Another downside to consider, is the stability of the economy and how that will affect your ability to produce an income worthy of supporting yourself, a family, and no doubt paying for the loans one usually has to receive to get started, as well as your own self supplied third party insurance coverage for you and your family (third party insurance is typically three times the cost as opposed to a traditional HMO offered from a 200 employee company. Easily $2k a month for family coverage). When the economy is working on a tight budget you will struggle and grind to secure contracts. You may only work for 1 month out of the entire year during those times. With that said, when the economy is doing well, depending on your level of expertise, great welders can make between $150k and $200k a year. Save your money though, because when those hard times hit, those good times will potentially be your only source of income until the economy can re-align, and sometimes that can last several years. I believe, at this point, we should be on the same page in understanding that this path is more of an investment opportunity based on the needs of the industry and economy. Due to the given information, I personally, do not think you will be in control of your own schedule. You will be at the mercy of "when the work comes calling". This leads us to option two.
2. Own your own welding shop. This will be short and sweet. Outside of a d.i.y. hobby shop in your garage or something of the like, starting a legitimate, sustainable welding business can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A proper shop equipped with cranes forklifts welding machinery and finishing equipment necessary to keep pace with the competition, will mostly likely require a team of investors willing to front you the cash based on a welding school education and no prospects for clients due to the inexperience obtained in the industry. This is a feat so challenging to accomplish, i would highly suggest not even thinking about your own business until you have been welding successfully and constantly for ten years. Are there people in this world that are running their own small welding shops? Absolutely, yes. Are there people running their own welding shops without prior experience or funding? I doubt that highly.
So, where do you go from here, looking to the future of your weldingcareer ? In my experienced opinion, you have a couple of opprtunities that can "set you up" for the success and freedom that you desire.
1. Enroll in a welding school. Find the cheapest welding school available, as i guarantee you " I've seen it enough to know" you will not start your true learning and understanding of your craft until you start doing it for a living. However, the reason i say enroll in a welding school is because of the "potential opportunity" being enrolled in a school can offer. When welders are needed alot of businesses will look to the welding instructors at school for potential employees. Thats right, do well in school and you could be recruited right out of school to start work immediately pursuing your craft. Right out of the gate as a "green" welder, you can expect between $10hr and $18hr depending on your skill level, location in the country and type of shop you become employed at. So, overall you will most likely be in debt for student loans that you had to borrow to pay for welding school, but likelihood of job placement, and that super awesome piece of travelling paper showing you passed welding school, should help you get a foot in the door a bit easier than the average Joe. So, that brings me to the final suggestion to a successful welding career path. Alot of you may not understand why i believe this is the best path, as it is the hardest and slowest relative to starting a welding career.
2. Do research! Find a fit that is right for you. As i expressed earlier there are many facets to having a welding career. Do you want to do construction? Oil and gas? Chemical? Food service? Automotive? Aerospace? Space is the limit in a universe where as far as science has come we still use metal in almost every application in any industry anywhere on Earth. If that thought, makes you want to be one of the unsung heroes that slings the progression of mankind forward into the unknown. Take my advice and start at the very bottom. Learn and perfect every aspect of your craft from the most menial of tasks all the way to your goal. This may seem unappealing at first because this path takes patience. Years of patience. Start as a helper. Make $8hr to $10hr for a couple of years as you learn the basics that they dont teach in welding school. Welding school is setup to get you a certain type of job and stay there doing that same thing until you retire likely never making much more than you started off at. So start as a helper learn the role of prepping, fabricating, and cleaning of metal and the necessary steps REQUIRED at any stage of welding . After you have perfected being a helper, learn how to be a fitter. At this stage you will rely on geometry, algebra, calculus and statistics to make you stand out among the fray. You will learn how to read and make blueprints, never let a boss tell you to let the engineers worry about that part. A good boss will make sure you understand those things because as a fitter you are the last line of defense for a successful project. You must always triple check every dimension and specification ever given to you. You may be building things that human lives are relying on you to do your job properly. Oh, and this is also the really cool part where you take a pile of metal and turn it into something that millions of people rely on. Did i mention metal workers were unsung heroes of the world? Now that you have perfected fitting, perfect your welding. Practice practice practice. Every single type of metal has its own individual quirks when it reaches its molten stage. Learn them all for as many different types of metal you can get your hands on dont thinks small and limit you learning to carbon steel, stainless, and aluminum. There is so much more. Super Duplex, Titanium, Zirconium, Tantalum, Inconel, Hastelloy, Rhodium, Brass, Bronze, Copper and the list goes on and on. They can all be welded. Strive to be a welder that can do it all and you will never go home disappointed in your days work. Remember though you strive to reach perfection there is always someone better to learn from. Be humble and soak up all knowledge, listen to all suggestions and then apply what your own knowledge tells you is best. During this journey you will begin to realize that while the work is hard and hot, money is not everything and should not drive you in this craft. Knowledge and perfection of your craft comes first, the money will take care of itself down your path to greatness. Your journey never ends. Goodluck! Find passion in all that you do in life.