How to Become a Welder in Virginia
Welders are trade workers who do a variety of work with metals, including joining parts together, cutting pieces and repairing metal structures. They work with their hands and use power tools. Also known as welding technicians, welders read blueprints and make calculations and estimations. They may use a variety of welding techniques, or they may specialize in a specific area of welding. Since welders work in a range of industries (any industry that uses metal), welding jobs are steadily on the rise in Virginia, as well as across the rest of the country.
Welding Requirements in Virginia
The only education you will need to find entry-level work as a welder in Virginia is a high school diploma or GED. However, completing an apprenticeship program or formal program at a local college or technical school will give you training and experience, which many employers require. Most jobs also require that you have a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation, as you may be required to travel frequently. Statewide certification is not mandatory, but many employers prefer welders who are certified through the American Welding Society (AWS).
Welding Programs in Virginia
Welding training programs are generally offered at community colleges and technical schools. Programs range from certificate to associate’s degree programs. Program length is anywhere from one semester to two years, depending on whether you are earning a certificate or a degree. Check out some of the welding programs that Virginia has to offer below:
- Tidewater Community College in Norfolk offers Career Studies Certificates in general welding and maritime welding. Maritime welding focuses on shipbuilding and repair and water welding. Students can continue the Career Studies Certificate in Welding by earning a Certificate in Welding. All welding programs can be completed in two years or less.
- John Tyler Community College gives students the opportunity to earn a Welding Career Certificate. This program consists of 30 credit hours and can be completed in two semesters. The program is accredited by the AWS, and students can also take the AWS Certified Welder examination here.
Welding Certification in Virginia
Although certification is not a statewide requirement, many welders choose to become certified. Earning certification shows that you are highly skilled. Certified welders earn more money, and employers may be more likely to hire someone who is certified over someone who is not.
The most common welding certification is the AWS’s Certified Welder program. There are no prerequisites to take this certification exam. You must pass both a written and practical exam. Other welding certifications offered by the AWS include Certified Welding Inspector and Certified Welding Educator. There may be prerequisites for these certifications.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
As long as there are metal structures being built there will be a need for them to be repaired; thus, there will be a continual need for welders. In 2016, there were 7,670 welders employed in Virginia. According to the Projections Management Partnership (PMP), that number is expected to increase by six percent to 8,140 by the year 2026. The state increase matches the national increase of six percent.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicated that welders in Virginia were earning an average of $22.16 hourly and $46,100 annually in 2017. The highest earners in the state, welders who are certified or have many years of experience, were making as much as $63,420 per year.
Welding Careers in Virginia
Welders will usually work at least 40 hours each week, and many welders also work overtime. You should be be prepared to work some nights, holidays and weekends. Welders do a lot of work with their hands and will use cutting and heating tools. Good hand-eye coordination and vision are necessary. Welders also may have to crawl, kneel, stand, stoop and walk for long periods of time. They may have to work in small, tight spaces, and they may be exposed to chemicals and various elements of weather.
Welding is used in a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, construction, entertainment and shipping. Welders may go on to work as engineers, fabricators or supervisors. There are welding jobs available throughout the state, but the following cities have high volumes of employment for welders in Virginia: Chesapeake, Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke and Virginia Beach.