You need a boring corporate job to make $100,000 a year, right? Actually, no. If working in an office, sitting at your desk and being stuck in a cubicle all day doesn't sound like your "dream job," then you have other options.

A career in welding gives you the chance to work with your hands, be outside and travel – all with great income potential. With the right welding job, you can make $100,000 or more a year and enjoy what you do. What's not to like about that?

With the right skills and goals, six figures is a real possibility for welding professionals

How to get a high-paying welding job

There are so many different types of jobs that involve welding that there isn't just one path to finding a job that pays $100,000 a year. Just like any career, you shouldn't expect to get one of the best-paying welding jobs right away. It takes years to gain experience, improve your skills and work your way up the ladder.

When it comes to welding, the jobs with the highest salaries are usually the most challenging, require specialized welding skills or performed in the riskiest environments.

As a welder, you can work as an employee of a company that may pay less per hour but gives you consistent hours, job security and benefits. You can also be an independent contractor, which means you can get hired for specific projects by different companies. Being an independent contractor may pay more per hour but you're not always guaranteed work like an employee is.

Where you live also affects how much you can make. When you look at average salaries in different states, a welder in New York makes 35% more than one in Mississippi. The good news is that welding jobs are in high demand so if you become an AWS Certified Welder and work hard to improve your skills, you have a good chance of landing a high-paying job anywhere.

Some regional areas may offer higher salaries and opportunities for skilled welders

Welding jobs that can pay $100k

Of all the different types of welding jobs, here are a few that can potentially pay $100,000 a year or more.

Pipeline welder 

Pipeline welders build and repair large metal pipes that transport oil and natural gas. These pipelines can run for hundreds of miles and need to be extremely strong to prevent leaks. Pipeline welding is very challenging because the pipes are in fixed positions and can't move – so the welder must know how to work in many different and difficult positions to reach the area they need to weld. A pipeline can also be located in harsh, potentially dangerous locations like rural Alaska or a desert in the Middle East.


Highly skilled & experienced pipe welders can earn over six figures annually

Underwater welder

Believe it or not but welding is possible in the water. Since it can be expensive or nearly impossible to pull large ships or other metal structures onto land, welders need to go underwater for repair or testing. This is done a few different ways, either by creating a closed-off, watertight area for dry welding, or by wet welding in open water. Since underwater welding is challenging and potentially dangerous, these types of jobs pay a lot of money. Underwater welders also need to be trained in diving and specialty welding skills.

Contract welder

If you want to travel and have more choice in the jobs you work, then you may enjoy the lifestyle of a contract welder. Instead of being a full-time employee with a single company, these welders sign temporary contracts for specific projects. Once that assignment is over, they move to the next one. There are many types of high-paying contract welding opportunities. One example is a military support welder, which is assigned to fix and maintain military vehicles, structures and equipment all over the world. Another example is an industrial shutdown welder that travels to different factories that are temporarily shut down for facility repairs and upgrades. Because these types of jobs require specialized skills and can be potentially risky, contract welders can earn well over $100,000 in a year.

Working as a contract welder can be very rewarding, depending on the nature of the project

Ironworker

Have you ever seen a construction worker suspended high up, working on a building? There's a good chance that person was an ironworker. Their job is to build, repair or take apart large structures like bridges, skyscrapers, stadiums and cranes. Ironworkers are responsible for different metal and construction processes, including welding. To be an ironworker, you have to be physically fit and not afraid of heights. It's not easy to weld when you're so high up and exposed to weather and wind. That's why these jobs pay very well. In addition to welding experience, you need to know building codes and how to read blueprint plans.


Ironworkers welding out a structure with the SMAW process

Certified Welding Inspector

There are many different requirements and codes for welding to make sure the work is as functional and safe as possible. That's where the welding inspector comes in. The job of a Certified Welding Inspector is to oversee and review all aspects of a welding job – from planning to approving welding procedures to verifying safety compliance. To become a Certified Welding Inspector, you need to have years of hands-on welding experience and pass the AWS Certified Welding Inspector exam. 

Visual inspection of weld reinforcement on welded pipe

How to get started

As you can see, it's possible to make $100,000 a year and not be stuck in an office. No matter which high-paying welding job you want to go after, it starts by getting trained and becoming an AWS Certified Welder.

To learn about more these welding careers, and AWS certifications, visit aws.org.

This article originally appeared on WeldingDigest.com

Author: American Welding Society Foundation ­- Publish Date: 7/9/2020.