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Best Welding Degree to Earn the Most Money

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Welders are in high demand right now, and the need for skilled welders will only continue to grow. As more industries rely on welding, there is an increased demand for skilled welders. Welding degrees are worth investing time into if this is the career path you intend to pursue. But which welding degree do you need to earn the most money?

The best welding degree to earn the most money is Certified Radiographic Interpreter/CRI. These welding specialists earn up to $127,000 per year. Some highly experienced welding inspectors make up to $300,000 per year. Welding engineering is another top welding degree that can reach $112,000 annually.

Naturally, you must hone your welding skills, and there are numerous ways to go about it. You can get on-the-job training or go to a good vocational or technical school to learn. 

In any case, you can progress rapidly in this field. To earn the higher end of the wage scale, you must opt for repeat certifications and keep yourself up-to-date with the latest advances in the area. That way, you can consider many exciting positions such as welding supervisor, underwater welder, nuclear welder, site supervisor, military support welder, etc.

Picture of students working on their welding degree,

In this guide, we will cover:

  • What is the highest-paid welding job?
  • What are different welding degrees and which pay the most money?
  • And more…

What is the Highest-Paid Welding Job?

Welding is a job that pays well. It’s also a profession with many different types of jobs and responsibilities. For example, some welders work in manufacturing, while others might do welding for the construction industry.

Still, others may be employed as a welding inspectors by the military or at an automobile factory. We all know one thing about welders: they make good money. But not all welding jobs pay equally well – there can be quite a bit of variation in earnings depending on where you work and what type of welding experience you have.

In short: the answer to the question: “what is the highest-paid welding job” is welding inspector. This job is fraught with a lot of responsibility and entails hands-on examination and vetting of the welds with the visual and physical examinations. That is why some inspectors get paid as high as $300,000 a year.

Here is a list of welding jobs along with their median salaries:

Basic welding technician

A basic welding technician earns between $30,000 and $60,000. You need to have received your basic certification from a technical school, college, or a company-sponsored training seminar. Welding techs also need to know different welding techniques.

Welding supervisors

According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a welding supervisor is about $54,000; however, the pay rate can vary from location to location. Some supervisors make up to $75,000 in places like Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Washington, DC, where there is a great demand for welders.

Welding inspectors

Welding inspectors typically don’t work quite as hard as the welders. Their job is primarily to ensure welds are completed correctly and to the specifications of the American Welding Society (AWS).

To be an effective welding inspector, you need to be knowledgeable about various welding techniques, understand metals, safety procedures, and pay attention to details.

A good inspector should also have excellent management and communication skills. According to a source, a welding inspector’s median salary is $63,170. Some even make as much as $300,000 per year!

Welding engineers

A welding engineer is the one who makes sure that all Welders are efficient, and produce high-quality welds. They possess multiple certifications for a variety of different processes in order to ensure efficiency throughout every step.

To be a welding engineer you typically have to have a bachelor’s degree in welding engineering and pass a 4-part exam plus have a year’s experience on the job.

According to PayScale, the average salary most welding engineers make is about $77,000. The top 10% of engineers can make a lot more depending on their location and experience.

Welding educators/instructors

According to Glassdoor, the lowest salary for welding instructors in the USA is about $44,000, and the highest is $86,000.

Welding Degrees – Different Ones Available and Highest Paid

According to AWS, you have many options and specialized certification programs. These are some specialized certifications available:

Certified Welder Program

  • Prerequisites – None
  • The course covers – procedures related to steel, petroleum, pipeline, and chemical refinery welding. You can appear for the certification through an AWS accredited school.
  • Total cost – You could spend between $800 and $1000 on course materials and examinations.
  • The hourly wage for certified welders in the USA is $25/hour. The median salary for certified welders in the US is $42000.

Associate Welding Inspector Certification/AWS-CAWI

  • Prerequisites – Minimum education of 8th-grade pass/10+2 diploma, 8th grade plus 1-year vocational training. If less than 8th grade, then one needs the experience of at least 6 years.
  • Cost – In 2020, the cost of the AWS-CAWI exam was around $1070 for members of AWS and $1325 for non-members.
  • The hourly wage for certified welding inspectors (according to Salary.com) is $28/hour and the median salary is $64,000.

Senior Welding Inspector Certification/CSWIP

  • Prerequisites – This is a renewal certification available for experienced welders and quality control staff or those with certification in welding to be renewed every 3 years. Those with no welding experience need to attend a course on Visual Inspection of Welds.
  • The total cost of certification renewal is between $525 and $1090.
  • Hourly pay for senior welding inspectors is between $22 and $31 per hour. Some experienced inspectors also made up to $43 per hour. The median annual salary of senior welding inspectors is in the range of $74,000. CSWIPs that are willing to travel can even make up to $75/hour.
Picture of a pipe welder working,

Welding Educator Certification

  • Prerequisites – High school diploma with other certifications. Some employers ask for apprenticeships or post-secondary education.
  • Welding school fees are about $5000 for courses ranging between 3 to 7 months.
  • The national average salary of a welding instructor in the US is about $61,000.

Resistance Welding Technician

  • Prerequisites – high school diploma, military or state-approved GED/post-high school GED
  • Cost of course plus exams – $855 for members of AWS and about $1100 for non-members.
  • According to Glassdoor, the average national salary of resistance welders is $45,000.

Radiographic Interpreter/CRI

  • This is a course designed for people whose job entails reading weld radiographs.
  • The 30-day online course costs about $175 for members and $235 for non-members.
  • According to PayScale, the median salary of certified radiograph interpreters is about $127,000 per year.

Welding Supervisor

  • Prerequisites – high school diploma, military or state-approved GED/post-high school GED, and/or 3 years experience in welding.
  • CWS renewal certification is about $500 for members.
  • The national average salary of welding supervisors in the US is $55,000.

Welding Sales Representative

  • There are no prerequisites for taking the 30-day welding sales representative course. Anyone who wants to transition into sales from welding can take it.
  • Fees for the course are $450 for members and $600 for non-members.
  • As per ZipRecruiter.com, the average salary for sales in welding is about $59,849.

Welding Engineer

  • Bachelor’s degree in welding or materials engineering. This is a 2 or 3 yr course offered by schools having approval from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). You need a background in science and math with a high school diploma or a general educational development certificate. After graduation, you could intern in a company that needs welding engineers. You can choose to do a Master’s in Welding Engineering to further your career.
  • Fees vary from institute to institute
  • The average salary is $51/hour or $106,026 per annum.

Robotic Arc Welding/CRAW certification

  • Prerequisites for CRAW are a high school diploma or state/military approved high school equivalency. Or, you could have (at least) 6 months of experience in manual or semi-automatic arc welding. You could even hold current CWI certification.
  • Fees are $395 for exam/retest for members of AWS. They vary if you are looking to upgrade from operator to technician.
  • According to Talent, the average welding robot operator salary is $24,741. Robotic weld technicians get paid nearly $64,000 with the median being $53,540.

As can be seen, the welding degree or certification that earns the most is the Radiographic Interpreter with a median annual salary of $127000. This is closely followed by senior welding inspectors or CSWIPs that are willing to travel. Highly-qualified and experienced welding engineers also make over $100,000.

How Much Does a Pipe Welder Make?

I live in Louisiana, where pipe welders are in high demand. They are used on offshore oil platforms, refineries, and tank farms across our state. But pipe welders don’t only work in the oil industry; they are needed in many industries.

Pipe welders are essential in the construction and manufacturing industry for many projects. They fabricate and join metal piping components according to specifications. Their job may include working onsite or in the field.

Because of the high level of skill required in many pipe-welding jobs, pipe welders receive some of the highest pay rates. Top earners can make up to $100,000, with the average salary being $69,000.

What Are the Salaries of Union Welders?

Unions were created to protect the workers from being taken advantage of and had an initial role as a cooperative association. Their first duty is to negotiate on behalf of their members with companies for fair wages and safe working conditions.

The salaries of union welders differ based on skillset, location, training, and experience. Unions are organized by local, state, and national chapters and negotiate pay rates and benefits for their members.

If you want to join a welding union, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have the option of joining different types of unions – including ironworkers, boilermakers, and pipefitters’.

For someone to be accepted in any union, they typically require certifications and participation in an apprenticeship program. There are many benefits of union membership beyond fair pay.

 The median salary of union welders is $64,168, and some union welders are even known to make up to $357,000.

How much is a nuclear welders salary?

Nuclear welders work on projects involving nuclear materials or devices. They are often employed to work on nuclear-powered ships and in the construction and repair of reactors for power plants around America; some may even end up welding underwater at these facilities.

Some nuclear welding jobs require government-level clearance, which requires welders to go through a rigorous background check. Once given the green light by authorities, they become Nuclear-Cleared and often receive higher pay than their counterparts without this certification.

As the name indicates, a nuclear welder welds pipes and components in nuclear equipment. Top earners make about $122000 in this field, while the median national salary is $67,000.

How Much is Underwater Welder Salary?

Underwater welders use their skills at fabrication (making), cutting, or welding underwater using special equipment and processes. They are in high demand in the offshore oil industry, shipping industry, and bridge construction; along with welding skills, you also need to be a certified diver.

Diver welders make around $83,000, and the average annual underwater welder salary is $54,000.

Conclusion & Key Takeaways

The income of a welder will dramatically vary from location to location and also depend upon the individual’s skill, experience level, and specialization. According to the US Department of Labor, as of 2020, the median pay for most welders was $44,190 per year or $21.25 per hour.

However, wages are increasing very fast in the welding field, so I suggest you consult the US Department of Labor updates regularly for the most recent information on welder’s wages.

Given the nationwide and globe-wide demand for skilled welders, you must look at these average figures just as reference points. You have a wide variety of industries and specializations to opt for. You could work for someone else or even strike out on your own.

Many welding jobs are highly paid and, with proper training and certifications combined with the right attitude, you can easily get on the high end of the wage scale.

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