Welding Apprenticeship Vs. Trade School: How to Choose

Welding is one of the most popular trades that people get into. The welding industry has a lot to offer and many benefits for those looking at welding as an occupation. However, trade school options are available if you don’t want to indenture yourself to someone else with an apprenticeship agreement. 

To choose between a welding apprenticeship or trade school, you need to narrow down your welding options and decide how long you want to be in a learning environment. Additionally, each of these forms of welding has its own purpose and requires differing amounts of education.

In this article, we will discuss some things you should know about welding apprenticeships vs. trade schools or colleges regarding education and training when seeking employment upon completion of your program.

Difference Between Welding Apprenticeship Vs. Trade School

A welding apprenticeship can be very beneficial depending on the career path you wish for yourself later down the road. However, it isn’t always necessary if all you are looking for is welding work.

The difference between these is welding apprenticeship programs are typically 3-7 months long and include a mix of classroom-based education and hands-on training. The welding trade school or college you choose to attend will take anywhere from two years up to five years.

When deciding between apprenticeship vs. trade school, here are a few things to consider:

  • Entry requirements for each program (apprenticeship usually requires at least a high school diploma while trade schools require students to be enrolled in or have at least earned their GED).
  • Length of the educational programs (trade school classes last around two years and often result in welding certificates; on the other hand, apprenticeships only take around three months, but you’ll eventually receive your welding certification as well).
  • Costs associated with both routes (tuition fees typically range from $4000-$6000 per year depending upon location and type of welding education required by an employer before hiring you)

In either case, no matter which route you decide upon, welding skills can be learned relatively easily with proper guidance and practice. However, an apprenticeship offers more real-world experience than simply going straight into trade school/college after graduating high school. 

When Should I Choose a Welding Apprenticeship?

Welding Apprenticeships offer perhaps the most real-life learning experiences out of any other form of welding education. 

You should choose a welding apprenticeship if you are looking to get the welding training you need to work for a company but do not know exactly what type of welding is required.

In other words, if you are looking to become skilled at all types of welding processes (more specifically MIG welding, TIG welding, or stick welding), an apprenticeship should be considered over trade school.

There will likely be different instructors that specialize in specific areas, such as MIG Welding and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, rather than only one instructor teaching every process. 

A trade school could still provide good education on these subjects. However, most people who attend trade schools are learning about a specific form(s) of metalworking like pipefitting/plumbing or boiler making.

The Pros and Cons of a Welding Apprenticeship

The benefits of an apprenticeship include the following: 

  • Hands-on training in a real-world environment and working with experienced welding professionals.
  • Gaining valuable experience to put towards future job opportunities. 
  • An apprenticeship offers greater chances of career advancement and higher pay than trade schools do – it provides both classroom lectures and learning by welding in a real work environment. 
  • Also, most employers prefer hiring candidates who have completed at least one year’s worth of welding apprenticeship, given that it is a very hands-on welding program.
  • You will get the chance to work with experienced welders who are currently employed in various welding positions while learning how to perform your job as a welder, all while being paid an income salary for your time and effort.

Welding Apprenticeships offer students the chance of earning real-world welding experience while attending school on-site at place of work. In this scenario, they can apply what they are learning immediately into practice as opposed to having to wait until after graduation from high school before applying welding skills.

The cons of a welding apprenticeship include:

  • Welding apprenticeships do not offer any degree upon completion but instead provide you with a technical welding certificate based on which type of career path you choose afterward.
  • Instead, you receive a purely technical welding certificate based on what type of welding career path you opt into choosing after graduation from high school or before enlisting into military service if applicable. 

When Should I Choose a Trade School for Welding?

When deciding between welding apprenticeship and trade school, it’s important to remember that each option offers its own unique benefits. 

You should choose a trade school for welding if you are looking forward to welding classes and specialized welding simulations, but not if you are looking for a chance of getting real-world experience through hands-on training.

The Pros and Cons of a Trade School for Welding

In fact, such higher education institutions provide their students with the opportunity of learning welding basics step by step from scratch. This provides them with valuable skills on how to be professional welders once they graduate.

The benefits of trade school include:

  • Welding instructors are always available to answer questions when they come up, making learning more convenient than an apprentice. 
  • The flexibility that comes from attending classes during regular hours means it might be easier for those who work full time to attend welding school.
  • In addition to theoretical knowledge about welding processes and safety procedures, training provided at trade schools allows participants to get some practical experience through following welding simulations closely resembling those used in industrial practice. 
  • This way, graduates of welding classes at trade schools can get welding job opportunities as soon as they graduate.
  • Those that complete trade school often start out at higher salaries.

The cons of trade schools include:

  • Trade schools do not always keep updated with the latest technologies used in different welding projects.
  • They are more costly and may not always provide you with the experience necessary to be a well-rounded welding professional.
  • Employers love applicants who have completed some on-the-job training (apprenticeship) due to them already having at least basic knowledge about what they are doing. 

While welding trade school may provide you with the basic welding skills needed to succeed on the job market right after graduating from trade school, a welding apprenticeship will help you gain more experience and knowledge for future advancements within your career. 

This means that if you wish to advance further into other related jobs or sectors of the welding industry, then an apprenticeship can be beneficial for achieving those goals. 

Why Choose Welding as a Trade?

If welding is your calling, then choosing between an apprenticeship or trade school is in many ways based on how much money you are willing to spend to get into welding. 

Many choose welding as a trade because welding tradespeople can make upwards of $50 per hour, depending on their experience level and where they work. They also have excellent job security.

However, welding is not something you can learn in weeks and still be expected to produce quality work. 

Welding apprenticeship programs take half of the day for classroom instruction and require students to spend at least 20 hours a week practicing welding skills. They are generally around three to seven months before graduates have gained enough experience welding on their own to start getting paid decent wages as full-fledged welders.

Apprenticeships allow people who don’t want to commit themselves so heavily or wait two-plus years to make money welding to gain access much quicker. Apprenticeship programs are normally paid and can sometimes take just a few months instead of four years! 

The welding trade school is an intensive, hands-on program. Students are taught welding skills and safety procedures by experienced professional welding instructors in various welding processes. They provide the equipment to complete each project that they work on together, so it’s not like you have to bring your own tools or anything.

After completing their training at a welding trade school, graduates can start applying for jobs right away instead of apprenticing with someone else first. This has its pros – especially if there aren’t any apprenticeship job openings available where you live.

Cost Differences with Apprenticeship vs. Trade School

Apprenticeships are beneficial for welding students because they get to actually put their training into practice and work under an experienced professional. There are different costs associated with each option, too.

On average, welding apprenticeship tuition fees are about $5k for courses lasting 3–7 months. Alternatively, college welding programs cost roughly $15k and last 15 months.

Welding schools typically have a greater variety of programs available which offer different levels of welding training and education, from blue-collar welding jobs all the way up to management positions. This means that students may end up taking courses that aren’t required for their desired job type or profession when attending school.

On the other hand, apprenticeship programs tend to focus on providing only relevant information needed within your chosen career path, so you don’t waste time. Welding apprenticeships typically result in having tuition costs not only for lessons but equipment so that you have everything needed when learning how to weld.

Do Welders Make Good Money?

A welding career can be rewarding, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go through a trade school or apprenticeship. You may not realize how valuable welding is, but there are many opportunities out there for welders. 

According to the U.S Department of Labor Statistics, welders make an average annual salary between $40,000 – $50,000 per year or even higher depending on their expertise when working with certain metals like titanium steel. 

Estimates suggest that welding is one of the fastest-growing jobs in America. A welding career can be very lucrative depending on where you work and your experience, but there are a few basic things to know about welding before deciding if it’s right for you.

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Do Welding Apprenticeships Pay Well? 

Welding apprenticeships can be very lucrative. Many welders make good money because there is such a high demand for skilled workers who know how to perform complex welding procedures and fabricate or assemble large metal components used in building bridges and other structures.

Welding apprenticeships can pay up to $40,375 annually or $19 per hour. Welding apprenticeships are an excellent way to learn to weld and get paid as you train.

Welding trade schools can help even more by providing a time frame that will allow students to finish their programs faster than welding apprenticeship programs. 

Most welding apprenticeships last between three and seven months, depending on which program you choose from each type of institution. This means it can take up to four years before completing both types of training if starting from scratch with no prior experience!

Welding apprenticeships and welding trade schools have a few similarities as well. Both typically involve the same amount of hands-on training in: 

  • Welding
  • Safety procedures
  • Best practices needed to complete welding projects.

Welders should be patient when they begin these programs because each type has its own unique challenges before becoming proficient at any form of welding. 

Conclusion

When choosing between trade schools for welding or apprenticeship programs, there is no right answer. Both options have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, which should be considered before deciding your future career path. For some people, it might make sense to choose a trade school, while others will benefit from welding apprenticeships.

However, time spent in an apprenticeship can also prove very valuable down the line if you wish to join another related industry or sector. The best thing to do would be to consider all pros and cons of both choices carefully and then pick one option based on what works best for you.

Sources

https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm#:~:text=%2440%2C770-,The%20median%20annual%20wage%20for%20welders%2C%20cutters%2C%20solderers%2C%20and,percent%20earned%20more%20than%20%2466%2C250.

https://app.aws.org/forum/topic_show.pl?tid=31005

https://www.lincolntech.edu/news/industry-news/apprenticeship-technical-school

https://www.emilygriffith.edu/programs/ironworker-apprenticeship/

https://southwestpipetrades.com/apprenticeships-vs-trade-schools

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If you liked this article, have a look at my other articles I wrote about the topic!

Alexander Berk

A bit about myself: I am a certified international welding engineer (IWE) who worked in different welding projects for TIG, MIG, MAG, and Resistance Spot welding. Most recently as a Process Engineer for Laser and TIG welding processes. To address some of the questions I frequently got asked or was wondering myself during my job, I started this blog. It has become a bit of a pet project, as I want to learn more about the details about welding. I sincerely hope it will help you to improve your welding results as much as it did improve mine.

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