Welding might be one of the world’s greatest passions, but it doesn’t hurt to get paid for your skills. A capable welder can be incredibly sought after, and some jobs can pay quite an astonishing amount. But there might be a catch. Here are America’s top-paying welding jobs and what you really should know about them.
Just as a small note, we’re not going to include any career where the main responsibilities don’t include actually welding. This means welding engineers, weld inspectors, etc. Those are great careers, but not what we’re comparing here in this particular list. But for those that don’t wish to pursue a college education after high school, welder jobs are solid career paths for skilled and interested individuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers was $47,010 in 2021.
Below is a list of the highest paying jobs in welding in the United States today:
In America, the job market mostly works on a supply and demand system. The less people willing to do a particular job, the more employers will pay to try and snag someone who has the skills and willingness.
That is particularly apparent with oil rig and hyperbaric welding jobs. First off, a welder working on a rig has to be experienced. Oil rigs are literally floating cities that rely on metal supports. Welding keeps the whole thing afloat.
Not only do rig jobs require a reliable and experienced worker, they’re quite consuming. Ocean rigs are only located near the coast. Because the crew either has to be shipped or lifted out to a rig, this isn’t a 9-to-5 type of job. Generally welders will do two weeks or even a full month out on the rig, then two weeks back at the mainland. This can make family life or close friendships with people off the rig difficult.
For the reasons listed above, a welder interested in rig jobs, who is also qualified, can often make 6 figures. The caveat, as with a lot of the jobs listed below, is that these careers are connected to oil. Oil, especially lately, tends to swing widely in cost. This means that companies can shift on what they’re willing to pay employees.
To learn more about what it’s like to work on an oil rig, check out our article here.
Underwater welding can be an incredibly exciting career option. It combines the adventure of diving with the craftsmanship of welding. It’s also been promoted as one of the better paying welding jobs.
When it comes to pay though, it’s important to know what you’re looking at. A skilled underwater welder can make great money, but it all depends on your experience, location and industry. Most underwater welders have to work near the coast, as the majority of water-related industry happens there. Underwater welders are used to repair ships, underwater infrastructure, piping and just about anything else that’s metal and goes in the water.
On the higher end of the pay scale, you’re looking at jobs with quite a bit of risk. For example, hyperbaric welders work at such depths, they have to live in a pressurized chamber and breathe a mixture of oxygen and helium for weeks at a time. One wrong move can cause you to explode from the inside out. Because of this, a veteran hyperbaric welder can make a serious chunk of change.
Many underwater welding jobs are quite a bit more docile than deep-sea welding. However, many employers do require their underwater welders to graduate from a reputable underwater welding program and have the right certification.
For more on underwater welding, check out our post here.
Similar to underwater welders, pipe welders’ pay is all over the place. Some welders can surpass 6 figures while others can be on the low-side. Again, it all comes down to the industry, location and competition for welders of that skill set.
There are pipe welding jobs across the country, from municipal water infrastructure to dairy farms. But a lot of the highest paying jobs involve either natural gas or oil.
To get a better idea of what it’s like to be a pipe welder, check out our in-depth article here.
Honorable Mention: Nuclear Welders
In the span of 33 years after 1957, the US built 112 nuclear reactors. This unique type of industry created a very specialized welder: the nuclear welder. While not nearly as dangerous as you might think, welding jobs dealing with a nuclear reactor require high levels of certification. They also require FBI clearance and background checks, psychological evaluations and frequent drug/alcohol tests. Contrary to popular belief, Homer Simpson wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a nuclear plant.
Because of a number of factors, but mostly due to public distrust, nuclear plants have been on a decline. So while nuclear welders can be one of the highest-paying welding jobs, because of their rarity, we only included them as an honorable mention.
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