What Welders Make the Most Money?

What Welders Make the Most Money

Have you ever wondered which welders make the most money?

Maybe you first got into welding as a hobby, and are looking to parlay it into a career.

Maybe you already work in an industry such as farming or automotive work where it’s an important part of the job, and you’re looking to weld even more.

Maybe you’re an experienced welder who’s wondering just how far that experience and talent can take you on your way to the top of your profession.

We all get into welding for different reasons.

But whatever your reason for getting into welding, you can be sure that if you do it professionally, you’re going to want to know how much money you can make doing it.

Of course, that’s bound to change depending on what kind of welding work you do, which begs the question – what welders make the most money?

Here is a list of welders who make the most money:

1. Industrial Pipeline Welders

2. Nuclear Welders

3. Undersea Welders

4. Military Welders

5. Farm Welders

6. Aerospace Welders

7. Certified Welding Inspectors

1. Industrial Pipeline Welders

Working on pipelines is one of the most common welding jobs out there, and industrial pipeline welders are responsible for a huge chunk of that. There is also a lot of variety in this job.

While it may be hard to imagine working pipelines as being a job filled with surprises, the fact of the matter is that pipelines are more various than you might imagine at first. They are located in different areas and require different types of care.

Sometimes you might be called upon to work on pipelines which snake along a cold snowy expanse. Other days it may be necessary to work in dank, hot, humid conditions. Still other times you might be installing pipelines amidst urban sprawl.

It’s hard work, but at least it’s different, and it pays well – an experienced welder can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $185,000.

If you are an adaptable person up for the challenge of working in difficult conditions on long pipelines, this may be the path forward for you.

2. Nuclear Welders

From one hazardous welding job to another, nuclear welders have a tough task ahead of them, to put it mildly.

Nevermind the strenuousness that comes with working a regular welding job, you now also have to worry about a nuclear component as well.

This isn’t The Simpsons, and your safety inspector won’t be as lucky as Homer Simpson (so hope they aren’t as careless).

You need to be an extremely diligent welder with an excellent safety record to work at a nuclear power plant or similar nuclear setting.

Nuclear welders can be exposed to various types of radiation, so you’ll need to be in good health and follow nuclear safety protocols to the letter. What’s more, you’ll need to pass an FBI screening.

Nuclear welding jobs come in three separate classes:

Class 1: These jobs concern the nuclear reactor itself as well as the cooling system. They typically involve working in the hot water area that is responsible for cooling the nuclear materials.

You will likely have to dive into the hot water itself in the course of your welding work. You can only do this for a minute at a time, so you’ll need to have a great deal of precision, be a fast welder, and be able to work under pressure.

Class 2: This type of welding involves working on the parts of the cooling system which do not contain radioactive hot water.

Class 3: This involves welding aspects of the system that are used by Class 2, but are not exposed to as much radiation.

While Class 2 and 3 are much milder jobs than Class 1, they all require an incredible amount of poise and skill. They also all pay quite well.

While pay is various, this is another welding position that typically carries a handsome starting salary with an opportunity at six figures.

3. Undersea Welders

Search for “what welders make the most money?” online, and this is bound to be one of the first results you get.

Underwater welding has the reputation of being the welding equivalent of finding sunken pirate treasure.

While the claims can sometimes be a bit exaggerated, there is no denying that this is indeed one of the hottest welding jobs and the biggest money makers on the market today.

There are many reasons for that, not the least of which being that the job is both in demand and highly specialized.

The law of supply and demand has, thus, seen demand and, therefore, salaries for underwater welders shoot up almost as fast as the divers themselves dive down into the sea.

According to Payscale, the average underwater welder makes around $64,000.

However, this is a job with an incredibly high floor and an easier path to six figures than many of the other options on this list.

4. Military Welders

It is no secret that one of the biggest employers of welders in any number of capacities is the military.

Where there are tanks in need of welding, bases in need of repairing, or any number of metal-related tasks a welder can perform, military contracts inevitably await.

One of the most important things to recognize about this category is just how many varieties of welding work it offers.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and other branches of the military all need welders, and needless to say, they don’t often share.

That makes this by far one of the biggest sectors for welders, and a great way to put your skills to work while serving your country.

To take a quick overview of the kind of jobs you can expect from the different branches of the military:

Army: Welding with the Army can mean welding on the battlefield. You may be asked to service tanks, jeeps, and all manner of vehicles.

They can also be called upon to help build bases or improve the surrounding areas by doing things like building bridges.

Navy: As you might expect, these welding jobs often mean working on ships, either by building them or affecting repairs.

Air Force: If you have an aerospace background, getting one of these jobs can be easier. If you want to maintain or build warplanes, this is your chance.

Marines: These tasks often fall under the classification of “Military Occupational Specialization.” They are quite various and offer a new welding adventure every time.

Coast Guard: These jobs can range from working on boats to lighthouses.

5. Farm Welders

This is the kind of job that you want to look into if you are looking for something that pays a comfortable amount without some of the pressure that comes with other options on this list.

Working in adverse conditions such as swamps, extreme cold, or nuclear reactors? Taking on jobs that involve welding war machines or diving deep beneath the sea?

All of that takes a great deal of pressure, and for some, it may not be worth the money.

That being said, you still need to support yourself and your family, and a farm welding job can offer a more relaxed, low-risk way to do that. Farm welding jobs often range from $40,000 to $50,000.

That isn’t as much as some of the other options on this list, but it is a lot less stress and, being low risk, your chances of having to pay out for injuries suffered on the job are less as well.

6. Aerospace Welders

Whether you work for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, or any number of other aerospace companies, working in this sector can really help your welding career “take off.”

You can make as much as $60,000 doing aerospace welding. However, this makes our list not just for the base pay, but the opportunities it presents.

Many military welding jobs have a skill set that overlaps with aerospace welding jobs, so you can retire from the former to the latter while still enjoying a nice windfall.

What’s more, the military background may help boost you into a job that pays even more than that $60,000 average.

7. Certified Welding Inspectors

While this may not be a job where you have to do a lot of welding yourself, you still have to oversee a whole range of other welders and have a great deal of welding experience yourself.

This isn’t the kind of job you can waltz into after a year or two. A CWI position is one of the most coveted in the industry.

Just as a Shakespearean thespian spends their whole career building up to the crowning glory of playing King Lear, so too do welders work for years or even decades to get a CWI position.

What makes this position so sought after?

The money, for one thing. CWIs are among the best-paid jobs in the welding industry.

Then there is the prestige factor. Everyone loves being the boss, and as a CWI you’ll finally get a bigger say in things.

You also get to use some of the insight you have gained as a result of years on the job to help newer welders do their jobs better.

The money, power, and mentorship all combine to create one of the most respected jobs in the welding industry.

All of these are big money-making welding jobs. That said, even more than wondering what welders make the most money, you should first ask yourself which among these most appeal to you on a personal level.

Whatever the nature of your welding work, as the saying goes, if you love what you do, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.

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David Harper

David is the Co-Founder and Senior Editor at weldingtroop.com. 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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