How to Become a Welder in West Virginia
A career in welding can be exciting and rewarding. Welders, also called welding technicians, are responsible for bonding, cutting and shaping metal materials in various industries. They may work indoors in manufacturing, outdoors in construction or even weld underwater. There are many different welding techniques and they often change depending on the type of metal you are working on. Some welders may choose to specialize in a specific area of welding, or they may use a combination of techniques. Since they can work with so many different structures in many industries, a welder’s work varies from job to job and sometimes even from day to day.
Welding Requirements in West Virginia
General requirements to work as welder include holding a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license. There are no other statewide requirements for welding in West Virginia, but employers may have their own specific requirements. Many employers want to hire someone who is experienced. A lot of employers prefer to hire a welder who is certified. Completing a formal welding training program or apprenticeship and becoming certified through the American Welding Society (AWS) will help you learn the skills and give you the hands-on experience you will need to work as a welder.
West Virginia Welding Programs
West Virginia has several schools that offer welding programs. Some have certificate programs, some have degree programs, and others have both. Here is a sample of what the state has to offer:
- West Virginia University-Parkersburg. At WVUP, students learn welding curriculum and techniques at the school’s new facility. Students have the option of completing a one-year Certificate of Applied Science in Welding program, a two-year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Welding program or a 10-week course in aluminum welding. Completing the aluminum welding course does not give you credits toward a certificate or degree, but it can help you get your foot in the door for a welding career.
- Ben Franklin Career Center. The welding program at Ben Franklin is a full-time training program that lasts for 11 months. Students learn about various welding techniques including Shielded Metal Arc Welding and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding. They will also learn destructive and non-destructive testing methods, welding economics and how to read blueprints. Students who complete this program will be prepared to take the AWS Certified Welder exam.
- Bridge Valley Community and Technical College. Bridge Valley Community and Technical College offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in welding technology. This is a two-year program. This program lays the foundation for students to work in many welding fields or to continue to pursue a degree in engineering.
An apprenticeship is where students work under the direction of a skilled welder and then take educational courses to supplement what they learn on the job. Apprentices are also paid for their work. Welding apprenticeship programs generally last four to five years. If you are interested in working as a welder’s apprentice in West Virginia, check out the West Virginia Apprenticeship Programs website. The Sheet Metal Workers 24 in South Point and the Sheet Metal Workers 33 in Charleston, Parkersburg and Clarksburg have apprenticeship opportunities.
How to Become a Certified Welder
Certification as a welder is not required to work in West Virginia, but becoming certified can provide you with better job security, more job opportunities and higher pay. The Certified Welder program given by the American Welding Society (AWS) is the most common welding certification. You must take a written test and demonstrate your skills to gain this certification. Once certified, you must renew your certification every six months.
Employment and Salary for West Virginia Welders
The number of jobs available to welders continues to increase nationally. The state of West Virginia is predicted to see a six percent increase in welding jobs between 2016 and 2026. That increase means at least 150 more welding jobs will be added in the state.
A welder’s salary is nothing to balk at either, and West Virginia welders fare quite well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that welders in the state brought in an annual average of $47,790 in 2017, or $22.98 hourly. Certified, more experienced welders were earning as much as $79,500 that same year.
Working as a Welder in West Virginia
Welders will generally work 40-hour weeks, but many of them work overtime. This includes weekends and holidays. Welders are exposed to high heat, chemicals and gasses and various weather environments. They must be trained in safety procedures and follow safety protocol to prevent injury. Welders must also be able to meet the physical challenges of the job including bending, crouching, crawling, kneeling and standing for long periods of time. They must also be able to lift, pull and push heavy loads.
Welders can find work in many industries including aerospace, auto manufacturing, car racing, construction, industrial maintenance, oil, and ship and boat building. Some welders train to dive so they can work underwater on ships. West Virginia welders can expect to find the most work in the cities of Charleston, Fairmont and Morgantown.