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Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service


The Work

Welders cut, shape and join sections of metal in a wide range of industries, such as construction and engineering, transport, aerospace, and offshore oil and gas. They also carry out repairs on manufacturing equipment and machinery.

As a welder, you would:

  • select and lay out materials to be cut or joined
  • follow engineering instructions and drawings
  • use the most suitable welding method for the job in hand
  • inspect and test cuts and joins, using precision measuring instruments, such as a micrometer
  • operate semi-automatic spot-welding equipment (often found on high volume production lines like car manufacturing).

As well as working with metals and alloys, you may also cut and join composite materials, such as plastics, using specialist welding methods. Common types of welding include oxyacetylene, MIG (metal inert gas), MMA (manual metal arc), TIG (tungsten inert gas), laser and ultrasonic.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work 37 to 40 hours a week. Shiftwork is common and overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines.

Your working conditions would depend on your job. For instance, in a shipyard, it would be cramped if you were working in the bottom of a ship's hull. If you worked on an oil pipeline or a rig out at sea, you would be exposed to all weather conditions.

You would usually wear protective clothing, such as a face-shield, apron or gloves. In some cases you might need to use specialist safety equipment, for example breathing apparatus for underwater welding work, or a safety harness for working at heights.

Skills and Interests

  • good hand-to-eye coordination
  • the ability to work accurately
  • good concentration levels
  • the ability to work without direct supervision
  • the ability to understand technical plans and drawings
  • good maths skills to work out measurements
  • an understanding of safe working practices.


You may be able to get into this career through an Apprenticeship in engineering. To get on to a scheme, you will usually need four GCSEs (grades A-C), in subjects like maths, engineering, English or science. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

Alternatively, you could take a welding qualification, which would teach you some of the skills needed for the job. Relevant courses include:

  • ABC Certificate in Fabrication and Welding Practice at levels 1 to 3
  • City & Guilds Award in Welding Skills, and Certificate in Engineering at levels 1 to 3
  • BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in Manufacturing Engineering (Fabrication & Welding) or Mechanical Engineering.

See the websites for the Engineering Construction Training Board (ECITB), SEMTA and the Welding Institute (TWI) in the section below for more information about welding careers, qualifications and training. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) also has careers information and a course database for local colleges.


Most of your training would be work based and cover areas such as reading technical drawings, selecting materials and tools, and training in the relevant welding methods for the industry you are working in.

You could study for one of several NVQs once you are working, including:

  • Performing Engineering Operations levels 1 and 2
  • Fabrication and Welding Engineering levels 2 and 3
  • Welding (with pipework or plating options) Level 3
  • Fabrication and Welding Level 3.

You would normally have to pass competency tests for the type of welding work you carry out. These tests show that your work meets British and European welding standards (also known as codes).

There are many codes specific to particular welding work, for example BS EN 287 and BS EN ISO 9606 cover work on pipes, pressure vessels and tanks. For more details about coding tests, contact your local welding course provider or the Welding Institute (TWI).

If you have teamleading responsibilities, you could take the ABC Level 4 Diploma in Supervisory Management in Fabrication and Welding Studies, which covers advanced welding processes, welding science and quality assurance.

You could also contact the Welding Institute about their range of training schemes for welding methods, as well as inspection and testing qualifications. They also have information about the industries in which welding skills play a key role.


You could work in a wide range of industries, such as civil engineering, engineering construction, agricultural engineering, shipbuilding, and vehicle manufacture and repair. You may also have the opportunity to work abroad on overseas construction projects.

Because welding knowledge is transferable, you may find it easy to move between different industries.

Your promotion options include becoming a foreman/forewoman and shift supervisor, or fabrication workshop manager. With experience, you may have the option to work in welding inspection, quality control and non-destructive testing. See the profile for Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Technician for more details about this role.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in a new window)

The Engineer
Engineering Jobs Network
Oil and Gas 4U

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries can be between 12,500 and 17,000 a year.
  • With experience, this can rise to between 18,000 and 26,000.
  • Experienced specialist welders can earn up to 30,000 a year.

Shiftwork and overtime may increase these amounts.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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