If you’re looking for a job in the welding industry, you’ve no doubt seen listings for TIG welding positions. Widely used across a variety of industrial sectors to produce clean, precise welds, TIG welding is one of the most common welding techniques.
Thinking of applying for a TIG welding job? We’ll break down what the position requires, how much you can expect to make and some of the best places to apply for TIG welding gigs.
What is TIG welding?
The ‘TIG’ in TIG welding stands for tungsten inert gas. The method is sometimes also called gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW. In this arc welding process, the weld is produced with a non-consumable tungsten electrode.
TIG welding rose to popularity in the 1940s as a more preferable replacement for gas and manual metal arc welding. The precise, intense arc provided by the electrode in TIG welding is largely to thank for aluminum becoming a more widely accepted material in applications where a high-quality weld was necessary.
TIG welding is most commonly used to join thin sections of non-ferrous metals like aluminum, magnesium and copper alloys as well as stainless steel. In fact, it’s applicable on a wider variety of metals than any other welding method. Usually, though not always, it involves the use of a filler metal.
TIG welding is superior to other welding methods in that it gives the welder a greater level of control over the weld, resulting in a very precise finished product. However, it’s also challenging to master because of the high degree of coordination required.
Typically the welder must use two hands–one to feed the filler metal into the weld area and the other to operate the welding torch. Because of this, it can also be a lot slower than other welding methods.
Is TIG welding a good career?
A low barrier to entry and high level of advancement potential for motivated individuals make TIG welding an attractive career path. How much you can earn and how far you can take the skill will be largely dependent on how ambitious you are with building your skill set and seeking out new opportunities.
TIG Welder Salary
The average base pay for TIG welders in the United States is $38,000, or around $19 an hour. Welders at the top end of the earning spectrum of TIG welding can bring home upwards of $50,000 or $60,000 annually.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the welding industry as a whole projected to grow at a rate of about 3%, which is on pace with the average for all industries. If you have your sights set on career growth, the best approach is to look at TIG welding as one tool in your advancement toolbox rather than a destination in and of itself.
For example, once you’ve mastered TIG welding, you’ll be qualified to apply for jobs at the hourly rate we discussed previously. These positions typically offer a comfortable level of job security along with benefits like paid vacation time and health insurance. If you want to move into an even higher level of income and job title, however, your welding journey doesn’t need to end here.
From this point, you can work toward earning additional certifications that will help qualify you for more specialized roles or roles with a greater level of responsibility, which also come with higher salaries. In short, the more you’re willing to expand your knowledge and build connections in the industry, the farther you can take your welding career built on a solid foundation of TIG welding.
How to get into TIG welding
Most TIG welding jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent. One to two years experience with TIG welding or a related skill is usually sufficient to get your foot in the door with entry-level TIG welding jobs, but it is also possible to get a job right out of school. Some jobs call for the ability to read blueprints, so prior experience with this skill is a plus.
One way to gain TIG welding experience–as well as practice other useful welding techniques–is to enroll in a welding program at a community college or vocational school. These programs will give you hands-on time with expensive welding tools and materials you’d otherwise have to purchase yourself, along with guidance from knowledgeable instructors.
You’ll have the option to finish out the required coursework and graduate from community college with an associate’s degree, which is a nice credential to have on your resume. The credits you complete can also be counted towards a bachelor’s degree should you decide to pursue one in the future.
In addition to a high school diploma, many TIG welding jobs will also require candidates to be a certified welder. Rather than requiring a certain number of years of education or other prerequisites, this certification directly tests your skills and knowledge of welding techniques. There are several different ways to go about getting it.
One way is to go directly through the American Welding Society (AWS). This is a professional organization that offers a number of certifications verifying welders’ proficiency in various skills. AWS’ certified welder program tests applicants in the procedures used in the structural steel, petroleum pipeline, sheet metal and chemical refinery welding industries. These tests also involve welding to specifications such as D1.1 and D1.5.
AWS certification comes with transferable credits that will follow you in your career to any employer or job. The cost to apply to take the certification test is $50.
Another way to obtain your welding certificate is to go through a formal training program offered by an educational institution like the ones we mentioned a moment ago. These programs range anywhere from six to 18 months and typically vary in cost from around $3,500 to $15,000 or more, depending on how involved the program is.
You’ll need to choose whether you want to strictly obtain your welding certification or complete the full number of credits required for a two-year degree.
Top industries for TIG welding jobs
Because of its high level of accuracy and control, TIG welding is used heavily in the aerospace and automotive industries when crafting commercial planes, spacecraft, car fenders and other automotive parts. Its applications, however, are not limited to vehicles.
TIG welding is the method of choice for any industry that calls for thin-wall, small-diameter tubing, like in the manufacture of bicycles. It’s also commonly used in the repair and maintenance of tools and other metal products. While many of these industries have started to transition to robotic welding, TIG welding jobs are still available in these fields.
The 3 best states to find TIG welding jobs
You can find welding jobs in all 50 states, but some places are more favorable than others. We examined data on the availability of welding jobs along with the average TIG welding salary by state to determine three promising locations to launch your TIG welding career.
It might come as a surprise to learn that Wyoming has one of the highest location quotients for welding jobs in the country. Location quotient is a number the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to compare the prevalence of a certain job in a state compared to its prevalence in the nation as a whole. In Wyoming, the location quotient for welding jobs is 3.82, meaning there are close to four times as many welding jobs available here than you’d find on average anywhere else.
The average TIG welding salary in Wyoming is $38,143, putting it right on par with the national average. At the same time, Wyoming has a lower cost of living than the United States as a whole, with housing and transportation in particular being more affordable than the average cost nationally. This means every dollar you earn from a TIG welding job will stretch a bit further here.
New York’s TIG welders are the highest paid in the nation, with the average worker in the field earning about $42,500 a year. The upper 10% bring home $50,000 a year or more.
Welding jobs with creative and technology firms abound in the five boroughs, while jobs in the state’s booming manufacturing sector–specifically computer and electronics manufacturing–are prevalent further upstate.
New York is also a strong state for unions, which can offer welders higher salaries, greater job security and other benefits you won’t find in traditional non-union jobs.
Oklahoma TIG welders earn an average of $34,180 a year, with the top 10% taking home $48,000 or more annually. Like Wyoming, its location quotient is high, meaning you’ll find several times more welding jobs here than most other places in the country.
In addition to the number of job listings per capita, another factor that makes Oklahoma such a great state for TIG welders is its comparatively low cost of living. The average cost to buy a home in the Sooner State, for example, is more than 40% less than the national average.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Oklahoma as the fourth most affordable state to live in overall.