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The Future of Welding is Bright. Here’s the Proof

While many professions are still licking their wounds from the latest recession, the welding industry has enjoyed exciting growth. In fact, since the end of the recession in 2009, skilled labor has been one of the highest occupations in demand.

“For the life of me I don’t know why we stigmatize vocational education,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, during a 2015 Republican Presidential Debate. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

Perhaps the stigmatization Senator Rubio eluded to is why there’s such a high demand for welders in the country. In 1988, there were roughly 570,000 welders in the U.S.

In 2012, that number plummeted to 360,000.

Yet, at the same time, our country has enjoyed a boom in manufacturing, with skilled laborers likely to enjoy even more job opportunities, based on the promises of Donald Trump to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure during his presidency. His plan includes $250 billion of direct public investment in priorities like roads, bridges, airports and clean energy. An additional $25 billion would fund a national infrastructure bank, all of which increases the demand for skilled welders.

In fact, the American Welding Society estimates a 290,000 job deficit in welders by 2020, which spells tremendous opportunity for those interested in a viable career in skilled labor.

Rubio’s statement that vocational education is stigmatized can be seen in current trends. A large number of the nation’s existing welders are hitting retirement age, but there aren’t enough young welders to fill in the gaps. Part of this discrepancy is the belief that a welder is akin to a dead-end job.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Welders often times start out making between $30-$40k a year, but can increase their earnings tremendously. Some welders earn upwards of $100,000 a year by working on a pipeline or welding underwater. Welders who provide military support can pull in as much as $200,000 a year.

And while it seems as though a welder's earning potential is directly related to the level of danger associated with the job, welding as a whole is a career choice that competes with many other options available.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 data shows that the median salary of welders in the U.S. is $37, 420. While that might not sound that much, compare that to the average salary of 25-34-year-olds with a bachelor's degree in 2014: $46,900. Considering that a great deal of college graduates enter the workforce with tremendous student loan debt, much more of a welder's earnings remains in his or her own pocket.

The job market isn't so bleak, especially for folks open to skilled labor

If you read headlines or listen to the banter found on social media, you might believe that younger generations are left vying for low-paying jobs that won't leave them enough earnings to start a life.

This isn't really the case.

As of July 2015, there were roughly 5.8 million jobs unfilled across the country, with many of these openings categorized as skilled labor. Skilled laborers not only enjoy a bevy of job opportunities at this moment; they also benefit from:

  1. Being able to start their careers sooner than their college-bound counterparts
  2. Entering the workforce with far less (if any) education-related debt

It's not a matter of if there are jobs available for welders. Rather, it's a matter of if there's enough people to fill these jobs. As today's welding workforce retires, the manufacturing industry will turn toward future generations to carry the torch.

Are you ready?

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