Show Me the Money: Welding Wages Across the United States


Job Welders WagesHere is a sampling of the comments you’ll come across when you search the web for information about the best paying jobs in welding: I think the money is at any job that’s dangerous; Ironworkers, underwater welders, pipe welders… all make a lot, and work their *** off; There is money to be made in the oilfield.

These opinions often hint at the truth, but one person’s experience rarely reflects everyone’s reality. For example, I’m sure there are at least a few pipe welders that don’t believe “a lot” accurately describes the amount they are paid for working long, hard hours.

So where do welders make the most money? The following list, compiled by Economic Modeling Services International, shows the ten U.S. states that offer the highest wages for welders. These systematically researched figures are more reliable than forum comments, but you have to take a close look at the factors driving the numbers to a get the whole picture.

PrintFor example, welders in the same state can take home very different paychecks depending on the level of demand for their particular skill set. The recent boom in domestic energy production has increased the demand for welders to build, maintain and repair pipelines or rigs in states like North Dakota and Texas. Industry booms like this often account for large wage discrepancies. In North Dakota, welders in the top earning bracket make about $39 per hour, yet the median wage hovers around $21 per hour (median wage means half of welders earned more than that amount and half earned less).

This is the sort of thing you have to keep in mind when you look at wage statistics in a field as diverse as welding. Long term job security, cost of living, and comfort are some other important variables to consider. For instance, Alaska offers the highest welder wages in the country, but the precipitous drop in oil prices and a continued reduction in production has darkened the prospects of an industry that makes up a third of the state’s economy.

Oil prices may have nosedived but those barrels still have to get to refineries and consumer markets. That should make a shipbuilding powerhouse like Hawaii an attractive proposition for welders in search of a larger paycheck. The top earners can count on about $40 per hour and the median hourly earnings are a very respectable $31.

Yet, like Alaska, Hawaii is likely to be a long way off from family and friends. And even if you’re ready to forego the comfort of familiar faces in order to pad your nest egg, the state’s cost of living might make it a wasted effort. The Cost of Living Index ranks Hawaii as one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. In the end, the Aloha state’s high salary figures may not compare that favorably to other places closer to home when you consider that housing, utilities, groceries, health care and transportation costs are well above the national average.

Industry booms often stimulate job growth. However, welders should consider long term job security, working conditions, cosy-of-living, and the absence of friends and family before relocating. Locate these oil boom states in the tables below.
Industry booms often stimulate job growth. However, welders should consider long term job security, working conditions, cost-of-living, and the absence of friends and family before relocating. Locate these oil boom states in the tables below.

Job security, cost-of-living, and social concerns such as the proximity of family and friends, are all important considerations when it comes to making a geographical move to secure the best return on your hard work. However, the most critical factor is working conditions, especially when it comes to physical danger.

That high paying job in the Baaken Shale loses some of its allure when you consider the dramatic uptick in accidents and fatalities that accompanies a surge in energy sector hiring when oil prices rise. For example, between 2009 and 2013 more than 9,000 claims of injuries related to the booming oil and gas industry were filed with North Dakota’s Workforce Safety & Insurance agency. One of these involved marine veteran Dustin Payne who died when the tanker he was welding exploded.

Experts say that the frantic pace of drilling combined with an influx of workers who often lack the relevant training or experience leads to a rise in accidents and fatalities. But of course no one should risk their life for a paycheck, so make sure you are properly prepared to do the work and be ready to walk away if safety regulations are not well enforced.

Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that provide information about working conditions, and other concerns like long term industry prospects and regional living expenses. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles a prodigous amount of data about industries and occupations as well as working conditions, accidents, and fatalities. Websites like Payscale.com are also very helpful when it comes to locating information about average incomes and living expenses in different parts of the country.

These days, it’s really a matter of plugging the right keywords into a search engine like Google or Firefox to get news reports, blog posts, survey results, and other kinds of information about practically any topic. Click here for a brief tutorial on techniques you can use to find what you are looking for more quickly.

PrintWith a checklist of concerns and online resources at your fingertips, you can make the most of the data provided in tables like this one featuring all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and national totals. Note the total number of welders per state and the increase or decrease in welding jobs between 2009 and 2013. The location quotient indicates the concentration of welders relative to the national average. For example a state with a location quotient of 1.0 would have the same concentration of welders as the nation as a whole.

Note also that these wages do not include overtime, a major part of many of the astronomical paychecks that you hear about from time to time. Nor do these wages  account for non-welding tasks like certified inspectors or supervisors, another reliable means of increasing your income.

Do you work in one of these states? What has your experience been like? Let us know in the comments below.

56 thoughts on “Show Me the Money: Welding Wages Across the United States”

  1. I’ve been at my job for two years only got 50¢ raise at Trawick Construction as there welder in Chipley, Florida. I’m only making $12 an hour.

    1. ….then u need to move on son. if your making only 12/hr., in a field where the AVERAGE is 15/hr and above….something is seriously wrong with either YOU, the company you work for…or the BOTH OF YOU.
      …if YOUR satisfied with 12/HR., HAVE AT IT…but for 12/hr., I wouldn’t even get out of bed for that….good luck

    2. Whoa.damn. do you have certs or a degree? I made more than that welding on a spud farm. What kind of welding. Good on ya for sticking it out. Im from Montana and don’t know wage comparison for the 2 states but damn. You are a skilled professional and should at least be able to feed a family.

  2. Went to asnuntuck community collage for two yrs got my cert. Then worked aerospace for 3 and a half years as a certified tig welder in various different metals including titanium and aluminum and some others after that been at numerous different shops doing multiple of jobs including building wash tanks and other sheet metal fabbing all the way up to mig welding inch thick bases for Pratt and Whitney or re fabbing town dump truck beds that are rotted out I’ve been all around also have experience in stick welding

  3. Key word top 10%, these welders are completely trained and know there job. The pay is low for what they are making.
    You learn at a program that is crap you make crap if you even get a job. choose your training wisely and weld your ass off while your in school.

  4. I start Tulsa welding in one week. The school cost 20 grand. I hope I’m making a good decision. If anyone has any input r can give me any advice please do.

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it iv been been welding the past five years I went to job corp it was free and I learn just as much as you would at Tulsa if you really want school I would look at community college really hard before I dropped 20g hell you could set up a small shop of your own for less then that

    2. My husband (in Texas) wanted to go to Tulsa welding school because here in Texas graduates from there are highly appreciated and very skilled! I think you’re making a worthy investment!!

      1. I’d rather go to Lime Star over Tulsa. Cheaper plus we have about 5 or 6 of Tulsa’s top instructors teaching us now. Plus it is a hell of a lot cheaper, and we learn to clean and prep or own metals.

    3. Dude Idk I went to Lincoln electric n it was super cheap 3g for like 6 months and when I did graduate I didn’t know shit

  5. Tulsa welding school is a rip off! You are much better off going to Tulsa Tech for a fraction of the cost, which ranges from $250 to $325 per class. Most graduates from TWS find their skills inadequate after graduation to be considered for most fabrication shops in Tulsa,then leave the field with garnishments to their future wages for the $20k they owe on the schooling. Not to mention almost no employer in Tulsa will hire you if you say you went there for schooling.

  6. I am a Pipewelder in southern Indiana. I work in a shipyard and I make 22.88. We get a few cents every year added to that. However my job is very easy. I do work outside so my shechedle is fairly contingent on weather. Last year I grossed right at 70k I would like to make closer to 100k. I am open to suggestions. I certainly am not against moving across country to do so. I am a really hard worker and enjoy welding. I just wish it paid better

    1. Hopefully I’m going to make the right decision and trade I’m
      Going to PTTI in Philadelphia and I’m just looking for a great career and have enough money to do other things .

  7. Alright so I’m in high school in the 11th grade about to graduate (from central Texas) in May of 2017. I’ve been looking at welding schools like Tulsa, Lincoln, Hobart. So I wanna ask yall what I should do to pick up some education on welding, only welding I know is arc welding stick I’ve only practiced on stainless steel. And what type of welding is where the money is at? I heard aluminum is one of the highest paying ones. But I’m just trying to figure out what to do quick and fast, and to be making good money and able to be independent. Please comment what I should do think yall for you opinions and input!

    1. Go to ACC, check out the multiple process class. Will introduce you to all of welding. Keep your expectations low. Texas doesn’t have string unions so you’ll have to have a good skill set and know how to negotiate. I’m 10 yrs experienced in all process, have worked in shops and in the field around ATX. You’ll probably start around 14, where you go from there is up to you.

    2. I have been in this trade for 15 years, I don’t know it all yet and I have been to school for welding. I have learned from guys that have been doing it for 45- 30 years and trust me when I say this, don’t matter how much school you do you are not going to know everything and make top pay right off.

  8. Yea right… welding sucks. Ive been welding for10 yrs in connecticut and only make 18.oo an hour.
    I study engineering hoping to be able to move out of this damn basement apartment, and do something other than watch old movies because I cannot even afford cable

    1. Move to a place that pays more for welding…
      I’m in Canada welding. I make $45 an hour where as people further east only make $18-22 an hour doing the exact same thing..
      I’ll be getting my own rig soon and then I’ll be making $115 an hour.

      1. Where in Canada are you employed, and what is the process of a us citizen applying for a welding job in Canada? Also, how much does it cost to start your own rig? I am living in New Jersey at the moment, and about to begin on the job training in Jersey City for IWS, fabricating/restoring containers and compactors (Mig/Stick). I’m sure they will teach me more advanced types of welding while I am there especially if I ask. Starting pay is $15-$18 Hr for entry level. I plan on working there for 12-18 months to get myself a solid foundation of basic welding experience to then move onto a more lucrative position, with a larger company obtaining more highly skilled welding knowledge. Within 5-8 years I would like to work my way into a different field such as pipeline welder, nuclear welder or industrial pipe welding. I have heard many guys making big bucks working overseas. Any sound advice for someone like me looking to build their career in this trade?

  9. I have Rig welded for 17 years. I am a professional combination pipe welder. I have made over $200,000.00 a year for over a decade. My best advice to any young man or woman wanting to be a welder is start as a helper. My first job after high school was a welders helper. Pay dues, by your equipment and learn it all. You will see the country and earn a very good living. Don’t ever stop learning your trade, and be patient. There is a reason all other trades hate us top 5% welders. Last skilled trade left. Based solely on your skills as a craftsman. Ask a Master electrician what he makes a year, ask an Engineer. If your lay your dues and work your ass off it will happen. I did it and so can you. I like the fact that I bring home more money than some Doctors.

    1. I also work on the oilfield for 200,000 yet my income is dropping and oil continues to crash. Buckle up its not going to last. Economy is crashing mark my word!!!

  10. Awesome info from you guys. I also have a question. I’ve recently worked for the railroad and AT&T as a field tech. I am attempting to go to school for welding. I was looking at Tulsa school of welding but decided against it. Im opting for a school here in Houston called Industrial Welding Academy (if anyone has heard of it, what are your thoughts?) My question is are going to the schools and welding academy’s a good idea period? Of course I’m going to learn every tidbit I can, and I dont expect to come out making 200g’s a year. Ultimately I want to learn as much as I can, and learn things the correct way. I’m kind of anal about doing things the right way and well. I’m currently 37. Any further advice? Thanks

  11. Industrial Welding academy sucks. We have had scrubs hire in from there & they are clueless when it comse to field work, they teach them enough to only pass 6g tests. They usually get fired within the first few days by not passing production X-Ray welds.
    San Jacinto CC North has a really good welding program in Houston.
    I make $34.00 welding iside an A/C climate controlled shop. Not much but yearly i clear over 100k

  12. Welding up for trucks in wi making $23.64 top pay after 8 years is shy $31 hr. Welding mild steel, ss, aluminum.

  13. I’m new at welding but good at it I’m tired of making little money for what I do so if you can use me in Texas cool hit me back

  14. $29.82 plus 7% for being on off shift in Rhode Island.i do xray pipe and structural xray automated and lots of gouging lol

  15. In virginia, we have a bunch of places to weld at, so it’s good to know here. I’m somewhere around $21 per hour. I’m mig welding mild steel in 1g, 3g, and 4g.

  16. I was making 30hr and 75 in per diem in houston texas, now I’m in Louisiana making 38 and 130, I’m 24 and I would take unemployment any day over welding for less then 20hr. There’s jobs you just have to get out and find them, they might not be right down the road. I’m 2 hours from actual “home”. Get off your ass and chase the money.

  17. I am a Junior college student and I am going to university I want to choose a major and I decide to choose wielding . Any advice ??

  18. 23/hour sturgeon bay wi.
    Shipyard repair and new construction
    Top pay 25/hour
    pipe and structural.

  19. My husband is 22 leaving military we have two boys in 21 he wants to do welding where should we go for a family of four with his job in welding he gets to choose

    1. Try oklahoma city area. Unlike most people in this room they dont look at cost of living. It was ranked no 1 in the nation as far as affordability

  20. I’ve been welding for 15 years and I have been certified in mig stick tig flux cored. On numerous types of metal. Certified to weld anything an inch or more. My skill set is way above average compared to your average welder. Even with my qualifications I have never made more than $16/hr. I love in nc and welding isn’t even considered a skilled trade, but it is a general labor job. The only time I made good money was welding on the pipe line, and working for myself building custom projects such as completely custom from the ground up. So if you are looking for welding jobs, then I hope you are doing it for the love of the trade. The only people making real money is your boss and he’s not going to share, lol. I’m sorry but your median and top 10% figures are off because they start welders as low as $9/hr and rarely will they pay 16. It took 60 hours a week and 5 years to even get to 16, after being started at 12.50. So I got into maintenance work instead. Because the money is so much better. My current job started me at $20/hr and that is with 6 months experience as a maintenance technician. I apologize for being a downer but a good paying job is real hard to come by in nc.

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