Updated: Oct 25, 2021
What entails proper weld education?
Over my years in welding I have met a wide variety of people; some have been welding inspectors, fellow welders, welding engineers and even businessmen owners of their very own welding service. Something that has always stood out to me is the wide spectrum in which people have their opinions laid out towards welding education. Welding education in the United States has had a strong push in the past few years from welding manufacturers and States almost humming the mantra of "X number of welders will be needed in the U.S. by 202Y!", this has caused a surge in the number of welding instruction services available today. The majority of the options come in the shape of higher education facilities with programs in welding or private welding schools. The programs usually all teach the same welding processes with a few differences in between, in one hand, college programs will ask for a high school diploma and their overall curriculum will probably consist of the classes we would expect from a regular college course plus some of their very own courses, English 101 anyone? This programs tend to be one year to two year programs and will earn you an associates of welding technology, on the other hand, a private welding course will typically focus on welding one hundred percent of the time allocating very little focus to in-classroom instruction, the course will probably be less than a year long, and at the end will most likely earn you a certificate of completion listing the amount of hours you completed in the shop learning how to weld.
So is formal welding education really necessary?
A formal welding education is a valuable tool to help you learn the right fundamentals to propel your welding career. By formal I don't mean getting a master’s degree in welding and knowing everything there is to know about the background chemical bonds of the material you are welding, all it means is that you learned to weld somewhere else other than at the shop you started as a helper in. I venture to saying that the stigma of a young 20 something year old saying he went to school for welding is dying down a bit and the mentality behind schooling for a craft such as welding is becoming more acceptable. Anyone who has been on a job can testify they have heard and seen the older welders who learned to weld in the shop or in a garage with a cracker box saying you don't need to go to school to learn how to weld etc. etc. Going through a formal training will also expand your knowledge of the whys and the how’s of anything you are doing that is welding related, not to mention that I believe it is a teacher's highest responsibility to teach you to do things as safely but efficiently possible. This paired with a strong sense of unity and effort between you and your school mates will allow you to have the drive to complete whatever program you end up enrolling in.
When it would be necessary
So if you're still reading this you at least agree formal training is necessary, at least a little bit right? because if you have plans that go beyond welding in a chemical plant or refinery or even a shop somewhere you will most likely be asked for some type of formal education or training, be it in actual welding or a certification related to welding. Eventually you will want to move away from the production floor or pipe rack and you may look into perhaps becoming an instructor, or maybe a welding inspector, or perhaps you have plans beyond that and you are thinking of going back to school and using your welding experience as the backbone for a shiny degree in Welding Engineering. Whatever your later goals are, a formal education will always give you a stronger fundamental base in which to put a leg on and jump on to different areas of welding inaccessible to those individuals who refuse to expand their knowledge beyond a 6G test.
When it wouldn't be necessary
School is not for you? Don’t fret. Welding as a career is expected to keep expanding well into at least the next decade. Welding will also stay king of the crafts in any new construction project and jobs for those who can pass welding tests will always be available. If you plan to live a stable life and you enjoy production work in a shop somewhere then although formal training wouldn't hurt, you can perfectly weld anything you are trained on the job for and you could really make a good living from it. Some of us weld for the love of welding, some for the money, and some for both and there is no formal education that can teach you to be passionate about it.
If you enjoyed this blog post, your buddies probably will too, and if you know someone who is torn between going to school or learning on the job, I hope this will shine some light in their welding path.