In the dynamic landscape of industries, where technology continues to revolutionize the way we build and innovate, few professions have proven as steadfast and indispensable as welding.
As we stride into 2023, the fires of demand for skilled welders burn brighter than ever. The increased number of construction projects, infrastructure developments, manufacturing advancements, lack of information, and retiring skilled workers have thrust welding into the forefront of the job market.
In this article, we will explain why welding is considered a high-demand job, what's causing a future shortage of 360,000 skilled welders, and what can be done to avoid it.
Welding Career Outlook
A welding career can provide a list of advantages, including a stable and fulfilling professional path, job security, diverse opportunities, competitive pay, hands-on work, flexibility, and the potential for continued growth in a dynamic industry. Yet, despite all the advantages, we are seeing a lack of workers in the welding field across the globe, and this is a trend that's been going out for quite some time.
According to the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics, there were 408,990 employed welders in 2022. Employment of welders is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations with 5% projected growth. At that projected state, welding should see increased employment of 25,910 welders, or total employment of 434,900 welders by 2031. 
However, the growth potential does not directly reflect the current state of needed welding jobs. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program projects about 47,600 openings for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers each year, on average, over the decade. Meanwhile, the American Welding Society (AWS) Foundation expects welding to encounter a shortage of 360,000 welding professionals by 2027. As a result, an average of 90.000 welding jobs will need to be filled annually between 2023–2027.
So when we compare statistics that expect 2% employment growth and the actual situation in the welding industry with an anticipated shortage of 360,000 welders, we can agree that welding truly is a high-demand job in 2023.
What's The Cause Of High Demand For Welders In 2023?
The welding job market is fairly complex, so many factors create job opportunities in the welding industry. That's why we will focus on the leading causes of high demand. The leading causes of the welder shortage in 2023 are:
- Industry growth
- Age of welders
- Lack of information and misconceptions about the welding career
- Technological improvements
Industry Growth and Welder Shortage
Welding plays a crucial role in many industries, and some of the most important ones are construction, manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, shipbuilding, and oil and gas. The pandemic was harsh for many industries, as it caused a considerable decline and job closings across the globe. Welding was also affected by the crisis, but in 2023, things are slowly returning to their place, so we are seeing industry growth.
Industry Growth Trends and Forecast for 2023 - 2028 show us a Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing industry growth of CAGR> 4 %. Similarly, American manufacturing growth started outpacing the rest of the world's growth at the end of last year.
n = Number of periods (months, years, etc.)
Returning to the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, we can see that 67,120 and 58,500 welders work in Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing and Machinery Manufacturing industries. Looking at total employment, these two industries combined 125,620 welding jobs, which is more than a quarter of all welder jobs (408,990).
The growth of the industry directly creates new job opportunities. Remember that welding is essential in many industries, and most of these are related. For example, the aerospace, construction, and automobile industry are highly dependent on metal fabrication. Therefore, the growth of one industry creates welder job openings in many different sections, which creates welder demands and workforce shortages.
Welding In Aerospace Industry
Aging Welder Workforce
In 2018, AWS stated a concern with data showing the average age of welders was 57 years, and in the UK and Australia, ages reached 55-57 years. This concern led to a very active campaign to educate, inform and make the welding career attractive to the younger population. In 2023, we see the results, as the average welder age has dropped significantly to 40 years.
However, if we take a closer look at AWS graphs and age distribution, we can explain the cause of the welder shortage in the future. The 47.5% of all employed welders are 25-45 years old, and looking at the overall average age, it adds up. However, 21.8% of welders are 45-55 years old, and 21.4% of all employed welders are older than 55. With a large number of aging workers, we can expect more than 155,000 welders to retire soon. Therefore, retirement will create enormous job openings for young welders, which can be your time to shine.
If you are considering a welding career, the latest trends made education widely available. The AWS Foundation supports various scholarships, grants, and other education initiatives. More accessible education helps in building a larger, higher-skilled, and more diverse welding workforce.
Lack Of Information And Misconceptions About Welding
The solution to aging welders is simple - get more younger welders to start a profession and fill their shoes as professional welders one day. However, a lack of information and misconceptions about welding often make this career unattractive to the young population. That's why we are seeing only 9.4% of all welders are younger than 25.
Some common myths about welding are that salaries are lower than in other industry sectors, the work is repetitive, monotonous, underpaid, and involves work in decrepit, dirty environments. But is this true? Let's do some myth-busting.
Quite the opposite of myths, welding offers a fulfilling professional path, job security, diverse opportunities, competitive pay, hands-on work, flexibility, and the potential for continued growth.
According to the Bureau of Labor Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, the median annual wage for welders was $50,460, or $24.26 an hour. Meanwhile, the annual wage for all occupations in the US Economy was $47,760. Therefore, on average, welders earn more than other occupations. 
The myths about low salaries come from salary distribution. Welder salary is highly dependent on experience, state, industry, employer, work hours, bonuses, and many more. According to statistics, the lowest 10 percent earned an annual salary of $35,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,750. So as a beginner or apprentice with 0-2 years of experience in an entry-level position, you are likely to make less than the average welder. But an expert such as a certified welding inspector or underwater welding expert can easily earn over six figures.
Despite opposite claims, welding is a highly stable career. In addition, welding skills can be applied to various industries, so you can easily switch from one industry to another with little to no need for training. This diversity allows welders to explore multiple sectors and work on different types of projects. Additionally, flexibility adds an element of security to a career that is already in demand.
There are ups and downs when it comes to welding conditions, work schedules, and the environment. Welding truly is a risky profession that involves working in harsh conditions, but with proper safety requirements, welding education, and equipment, you can reduce the potential hazards. In addition, the higher the risk, the higher the pay. For example, underwater welders or rig welders work in the harshest conditions, but they can easily earn over $100,000 annually.
Photo by @bucketwelder (TikTok)
Technological Improvement And Development
Although many see welding as an old-fashioned profession, the welding industry continues to evolve with advancements in technology and techniques. Introducing new welding techniques opens a new door for welding jobs and training. However, to keep up with modern welding processes, welders must attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to welding and keep up with industry publications.
One of the advantages of welding as a career is that you can get into it without formal education and, sometimes, not even experience. Most welding jobs will require a certificate program, so most welders ignore further education after completing it. As we said, new technology requires training, and that's where a workforce gap is often created.
Welding training help them hone their craft and increase their efficiency and productivity for years to come.
Photo by @technoweld_ (IG)
The lack of new welders is mainly present in developed countries, which turn to the tertiary sector of the economy. Due to a lack of interest, information, and misconceptions, many young welders work or look for jobs and education in the service industry. In contrast, the role of manufacturing and production industries, including welding, significantly falls off.
How To Deal With Welder Shortage
Understanding where a worker shortage comes from is the first step in overcoming the issues. In the first part of the article, we identified the leading causes of the welder shortage, so now let's see what can be done to get more people into pursuing welding job.
You don't need to be an expert to understand that the best way to deal with high welder demand is to train young welders. However, things are not as easy as they seem, so employers usually turn to several things that can help deal with worker shortage. Common solutions include:
- Shorter welding courses
- More transparent education campaigns
- Apprenticeship programs
- Welding automation
Variety In Welder Training
In 2023, welder training is available through high school technical education classes or programs at vocational-technical institutes, community colleges, and private welding schools. A lot of new students pursue a career in welding through university, which usually is the right, but the long way to the best welding jobs.
According to the American Welding Society Foundation, graduating from university takes 4 years. While a bachelor's degree grants an average salary of $49,900, scholarship and student debt surpass $150,000. Therefore, it takes more time to return the initial investments, and that's why many give up after unsatisfying first jobs. However, a university degree provides higher chances for well-paid positions such as welding engineer or certified welding inspector.
Certified Welding Inspector Certificate
Meanwhile, new welders that attend technical school can complete a certificate program in 6-18 months. With the average course price of $33,000 and student debt of $10,000, the overall cost is significantly lower compared to a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, the average annual salary of $44,000 is only slightly lower compared to the university. Therefore, getting a welding education through a technical school is an investment that pays off quicker than pursuing a four-year degree.
While the choice of welder training is a personal preference, promoting shorter courses is the fastest way of dealing with the shortage. Welders with certification still have a chance to advance to a position such as welding technician, nuclear welder, underwater welder, or others.
McCorvey Sheet Metal hosted resistance and seam welding training at the Houston manufacturing facility.
Photo by @msm_works (IG)
Appointing apprentices is one of the solutions many found helpful when dealing with the welder shortage. An apprenticeship is an arrangement between you and a sponsor, such as an individual employer or a business union. You get hands-on training, technical instruction, and a paycheck, while the sponsor gets a future worker.
Formal apprenticeship programs usually last about 4 years, depending on the employer or occupation, although they may take as little as 12 months or as many as 6 years. In welding, an apprenticeship usually lasts 3-4 years.
According to the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration Office of Apprenticeship, there were 1315 welding apprentices in 2022. In the production and engineering department, welder apprentices were fourth by number, but one of the few careers with projected employment growth.
The official Apprenticeship website states that 93% of apprentices retain employment after apprenticeship completion. Therefore, hiring apprentices is a great way to deal with the shortage, while simultaneously providing welder training.
Over the years, robotic welding as a part of Industry 4.0, has been utilized in various industries to increase productivity by automating production and ensuring consistent quality. For most large-scale manufacturers, automating a welding process is a solution that directly deals with welder shortage.
Welding automation deals with the shortage by replacing manual welders with robots, rather than spending money and time training the new workforce. Although introducing robots or collaborative robots (cobots) does not fill as many welding jobs as other methods, automation makes welding more appealing to young people raised on technology. Robots still need welding operators, programmers, or certified welding supervisor to run them, so they somewhat also create workplaces.
As programming methods continue to become simpler, this experienced welder can program or reprogram the robot if needed.
Will Robots Replace Welders In the Future?
As more manufacturers turn to automation to deal with workforce shortages, many welders are afraid that machines could take their job. While shocking headlines cause concern, there are no indications that robots could completely replace skilled welders.
To advocate this, we need to look at the current state of welding automation. In 2023, implementing a fully automated production is still an investment many are not ready for. Before considering automation, you need to put things on paper and justify the overall costs. Although robots are cheaper and readily available on the market, small to medium-scale businesses still cannot justify the overall cost. That's why most medium to small companies will still rely on manual welders to do their job.
Additionally, a lot of welding professions still cannot be automated. For example, robots cannot replace a rig welder working at offshore oil rigs, an underwater welder with commercial diving certification, or nuclear welders that are repairing reactor vessels.
Most nuclear welders work in laboratories. They fabricate, assemble, and repair materials.
To overcome the drawbacks of hard automation with giant and fixed robots, we are seeing an increased number of collaborative robots or cobots. Cobots are smaller robots that fit comfortably and safely with human coworkers, and they are definitely the future of welding automation. As a result, technological advances, including safety features, sensors, controls, and smaller components, are employed to help welders boost productivity and promote safety, not to replace them.
Welding Automation Collaborative Robots Technology
Welding in 2023 and the future is considered a high-demand occupation due to the aging workforce, industry growth, and lack of information and development. Industry growth opens new workplaces, but soon enough, we will have a large number of retiring welders. In addition, very few young people decide to pursue a career in welding due to a lack of interest and information, and new trends and processes will require more trained workers.
Several solutions can help employers and organizations deal with the crisis. The fastest solution is promoting short welding courses that prepare welders in 18 months. Next, apprenticeship programs offer a perfect balance, as the workers start immediately. They learn while working and get paid, while employers invest in future workers. Finally, large-scale manufacturers that can justify the cost turn to automation, where cobots work alongside the welders or partially replace them.
Main Characters In #WhyWeWeld
🧐High-demand Job For Welding -FAQ
What are the leading causes of the welder shortage in 2023?
Industry growth, age of welders, lack of information and misconceptions about the welding career, and technological improvements.
How to deal with welder shortage?
Shorter welding courses, more transparent education campaigns, apprenticeship programs, and welding automation.
Will robots replace welders in the future?
There are no indications that robots could completely replace skilled welders.