Welding, like other skilled trades, is suffering from a shortage of new welders as the experienced ones retire. That means companies across industries all over the U.S. are scrambling for skilled welders.
Couple that with the post COVID-19 pandemic labor shortage, and it’s one of the best times in history to get into the welding profession.
The American Welding Society is the professional organization that serves the welding industry and offers the basic Certified Welder certificate. AWS certifications are the gold standard throughout the U.S.; even public high schools consult closely with the AWS to keep their technical curriculum up-to-date.
Some municipalities across the US require special licenses to work within the city, even if you have a statewide certification. In Texas, for the most part, you can work in any city with a state certification.
The AWS also has certification waiver programs if you are already certified by organizations like the International Institute of Welding, for example.
What Welding Certifications are Available?
AWS credentials are transferable across the U.S., but you may need additional licenses depending on which locality you plan to work in.
Here are certifications the AWS offers and a little bit about what new skills and jobs will open up to you with each:
This is the basic certification you need from the AWS to be a welder in the U.S. There are no prerequisites, you just have to pay the application fee of $35 and pass the exam. The exam is written and practical.
Certified Welding Inspector
All welding projects need quality control. Welds are the structural crux of many large structures like cell phone towers, bridges, skyscrapers, airframes and more. Weld failures can be catastrophic.
An inspector certification allows you to understand the nuances of different materials and how they react in different conditions, and how all those factors relate to the quality and integrity of any weld.
The inspector certification comes in three levels:
- Associate Certified Welding Inspector
- Certified Welding Inspector
- Senior Certified Welding Inspector
Certified Welding Educator
Lots of school districts, municipalities and companies that want to offer continuing education internally look for this certification. It’s a handy one to have if you enjoy mentoring younger professionals. Given the shortage of skilled welders entering the field, you can help the grow the profession with this certification, too.
Certified Resistance Welding Technician
Resistance welding uses pressure and electrical current to join two pieces of material. This is a handy technique as no extra material is needed to execute the weld. This certification is a useful tool to have in your belt as this more efficient technique is gaining traction in more industrial applications.
Certified Radiographic Interpreter
Understand readouts from radiographic (X-ray) scans and ultrasonic scans of welds. This expertise will let you discover whether a particular weld is faulty or structurally sound by observing images. This is a handy certification to pair with any of the weld inspector certifications.
Certified Robotic Arc Welder
Control a robotic welder. This specialized technique requires its own skillset. The robotic welder is necessary because of the huge amount of heat and precision involved in these welds.
Certified Welding Engineer
Thorough understanding of welding procedures, methods and the related trades. They can read inspection reports and interface with production-level welders, inspectors, project managers and structural engineers, alike, to ensure they use the right kind of welds, and that those welds are guaranteed to be structurally sound throughout any project.
Certified Welding Supervisor
Welding supervisors have a lot of hats to wear. The most important is the helmet; supervisors coordinate job site safety for production-level workers. “To be effective, they need to have and use a wide range of knowledge, including welding safety, supervision, planning, fabrication, inspection, documentation, and economics,” according to the AWS.
Certified Welding Sales Rep
You can’t sell services or products without thorough knowledge. Welding sales reps “relay information concerning new technologies that can improve the productivity, reliability, and quality of welding processes,” according to the AWS.
What are the Requirements for Being a Welder in Texas?
You’ll likely have to take classes through your technical program at your high school to get the necessary classroom and basic practical skills. If you’re switching into welding as an adult, the AWS offers all sorts of seminars and curriculum, depending on where you are in your career and what path you want to take.
These educational programs can run as long as 18 months and cost from a few thousand bucks to more than $50,000, according to WeldingTroop, an online trade magazine. You should pick a program through the AWS or a local/state licensing body.
The market for such educational programs across professions is filled with firms trying to get easy money without providing much value. Do your research and, ideally, get tips on picking an education program from someone who is already in the industry.
How Much Money Can You Make as a Welder in Texas?
Salary averages for welders throughout the metro areas of Texas run from $40,000 per year ($19.23-per-hour wage) to about $63,000 ($30.29-per-hour wage) per year, depending on the part of Texas you're working in. These are estimates from SkillsetGroup's 2023 Salary Guides, geographically adjusted and listed by profession in our staffing verticals.
If you're right out of school or your apprenticeship, don't expect to make $30 an hour right away, however. The average for a mid-career welder in Austin and Dallas is about $50,000 ($24.04/hour), and up to $56,000 ($26.92/hour) in Houston, according to SkillsetGroup's 2023 Guide.
Welding Apprenticeships in Texas
As a beginning welder, you’ll need to spend some time learning the ropes while on-the-job. Texas offers register apprenticeship training programs for professions like welding. In Texas, an employer registered through the state must sponsor your apprenticeship. You can find one through apprenticeship programs throughout the state -- start with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
Here are the apprenticeship requirements listed by the TWC of apprenticeships over other educational programs for welding:
- Hazardous jobs require an 18-year-old, but some programs accept apprentices as young as 16.
- High school diploma or equivalent. You may also be in secondary school during your apprenticeship.
- Physical strength and endurance in keeping with the welding job you're doing as an apprentice.
Some programs require previous work experience, aptitude testing and/or decent school grades. Here is a resource to hunt for apprenticeship opportunities in welding and other trades: ApprenticeshipUSA.gov
Here is a list of certified Texas welding schools from GoWelding.org:
- Amarillo College Welding Technology
- Angelina College Welding Technology
- ATI Career Training Center Welding
- Austin Community College Welding Technology
- Eastfield College Welding Technology
- El Centro College Welding Technology
- El Paso County Community College Welding Program
- Frank Phillips College
- Gary Jobs Corp Center
- Grayson County College
- Hill College Welding Department
- Kilgore College Welding Program
- Lincoln Group of Schools – Welding
- Lone Star College System Welding Technology
- Laredo Community College
- Laredo Jobs Corp
- Lee College
- Mountain View College Welding
- Odessa College Welding
- Ponola College Welding Technology
- Ranger College Welding Program
- San Jacinto College Welding Technology
- South Plains College Welding Technology
- Tarrant County College Welding Technology
- Texarkana College Welding Program
- Texas State Technical College Welding Technology Program
- Trinity Valley Community College Welding Program
- Tulsa Welding School Houston
- Tyler Jonior College Welding Program
- Vernon College
- Western Technical College Advanced Welding
- Western Texas College Welding Programs
How Do You Get a Welding License in Texas?
The American Welding Society certifications are recognized throughout the U.S., and is the certification recognized statewide in Texas. If you have completed your welding training at one of the above schools, you will need to take the test at an accredited testing facility. According to the American Welding Society, they include:
- Alamo Colleges: St. Philip's College SW Campus
- Bill J. Priest Institute
- McAllen Careers Institute
- Pearland ISD
- South Texas College Technology Campus
- Tulsa Welding School, Houston Campus
If you want to work for the State of Texas, building freeways for the transportation department, for example, you'll need specific structural welding certification.
"A certified welder has passed the ... Bridge Welding Code qualification ... 'Certified Steel Structures Welder," states the Texas Department of Transportation website. "All welding for certification must be performed in the presence of testing lab personnel. The welder is responsible for all costs associated with testing required for certification. The certification remains in effect as long as the welder performs acceptable work for TxDOT as determined by the Bridge Division."