Strap on your boots and tight’en up your helmet, we’re taking a good, hard look at whether welding in the military is right for you and yours. It’s not as black and white of an answer as you’d expect, so it’s important to keep your own personal situation in mind. Even if you’re not looking at the military, knowing the pros and cons can really help a friend out who’s looking for some good advice on career options.
First off, welding in the military has one important difference from everyday welding: It’s in the military. Don’t roll your eyes at us, it’s not as obvious as you’d expect! For instance, even if you’re never planning on seeing combat, you’ll still have to go through basic training. That means push-ups, gas masks, obstacle courses, team building exercises and quite a bit of running. So if you’re hoping to avoid the drill sergeant by going the welding route, you might want to think again. On the flip side, the auxiliary skills you’ll learn in the military can benefit you far beyond the scope of your career.
Another key point to think about is your travel situation. Joining the military offers a chance for you to see the world. Of course, “offers” sorta means “have to.” In most full-time military careers, traveling in some form is part of the job description. If you love to travel, then why not do it and get paid to see the world. However if you’re looking to settle down with a little white picket fence and a dozen children… first off, ask yourself if you’re really ready to change that many diapers. Then second, take your desire for permanent placement into account while thinking about the military.
Here’s the next thing you should understand while looking at career’s in the military. Every branch offers a different experience:
Army: Think ground troops. Army welders spend their time in fabrication and repair shops or rushing out into the field for quick maintenance jobs. You’ll be doing everything from constructing bridges and building outpost to patching up holes in tanks.
Air Force: Air force welders do most of the same tasks as Army welders. However, the best and the brightest might also get the chance to work on aircrafts. I say “might” because with the sophisticated structure of most aircrafts today, many problems tend to range well outside the scope of a regular welder’s responsibilities.
Marines: The real deal. If these guys were a chunk of meat, they’d be bottle-fed sirloin steaks from the cows of Valhalla. Because of their combat focus, the marines have significantly less welding positions available. Most welders in the marines are expected to be superstars, trained in a vast spectrum of skills to handle anything thrown at them.
Navy: Many welders consider the Navy to be the superior training experience. While the other 3 branches are trained at Aberdeen ordinance proving ground in Maryland, Navy welders are trained at a special facility in the shipyards of Norfolk, Virginia. While much of the military’s equipment has started to focus on lighter, non-metal designs, ships are still huge chunks of floating metal. That means an army of well-trained welders is needed to keep the fleets afloat.
So you join the military and become a welder. Let’s talk about what you’re really getting. First off, you’re essentially getting a free education, not necessarily free certification. There’s a big difference. Education is the actual skills. You will learn to weld and learn to weld pretty dang good. Plus you’re getting paid to learn. But depending on what you’re doing, you might not get certified. Certification is a piece of paper from the AWS (or other organizations) that tells employers you know how to do a specific type of weld (learn more about certification in depth here). Right out of the military, you probably won’t have the papers to start doing any welding job you want. However, you will have the skills. So with a little bit of quick study and a few exams, you can become certified to work where you want.
Besides your education, you can also tap into the vast amount of resources provided by the military after you’re done serving. For instance, if you’d like to go on and become a welding inspector or welding engineer, you’ve got the GI Bill to help pay your way. You’ve also got a retirement pension set up and a network of veterans to tap into.
As we’ve mentioned, it all comes down to you and your personal situation. But the more educated you are, the better your decision will be. If you’re new to welding altogether and looking for a place to start, check out these 2 posts below for some pro-tips: