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A career as a welder can be very rewarding. Good pay, high job demand, and opportunities for advancement into robotics or management (or both.) But it’s not a career you can just decide to start overnight. It takes specialized training, skill development, and certifications, so we put together a list of schools, scholarships and more to help you get started.

How to find the right program

Your first step is to enroll in a welding program. Top-rated welding schools can be found from Alaska to Georgia, especially in areas of the country where welders are in highest demand. To find the right school for you, do a little research to figure out which one best serves your end career goal. Take a look at the degrees and specialties offered, regional accreditation, and relationships with local businesses who hire graduates. Make sure you’ll get mostly real-world education that’s up to current standards, and check whether certification is included.

Scholarships and other resources

It’s no secret that money will likely be a determining factor – if not the main one – in which school you choose. Tuition and fees range widely depending on the type of welding program you’re interested in, from a few thousand dollars for basic certification programs to near six figures for a bachelor’s degree. But one of the upsides of choosing a welding degree is its high demand – many organizations with a vested interest in training skilled welders offer scholarships, grants, or other ways to help grow a talented workforce.

Scholarships vary in amount awarded, grade-point average requirements and eligibility. The American Welding Society offers its own scholarships as well as links and information to hundreds of others around the world. Most scholarships require a GED or high school diploma and acceptance to an accredited program. Keep careful track of deadlines since they can be any time during the year.

States also receive federal funding through the Workforce Investment Act to award grants to help build up a local workforce. And for many areas, welding is high on the list of important positions. Start by contacting the Workforce Development Center in your state and

Certification

The final step to your first welding job is to get certified, which proves that you can create quality, sturdy welds that meet your job’s code. If your school doesn’t include certification as part of its curriculum, several organizations offer testing. Certifications are as varied as the type of job and cost anywhere from as little as $25 to maintain a certified welder (CW) certification, to more than $1,000 for more specialized roles.

If an official welding school just isn’t an option for you, it’s possible to get certified the old-fashioned way – by working under an experienced welder and learning on the job. And while certification is required for you to get paid work as a welder, how you get certified is based solely on whether you can show up and do the work required.

Is it worth it?

In a word, yes. The median pay for a welder in May 2017 was just under $20 per hour, and wages can be upwards of $25 per hour for specialized jobs in industries like electric or gas utilities. In addition, The Bureau of Labor Statics expects the field to grow by 6 percent through 2026.

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