How To Join a Welding Union – Welding Union Salary, Jobs & Apprenticeship


Have you ever wondered how to join a welding union, or you are looking for a welding union near you?

What is the average welding union salary or pay? Are there welding union jobs? We got you covered.

If your dream is to become a professional welder, you will eventually have to decide whether you will join a union or become a non- union welding contractor.

While both options have their advantages and disadvantages, it is ultimately up to you which path you wish to choose.

If you decide that a union is your best option, you need to ensure that you are familiar with their specific requirements. 

These requirements vary from union to union, but they all start with the appropriate welding certification.

The first steps you would take would be:

  • Ensure that you have an AWS welding certification  
  • Choose and research the various local unions appropriate to your chosen specialization, such as pipefitters, boilermakers, or ironworker’s unions
  • Submit your application and membership fees to join the union.

While researching your potential union, you will discover that requirements vary between different unions.

Some union’s requirements are more lenient than others.  However, tempting it is to opt for a union with fewer requirements; you should always remember that most of the unions that demand higher standards are the unions with the best benefits.

In this article I will explain what welder union do, the requirements to join a welding union, the union welder membership and some advice for welding union apprenticeship.

What Union Do Welders Belong To?

Welder Unions are common in many fields such as teaching, law enforcement and skilled trades including welding.

What union do welders belong to? Welders may belong to unions that are affiliated with companies, or what is known as ‘local’ unions.

‘Locals’ are chapters of larger national or international unions located in city or regional areas in networks.

The United Association (UA) is one example of an international union based in the United States, Canada and other countries, with various affiliate chapters in different states, including ‘Local 5’ in the Washington D.C. area.

Depending on the specific type of welding trade, a member may qualify for various unions, from ironworkers and boilermakers to pipefitters.

To identify the best union for your area of work, research website pages and local chapters of unions that cover your area.

Union vs. Non Union Welding: What Are the Benefits of Joining a Welding Union?

Better Job Security

Welding unions fight for increased wages for their members and better safety conditions at work, healthcare, and provide retirement benefits.

Many welders join a union for these very reasons, which provide for greater job security.

Freelance workers or ‘at will’ workers often may not express grievances for fear of losing their livelihood. 

Union members benefit from the protection of the welder union in matters such as unsubstantiated dismissals.

While ‘at will’ workers may be let go at any time, unions require proof from employers of incompetence, wrongdoing, or policy violations before an employer may dismiss union members.

The union can also provide mediation between employers, and employees should grievances arise.

Better Workplace Safety

Welding can be a dangerous occupation, and unions function to ensure that employers provide safe working environments and are held liable for injuries sustained by union members.

Welder Union’s actions ensure that employers develop and maintain a high standard of safety protocols in the workplace.

Community Benefits

Because unions hold the power of numbers, grievances, and demands for fair salaries are given more weight than an individual demand.

Welder Unions fit on their members’ behalf to ensure that welders are paid fairly and have suitable benefits. 

The Cons of Welding Unions

Union welding members must adhere to union rules and may sometimes be given a job that they do not have an interest in.

Some non-union members feel that non-union work allows greater rewards for individual contributions and performance than the standardized compensation of unions.

Seniority carries great weight within the welder union, and some welders feel that the best person for a job may get passed over for those with seniority.

Because seniority plays such a big part in unionized environments, some believe unions may limit an individual’s professional growth.

What Kind of Welding Unions Are There?

There are a variety of unions available for a membership that cater to specific welding fields. These include:

  • Plumbing and pipefitters unions such as the United Association specialize in pipe welding from domestic to private industry and public work supply lines.
  • Ironworker’s unions such as the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union (IW) work on all types of structures and construction of all kinds from schools and stadiums to bridges to vehicle manufacturing.
  • The third type of welding union includes boilermakers such as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers (IBB.) The IBB is involved in heavy industries and construction in shipbuilding, manufacturing, railroads, mining, and related industries. Primarily, boilermakers work with metal structures that are subject to high temperatures and pressures.

Education Requirements to Join Welders Union?

What educational requirements do you need to join the welders union? Welders unions usually expect a higher level of experience and certification than non-union employment.

They often expect a high standard of expertise from their members and select their welders accordingly.

Welding trade schools may offer trainee welders an advantage when planning a career in a professional welding union.

The combination of theoretical training and practical experience gives prospective welders a well-rounded training constructing advantageous for the professional welding industry.

Most welding courses usually only take 6 months or so and offer experience and skills to handle welding equipment. Course topics generally include:

  • Safety practices training by OSHA Authorized Construction Trainers 
  • Equipment handling
  • Welding symbol charts 
  • Cutting torch operating
  • Techniques of metal plates preparation

Welding Union Job Responsibilities – What Are the Duties of a Union Welder?

The various welding union jobs have different responsibilities and requirements that are specific to their designated fields.

We will discuss each of the main union types and the responsibilities you would expect if you were to join them.

Ironworker’s Union

To be part of the ironworking union, you must expect to be involved in challenging and often difficult work, often at high elevations.

Teamwork is imperative, and you will need to meet union standards and deadlines.

You will need a good sense of balance and be alert to danger, and conscientious in your work.

Some of the sectors involved in ironworking include:

Journeyman ironworkers generally spend 3 to 4 years in apprenticeship and need to fulfill 144 hours on the theoretical study of welding every year. Theory includes:

  • Reading of blueprints
  • Maths
  • Measurements
  • Safety practices 
  • Construction techniques.

The practical component of apprenticeship includes 2000 hours a year of practical training, including instruction on tool handling, cutting, welding, and construction of metal frameworks.

What Duties to Expect as an Ironworker

  • The fitting of large metal structures together by welding
  • Cutting of metals, welding and bending, and shearing
  • Aid in demolition of structures

Requirements for Ironworker’s Union Apprenticeship:

  • Minimum age of 18 years.
  • High school diploma, G.E.D., or equivalent 
  • Good physical condition 
  • Agility and a good sense of balance are also required.
  • Drug and alcohol-free.
  • Must meet requirements as set out in citizenship laws.

Pipefitters Union

Pipefitters union welders assist in the design and layout of high and low-pressure steam and hot water systems, refrigeration and heating systems, and oil and fuel piping.

Pipefitter’s skills are in demand from residential to commercial installations.

Often a pipefitters job involves working in high places and enclosed spaces, so applicants should be comfortable in both spaces.

The pipefitter works in extreme temperature environments both inside and outside and is often subject to adverse weather.

Pipefitters who are part of a union will be involved with all the procedures of pipefitting from the planning stage to the construction and installation.

They will be expected to work with various grinding, levels, and welding tools. They will need to interpret plans and follow blueprints correctly.

some of the sectors that are involved in a pipefitter’s job include:

  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Refrigeration construction companies
  • Mechanical construction firms
  • Pulp and paper mills
  • Primary Steel producers
  • Utility companies
  • Motor vehicle manufacturers
  • Metal fabricating companies
  • Oil refineries

The 4- 5-year apprenticeship is typically divided into one-year segments, including 1,700 to 2,000 hours of practical fieldwork and a 216-hour theoretical class component.

Classroom skills may involve mathematics, physics, drafting, and even chemistry.

A Pipefitter’s Duties Include 

  • Measurement and marking of pipes for welding, threading, and cutting
  • Training in trade-specific tools including cutting torches, threaders, and saws.
  • The designing piping structures and installing and repairing according to instructions
  • Pipe maintenance and repairs.

Apprenticeship Requirements for Pipefitter’s Union

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • High school diploma or G.E.D.
  • Pass a drug and alcohol screening test
  • Valid driver’s license.,Boilermakers

boilermakers have the often challenging job of constructing and maintaining metal boilers that hold fluids and gasses.

The containers are usually under high pressure and are used in electricity generation, heating, or mechanical energy systems.

Boilers are often found in shipbuilding, vehicle and machine production and oil/gas extraction, transmission, and power generation.

The work of a boilermaker necessitates a high level of technical skill and dedication. Field construction work often means that boilermakers are exposed to extreme weather and temperatures.

Often the boilermaker’s job requires them to work at heights up to 1,000 feet above the ground and extremely confined areas of space, so the job can be a hazardous one.

The boilermaker apprenticeship is a four-year on-the-job training with a minimum of 576 classroom hours and 6,000 hours of practical fieldwork.

Boilermaker apprentices need to know how to bolt and rivet with specialized equipment and have a working knowledge of chemical and water composition and temperatures. 

Boilermakers Union Welders

A boilermaker’s Job responsibilities include

  • The building, maintenance, and cleaning of large tanks
  • Burning, gouging, and welding 
  • Interpreting blueprints
  • Erecting steel beams and column
  • Aligning and fitting components
  • Assembling blast furnaces, smokestacks, and steam-powered turbines
  • Maintain large pipe systems. 

Apprenticeship Requirements for Boilermaker’s Union

  • 18 years of age school diploma or G.E.D
  • High school education with a copy of  school diploma or G.E.D
  • Physically fit for strenuous work.

How do I join the Plumbing Union?

How do I join the plumbing union? There are several ways to apply to join a plumbing union, depending on whether you are already a skilled worker, or are unskilled and wanting to learn the trade.

If you are already employed by a company that is affiliated with a union, ask the human resources department at your workplace or the national office of the union for local plumbing union representative’s contact details, to find the required information and paperwork.

Before joining, ensure to research the benefits and dues to be deducted from your paycheck.

Many local unions will require unskilled workers to complete a formal apprenticeship program.

Research local union websites or organize to meet with a representative or local member for a detailed explanation.

Eligibility criteria generally require applicants over the age of 18, who hold a high school diploma or GDE equivalent. They may further be required to pass a drug and criminal check.

Underwater Welding Union: What You Should Know

The path to becoming an underwater welder (and therefore, earning a place in the prestige union) is pretty complicated.

However, at the end of all the training and tough times, the union will present a huge array of job opportunities for you. It’s worth it in the end.

There are 6 essential steps that you need to follow and complete before an underwater welding union will touch you with a barge pole. Have a gander at the following:

  • Grab your high school diploma or GED
  • Do your surface welding certificates and clock up enough experience
  • Apply to the commercial diving school (you can also go to the CITF to do an underwater welding training program)
  • Get your diving certificates and licenses
  • Get yourself an underwater welding apprenticeship
  • Do well and strive to be better

Apprenticeship Requirements for Underwater Welding Union

What are the apprenticeship requirements for an underwater welding union? To start on the road to becoming a certified underwater welder, you need to have both welding and diving skills.

Firstly, you must take part in a formal welding school where you’ll be approved by the American Welding Society if you’re successful.

Of course, you need to ensure you receive your commercial diver’s license/certificate too. A lot of underwater welding training courses include this into the syllabus so it won’t involve too much research.

After you’ve successfully finished all of the above, you can then join an underwater welding apprenticeship program.

Here, you will be working alongside highly experienced welders who will keep you safe and teach you the tricks of the trade.

Job Responsibilities of an Underwater Welder

As an underwater welder, you will need to mix commercial diving qualifications with welding skills typically conducted on land.

You must be physically able to wrestle cumbersome equipment in the water and perform the task as flawlessly as humanly possible.

As you can tell, this is already quite the responsibility! But, we’re going to take a look at the specific duties you’ll be expected to do. Here’s a little list to get you thinking:

Alongside all of that, you’ll need to have A* communication skills since you’ll be working with a team.

Plus, you should be able to assist the project manager with planning when asked.

Welding Union Salary and Pay: Average Salary of a Union Welder

Welding unions exist in every country in all parts of the world. Depending on location, union workers typically earn more than non-union employees, primarily due to the collective power of the welder union.

What is the average welding union salary? In the United States of America, the average salary for a union welder is $69,190. Although, the salaries range from $13,190 to $356,999, depending on the type of welding jobs you perform.

A union welder earns, on average, about 20% more than a non-union worker in a comparative role. Generally speaking, the riskier the conditions, the higher the pay.

For those of you who live and work in San Francisco, you should be pleased to know that union welders make around $104,056! That’s a whopping 50% more than the United States’ average.

Yep, you’ll be the go-to household for the parties!

The more you make though, the more tax you will have to pay. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change when you’re a union welder (we wish it did!).

It’s estimated that if you make the average salary, you’ll be paying around 22% of this to tax.

This means you’ll take home around $58,028 every year.

Unions with large numbers of members are able to provide outsourced labour very quickly and can thereby demand higher rates for their workers.

In addition, welder union contracts typically enforce a consistent standard of pay across all workers, regardless of sex, age or other factors.

How Much Does a Union Pipeline Welder Make?

What is the salary of a pipeline welder? The average salary for a union pipeline welder is around $71,003. However, you can earn up to (and sometimes surpass) the $132,500 mark.

It just depends on the risk level of each job you take on and your experience.

Typically, you’ll start fairly low (around $37,000 a year) but don’t worry, this quickly increases! People have reported that they make well into six figures doing pipeline welding after they’ve gained years of experience.

Average Salary of a Union Pipefitter

What is the average salary of a union pipefitter? The average salary for union pipefitters is currently around $54,106 per year or $26.01 per hour. However, people in the trade have reported that they earn anywhere from $32,100 to $91,300.

As you can see, it’s incredibly varied.

Let’s have a glance at the breakdown:

  • Entry-level pipefitter = $32,065 per year
  • Junior-level pipefitter = $41,083 per year
  • Mid-level pipefitter = $54,106 per year
  • Senior-level pipefitter = $71,257 per year
  • Top-level pipefitter = $91,297 per year

Just like most jobs, your pay will go up gradually as you gain experience and expertise. It’s unlikely that you’ll jump straight from $54,000 to $71,000!

Salary of a Union Ironmaker

What is the salary of a union ironmaker? The average salary for union ironmakers in the United States of America is roughly $55,040. You won’t necessarily start there though, you need to work your way up.

Typically, ironmakers start at around $32,790 and can earn as much as $92,388 per year!

But let’s break it down.

As an entry-level ironmaker, you’ll be earning around $15.76 per hour, meaning you’ll be making the lowest salary of $32,790 (assuming that you work full time).

Once you progress to junior-level, your pay will be bumped to $20.15 per hour. Here, your salary will be around $41,908.

As your experience increases and you become a mid-level ironmarker, you’ll earn $26.46 per hour. Your starting to earn that big buck now — $55,040 a year.

Reaching the senior level means you will be paid $34.75 per hour ($72,288 per annum)!

Finally, getting to the top means you’ll be earning $44.42 per hour ($92,388 a year!).

Salary of a Union Boilermaker

What is the average salary of a union boilermaker? The average salary of a union boilermaker is around $64,980, meaning that the average hourly pay is roughly $29.86.

Generally speaking, most boilermakers will also get a bonus of approximately $5,068 which is a nice little windfall once a year (although, this isn’t guaranteed, of course).

The actual salaries range from $42,000 to $105,000.

The specific salary you’re given is determined by the specific union you’re a part of, the risk of each job, and the company that employs you.

However, you are guaranteed to be earning at least the average salary by the time you’re a mid-level pro. 

Are There Welding Union Near Me?

Are there welding union near me? To tell you the truth, the answer is probably yes! There are welding unions all over the places so it’s highly likely that you’ll find one which suits you no matter where you live.

It’s important to note that you should do your research before joining your local unions.

While it is useful to look at other’s experiences, you need to remember that everyone will have had a different perception of how they were treated.

That’s life. Do what you think is the best thing for you.

Oh, and one more thing — don’t forget to read all contracts thoroughly.

Some stipulate that you must travel for extended periods which is distressing if you weren’t expecting it!

Welding Union Near Georgia

Iron Workers Local 387

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Near California

Iron Workers Union Local 416

UA Local 342 Plumbers & Pipefitters

Welding Union Near Las Vegas

UA Local 525 Plumbers, Pipefitters, Welders & HVAC

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Near Alabama

Iron Workers Union

Iron Workers Union Apprentice

Welding Union Near Texas

Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 100

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Near Florida

Ironworkers Local 397 Union

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Near Louisiana

Iron Workers Union

New Orleans Pipe Trades

Welding Union Near Baton Rouge

Iron Workers Union

Union Welding Companies in The US

If you are interested in union welding companies then just follow the link where you can see all relevant welding companies.

Welders Union In The US

It can be tricky to know which union you should join as a welder. Why? Because there are so many out there! But don’t worry, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 welders’ unions that are bound to treat you right.

Look at this handy-dandy welder union list:

  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers (IW)
  • International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART)
  • The 798 Union
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA)
  • United Steelworkers (USW)
  • Ironworkers Local Union 597
  • Boilermaker Union
  • Ironworkers Local Union No. 10
  • UBC Millwrights
  • Pipefitters Local Union 211

Welding Union Jobs

Nabbing yourself a union welder job can give you loads of benefits. This includes a higher pay scale, paid training, and lots of other rewards.

The trouble is, that most welders (especially those new to the scene) aren’t sure which jobs they can do in a union.

Not to worry, we’ve got the top 10 welding union jobs right here so you can end your search and start having a very fulfilling career.

Take a look at the list below:

  • Certified Pipe Welder
  • Machine Operator/Welder
  • Combo Pipe Welder/Fitter
  • MIG Welder
  • Structural Welder
  • Robot Welder Operator
  • Assembly Welder
  • Stick Welder
  • Aluminum Welder
  • Senior Pipe Welder III

Of course, there are plenty of other interesting welding positions available. Just a quick Google search will bring up hundreds.

However, our suggestions cover the broad spectrum of activities you could find yourself in when you start a welding union position. 

Welding Union Apprenticeship

welding Union Apprenticeship in Indiana

UA Local 440 Plumbers, Steamfitters, & HVACR Service Technicians

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Apprenticeship In Indianapolis

L&N Welding LLC

UA Local 440 Plumbers, Steamfitters, & HVACR Service Technicians

Welding Union Apprenticeship In Texas

Pipefitters Local Union 211

UA Local 286 Plumbers & Pipefitters

Welding Union Apprenticeship In Georgia

Plumbers, Pipefitters & Service Technicians Local Union 72

Iron Workers Union

Welding Union Apprenticeship In Michigan

UA Local 357 Plumbers/Pipefitters & HVAC-R

UA Local 85 Plumbers & Steamfitters

Welding Union Apprenticeship In Canada

Plumbers & Steamfitters & Welding Professionals

Canadian Union Of Skilled Workers

What Is 798 Welder?

What is 798? The 798 is a trade union that promises to deliver the highest quality pipeline welders across the United States of America.

Thus, if you know someone who is a 798 welder, they are part of this elite union and are regarded as the best of the best.

Currently, there are around 3,400 welders in the 798 trade union.

Surprisingly, this group also represents 650 journeymen who help their welders line and test the pipes.

Not to mention that they have 4,200 helpers to accompany the welders to ensure perfect completion.

Put simply, the 798 union is based on 4 core values — quality work, safe environments, community stewardship, and worker protection.

This is likely the reason why so many welders want to be part of this group (even though it’s pretty hard to get in!).

How Do You Join the 798 Union?

How do you join the 798 union? There are 3 types of 798 memberships you can try to acquire (welder, journeyman, or helper), depending on the type of jobs you want to be doing.

It’s important to note that joining the union doesn’t guarantee you a job. In fact, the 798 union only reviews applications when they need more members for current or near-future jobs.

So, if you don’t hear from them in 6 months, they’ve passed on your application (sadly).

Anyway, here are the requirements for each type of 798 membership:

1. Welder Membership

  • Have experience with downhill welding (24-inch pipe is the minimum)
  • Pass the downhill welding test (24-inch pipe, .500 wall bell-hole, puddle capped)
  • Have a welding rig
  • Be 100% drug-free
  • Complete the pre-qualifying application form
  • Schedule a test in Tulsa (if you gain approval from the pre-qualifying form)
  • Pay the Welder Initiation Fee ($2,000)
  • Pay the test fee ($250), failure means you lose the money
  • After test completion, pay 3 months dues

2. Journeyman Membership

  • Have experience as a journeyman spacer (know how to space a pipe, run hydrostatic testing, carry the line, stab and fabrication, run an end facing machine)
  • Be 100% clean of drugs
  • Complete the pre-qualifying application
  • Pay the Journeyman Initiation Fee ($2,000)
  • Pay 3 months dues

3. Helper

  • Help the welder with all their equipment
  • Grind and buff weld
  • Be physically fit
  • Be able to work in extreme conditions
  • Be able to travel
  • Be 100% drug-free
  • Pay the Helper Initiation Fee ($1,200)
  • Pay 3 months dues

How Do I Become a Journeyman Welder?

The work of a journeyman welder, or sometimes piper welder, comprises fusing metals together, reading blueprints, and operating equipment for welding.

How do I become a journeyman welder? In most cases, a journeyman welder will have either completed a training program or apprenticeship, possess essential technical skills, and understand relevant computer software.

The majority of journeyman welders do not have a college degree and hold a high school degree or GED equivalent.

The main qualifications are completing a welder apprenticeship and passing required state licensing.

Most apprenticeships are three to four years in length combining thorough work experience and some theoretical study.

You will need to be over the age of 18. In addition, some employers may require applicants to pass a background and/or drug test.

How Many Hours Does a Journeyman Welder Need?

Generally speaking, you need some sort of experience as a general welder to become a journeyman welder.

If you have started (and completed) an apprenticeship, then you have already done the hardest part.

How many hours does a journeyman welder need? As a journeyman welder, you will need 1560 hours of on-the-job experience. Plus, 8 weeks of technical training per year.

This is so you stay on track and are constantly up to date with the new rules, regulations, and best practices.

There are other routes you can go down (like going to an AWS approved school.

But, you’ll still need to clock the pre-determined number of hours before you can make it as a journeyman welder.

Do Union Welders Travel A Lot?

Do union welders travel a lot? In a phrase, they can — and to get a whopping big paycheck, union welders do tend to travel for extended periods.

However, it’s a personal choice. While you can choose to travel a lot, you do not have to. You can work wherever you want!

The union’s rules and restrictions apply to the company that is bound by the contract with that union. It does not apply to you as a welder.

However, you need to be careful about the contract. Some unions stipulate that the welder who signed must travel to a pre-determined place to work.

If that’s stated in your contract, you have no choice but to follow the rules.


Welding is a challenging and stimulating career with many avenues to explore.

Joining a welding union is up to each individual to decide, and a great deal of thought must be put into which professional union suits your best welding career. 

Unions provide protection and security and offer great apprentice programs where you may earn while you are learning.

We hope you have a clearer idea of how to proceed in your union application process, and we wish you a happy, lucrative, and productive welding future.

If you are interested in welding gear or tools, then just follow the link to our recommendation page where you can see all welding accessories we love and use.

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David Harper

David is the Co-Founder and Senior Editor at David's an experienced fitter and tuner/welder who's passionate about helping others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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