwater Welder

Welders that want to make the highest salary will often specialize in underwater welding. The industry does have positions with salaries of up to $300,000, but these salaries are going to require decades of experience.

A more realistic underwater welder salary will range from $60,000 to $105,000.

If you look at the top and bottom 10% of workers, you’ll find that the average salary in these extremes are:

  • $30,700 on the bottom
  • $115,000 on the top

But this intense position is very demanding and will require you to perform all of your welding underwater. You will have to become a diver and will be paid for your inherent risks as a result.

You’ll have to deal with:

  • Intense work conditions
  • Barometric pressure
  • Travel

The position may require you to travel and be away from home for long periods of time. You’ll be performing both:

  • Dry welding
  • Wet welding

You’ll often be welding in a specialized, sealed chamber. The hyperbaric chamber forces the water out of the chamber and allows you to begin welding.

Intense, you will need to undergo extensive training and will have to become proficient in diving. A few of the skills that you’ll be required to learn and often become certified in are:

  • SCUBA diving
  • Underwater welding
  • Topside welding

You may also be working for the military in this position, with a lot of Navy builders in this field.

Welding Technician

A welding technician is a great path to pursue because you can reach the entry-level status in just five years. Entering the field of a welding technician means that you’ll be working in one of the two fields:

  • Construction
  • Assembly

You can be a contractor and dictate your pay and schedule if you want. The industry requires you to work with a variety of metals and master the welding skills needed for each respective metal.

Different skills and techniques will be needed to enter the field and be well-rounded enough to enter the position.

The salary range is $51,000 to $62,000.

You’ll also find that there’s ample opportunity to earn:

  • Overtime
  • Bonuses

Experience will go a long way in enhancing your skillset and allow you to demand a higher welder salary.

Welding is a Solid, Essential Career

A career as a welder is one that is highly profitable and always in demand. The trades, including welding, are always going to be essential because the structures that need welding cannot be neglected.

If a welder suddenly becomes obsolete, this puts the military, energy, oil and key infrastructure at risk.

Welding is a skill that is always in high demand, and with an expected gap in skilled welders in the next few years, it’s a field where the salary of a welder is only going to increase. If you don’t mind switching jobs and always seeking the highest salary, welding can be very profitable.

Always demand more, and keep on top of starting and current salary levels.

With such a void in the industry, you’ll be able to find employment rapidly. You don’t need a college degree, but you will be able to demand a higher salary when you go to a tech school that offers rapid training and real-world applications.

Job security is high in the field, so you won’t have to be concerned of not finding a job if a recession hits or the economy begins to slow.