Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers join metals using hand-held welding, flame-cutting, and soldering tools.
Quick Facts: Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers
2010 Median Pay $35,450 per year
$17.04 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation Less than 1 year
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2010 337,300
Job Outlook, 2010-20 15% (About as fast as average)
Employment Change, 2010-20 50,700

What Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers Do

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers weld or join metal parts. They also fill holes, indentions, or seams of metal products, using hand-held welding equipment.

Work Environment

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work outdoors, often in inclement weather, or indoors, sometimes in a confined area. They may work on a scaffold high off the ground, and they occasionally must lift heavy objects and work in awkward positions. Most work full time and overtime is common in this occupation.

How to Become a Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer

Training for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazing workers varies. Training ranges from a few weeks of school or on-the-job training for low-skilled positions to several years of combined school and on-the-job training for highly skilled jobs.

Pay

The median annual wage of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers was $35,450 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is expected to grow 15 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Properly skilled welders with up-to-date training should have the best job prospects.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers with similar occupations.

Contacts for More Information

Learn more about welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers by contacting these additional resources.

What Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers Do

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers smooth and polish all surfaces of parts or products.

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers weld or join metal parts. They also fill holes, indentions, or seams of metal products, using hand-held welding equipment. 

Duties

 Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers typically do the following:

  • Study blueprints, sketches, or specifications
  • Calculate dimensions to be welded
  • Inspect structures or materials to be welded
  • Ignite torches or start power supplies
  • Monitor the welding process to avoid overheating
  • Smooth and polish all surfaces
  • Maintain equipment and machinery

Welding is the most common way of permanently joining metal parts. In this process, heat is applied to metal pieces, melting and fusing them to form a permanent bond. Because of its strength, welding is used in shipbuilding, automobile manufacturing and repair, aerospace applications, and thousands of other manufacturing activities. Welding also is used to join beams in the construction of buildings, bridges, and other structures and to join pipes in pipelines, power plants, and refineries.

Welders work in a wide variety of industries, from car racing to manufacturing. The work that welders do and the equipment they use vary, depending on the industry. The most common and simplest type of welding today, arc welding, uses electrical currents to create heat and bond metals together—but there are more than 100 different processes that a welder can use. The type of weld is normally determined by the types of metals being joined and the conditions under which the welding is to take place.

Cutters use heat to cut and trim metal objects to specific dimensions. The work of arc, plasma, and oxy-gas cutters is closely related to that of welders. However, instead of joining metals, cutters use the heat from an electric arc, a stream of ionized gas called plasma, or burning gases to cut and trim metal objects to specific dimensions. Cutters also dismantle large objects, such as ships, railroad cars, automobiles, buildings, or aircraft. Some operate and monitor cutting machines similar to those used by welding machine operators.

Solderers and brazers also use heat to join two or more metal items together. Soldering and brazing are similar, except the temperature used to melt the filler metal is lower in soldering. Soldering uses metals with a melting point below 840 degrees Fahrenheit. Brazing uses metals with a higher melting point. 

Soldering and brazing workers use molten metal to join two pieces of metal. However, the metal added during the soldering and brazing process has a melting point lower than that of the piece, so only the added metal is melted, not the piece. Therefore, these processes normally do not create the distortions or weaknesses in the pieces that can occur with welding.

Soldering commonly is used to make electrical and electronic circuit boards, such as computer chips. Soldering workers tend to work with small pieces that must be precisely positioned.

Brazing often is used to connect copper plumbing pipes and thinner metals that the higher temperatures of welding would warp. Brazing also can be used to apply coatings to parts to reduce wear and protect against corrosion.

Work Environment

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers wear protective clothing and goggles for safety.

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers held about 337,300 jobs in 2010. Industries employing the most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers in 2010 were as follows:

Manufacturing61%
Construction11   
Wholesale trade5   
Repair and maintenance5   

Welders and cutters may work outdoors, often in inclement weather, or indoors, sometimes in a confined area designed to contain sparks and glare. When working outdoors, they may work on a scaffold or platform high off the ground. In addition, they may have to lift heavy objects and work in awkward positions while bending, stooping, or standing to work overhead.

Injuries

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers often are exposed to a number of hazards, including very hot materials and the intense light created by the arc. They wear safety shoes, goggles, masks with protective lenses, and other equipment to prevent burns and eye injuries and to protect them from falling objects.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that welders work in safely ventilated areas to avoid danger from inhaling gases and fine particles that can result from welding processes. Because of these hazards, welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing workers have a rate of work-related injuries and illnesses that is higher than most other occupations, but they can minimize injuries if they follow safety procedures.

Work Schedules

Most welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers work full time, and overtime is common. Many manufacturing firms have two or three shifts each day, ranging from 8 to 12 hours, which allow the firm to continue production around the clock if needed. Therefore, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Welder, Cutter, Solderer, or Brazer

Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers
Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must have a steady hand to hold a torch in place.

Training for welding, cutting, soldering, and brazing workers ranges from a few weeks of school or
on-the-job training for low-skilled positions to several years of combined school and on-the-job training for highly skilled jobs.

Education and Training

Formal training is available in high school technical education courses and in postsecondary institutions, such as vocational-technical institutes, community colleges, and private welding, soldering, and brazing schools. The U.S. Armed Forces also operate welding and soldering schools.

Some employers are willing to hire inexperienced entry-level workers and train them on the job, but many prefer to hire workers who have been through formal training programs. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy are helpful.

An understanding of electricity also is helpful, and knowledge of computers is gaining importance as welding, soldering, and brazing machine operators become more responsible for programming robots and other computer-controlled machines.

Because understanding the welding process and inspecting welds is important for both welders and welding machine operators, companies hiring machine operators prefer workers with a background in welding.

Certification

Some welding positions require general certification in welding or certification in specific skills, such as inspection or robotic welding. The American Welding Society certification courses are offered at many welding schools. Some employers pay training and testing costs for employees.

The Institute for Printed Circuits offers certification and training in soldering. In industries such as aerospace and defense, which need highly-skilled workers, many employers require these certifications. Certification can show mastery of lead-free soldering techniques, which are important to many employers.

Important Personal Qualities

Detail oriented. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must do precision work, often with straight edges and minimal flaws. Therefore, workers should have a keen eye for detail.

Dexterity. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must have a steady hand to hold a torch in one place. Workers must also have good hand-eye coordination.

Physical strength. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be in good physical condition. They often must lift heavy pieces of metal and sometimes bend, stoop, or reach while working.

Stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing or repetitious movements is important for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.

Technical skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be able to operate manual or semiautomatic welding equipment to fuse metal segments.  

Troubleshooting skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must have the ability to detect cracked pieces of metal and be able to repair them. 

Visual acuity. The ability to see details and characteristics of the joint and detect changes in molten metal flows requires good eyesight.

Remuneration

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Median annual wages, May 2010

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

$35,450

Total, All Occupations

$33,840

Production Occupations

$30,330

 

The median annual wage of welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $35,450 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,940, and the top 10 percent earned more than $53,690.

Wages for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers vary based on experience, skill level, industry, and company size.

About 17 percent of welders belong to a union.

Although most welders, solderers, cutters, and brazers work full time, overtime is common in this occupation. Many manufacturing firms have two or three shifts each day, ranging from 8 to 12 hours, which allow the firm to continue production around the clock if needed. Therefore, welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers may work evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

Percent change in employment, projected 2010-20

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

15%

Total, All Occupations

14%

Production Occupations

4%

 

Employment of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers is expected to grow 15 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth reflects the need for welders in manufacturing because of the importance and versatility of welding as a manufacturing process. The basic skills of welding are the same across industries, so welders can easily shift from one industry to another, depending on where they are needed most. For example, welders laid off in the automotive manufacturing industry may be able to find work in the oil and gas industry.

Growth of the defense industry, including the manufacturing of aircrafts and missiles, is expected to contribute to employment growth. 

In addition, the nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of many welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings, resulting in some new jobs.  

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects will vary by skill level. Job prospects should be good for welders trained in the latest technologies. Welding schools report that graduates have little difficulty finding work, and many welding employers report difficulty finding properly skilled welders. However, welders who do not have up-to-date training may face competition for jobs.

For all welders, job prospects should be better for those willing to relocate.

Employment projections data for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers, 2010-20
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2010 Projected Employment, 2020 Change, 2010-20
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

51-4121 337,300 388,000 15 50,700

Related Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2010 MEDIAN PAY Help
Assemblers and fabricators

Assemblers and Fabricators

Assemblers and fabricators assemble both finished products and the parts that go into them. They use tools, machines, and their hands to make engines, computers, aircraft, toys, electronic devices, and more.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,360
Boilermakers

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $54,640
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, manufacture, and sell jewelry. They also adjust, repair, and appraise gems and jewelry.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,170
Machinists and tool and die makers

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled or mechanically-controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,910
Metal and plastic machine workers

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,910
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases to and in businesses, homes, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,660
Sheet metal workers

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used for heating and air-conditioning.

High school diploma or equivalent $41,710
Source:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers,
on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/

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