Today, companies are finding that there is a shortage of skilled tradesman, such as welders. One of the reasons for this looming shortage is that high schools are focused on directing students towards colleges instead of vocational schools. Another is the rapidly aging population of welders: According to EMSI, 53 percent of skilled trade workers in the United States were 45 years and older in 2012, and 18.6 percent were over the age of 55. As a result, the job market is looking good for welders. In addition, today’s welders have the opportunity to take different career paths within this skilled trades sector. Here’s a list of four career paths that show a lot of promise.
With technology advancing, welding is becoming a high-tech skill. From using lasers and robots to sophisticated automated systems and software, high-tech welders implement the latest technology. These high-tech skills are transferrable among many industries, such as aerospace, oil and gas, automotive and medical. Aerospace welders put together spacecraft, missiles, satellites and aircraft. High-tech welders who work with oil and gas companies work on new pipelines and repair and maintenance of existing oil rigs. The American Petroleum Institute states that petrochemical industries will gain 1.3 million new jobs by 2030. Regions seeing the strongest growth are the Marcellus, Utica, and Bakken shale, as reported by Tulsa Welding School
Sheet Metal Welders
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, sheet metal workers held about 140,000 jobs in 2012. Approximately 27 percent work in manufacturing plants, and 59 percent work in the construction industry.  Typical tasks include:
- Fastening joints by soldering, bolting and riveting
- Measuring and marking dimensions on metal sheets
- Using computer-controlled saws and presses for cutting and bending of sheet metal
- Installing metal sheets with supportive frameworks
Many sheet metal workers learn their trade through vocational steel fabrication training programs. Students learn how to use the industry tools, blueprint reading and safety practices. This specialty is growing rapidly. The BLS projects an increase by 15 percent through 2022. Those who have completed a training program and are certified will be in especially high demand.
Underwater Commercial Welding
Underwater welders use scuba gear to inspect, repair or remove structures below the surface of water. It is a highly specialized field, and those seeking to work in this niche must be a certified welder and a certified commercial diver. Job duties typically entail fitting and rigging, underwater cutting, drafting and conducting tests. Depending on the state and region, salaries for underwater commercial welders range from $45,000 to over $100,000.
Structural Steel and Iron Workers
This market is strong for those who are certified welders. The BLS projects a rapid growth rate of 22 percent through 2022 for structural steel and iron workers. The nation’s infrastructure like bridges, highways and older buildings are in desperate need of rehabilitation. With likely funding from state and federal agencies, the job outlook for structural steel and iron workers is good. In addition, these skilled workers will be needed for construction in cities for the building of industrial and commercial buildings. In the field of welding, high-tech welding, sheet metal welding, underwater commercial welding and iron and steel welding are all niches and career paths with good opportunities.