Good welders are always in demand, but welders with a specialization usually have an edge. If you’re already a welder, or aspire to be one, you may find the specialization of maritime welding appealing.
Maritime welding may refer to the work performed by a commercial welder-diver on offshore oil rigs, but it more commonly describes the welding performed when building or repairing marine craft. Maritime welders use their industrial welding skills, connecting metals or plastics at the molecular level and bolstering their hardness, ductility, and tensile strength so they can withstand extreme heat or cold, extreme pressure, and other stresses that marine craft are subject to.
Where Maritime Welding Can Take You
From making repairs to small Johnboats, bass boats, or yachts to welding the seams of an ocean liner or freighter, welders in this niche find work locally or far afield, with the best opportunities in the coastal areas. In our country, maritime welders are likely to work in coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, all along the Pacific or Atlantic shores (including our coastal Virginia area), the Great Lakes, and coastal Alaska.
For those with a yen for travel or adventure, welding skills could be a passport to both. Or, if you like staying closer to home, you may find work at a boatyard or anywhere there’s a lake and a dock, or a boat repair shop.
Prerequisites for Learning Welding
The passport to a good future in welding is the development of tops skills, and one of the best ways to do that is to enroll in an accredited college or technical school and take courses led by professional, experienced welders. It’s also helpful if the program you choose has some introductory course work that will familiarize you with the rigors of working in a maritime environment.
To be a welder in the U.S., you need English fluency and a high school diploma or GED. It’s also helpful to have some ability in mathematics. Good, basic math skills will serve you well in welding, saving you time on jobs requiring “fitter math” or trade-related math that helps you figure out angles with simple formulas. Good math skills can help a welder create a shortcut to successfully complete a job without continuous trial and error.
Also, be aware that you will need the agility and stamina to stand up to long hours of hard physical work, often performed outdoors under adverse weather conditions.
Learning Maritime Welding
Your coursework will likely teach you how to use the various types of welding equipment as you learn to repair steel and aluminum structures. You will also learn how to weld pipe in multiple positions, along with safety procedures for welding in industrial settings. A program that familiarizes you with the demands of working in shipyards and other maritime environments and that introduces you to maritime welding technology would be a plus.
Among the skills your coursework should cover are some of these:
- Shielded metal arc welding
- Gas tungsten arc welding
- Gas metal arc welding
- Flux cored arc welding
- Gas Metal arc/gas tungsten arc welding, aluminum
- Gas tungsten arch/shielded metal arc welding, pipe
- Shielded metal arc welding, pipe 2G and 5G
- Shielded metal arc welding pipe, 6G
Once you’ve earned your educational credentials, you may be ready for work at an entry-level job as an apprentice. There are of course many opportunities to work as an apprentice in the coastal areas mentioned above. You can do a search and find various shipbuilding yards, dry dock companies, and boat yards all over the country that may have apprenticeship programs.
Bear in mind that the prospects for obtaining an apprenticeship are very hopeful these days, as many older welders are aging out and retiring, and companies are looking to train the next generation of maritime welders.
Some of the most notable companies with apprenticeship programs are these:
- Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, Newport News
- Avondale Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
- Newport News Energy
- Newport News Industrial
- Newport News Nuclear
- Avondale Shipbuilding, New Orleans
Doing an apprenticeship in a shipyard has many benefits, including introducing you to more rarefied skills and opportunities such as:
- Welding on expensive, high strength alloys such as copper nickel and aluminum
- Welding with mirrors
- Welding in odd spaces and angles
- Welding pipe in restricted conditions
Once you’ve completed your apprenticeship program, you should be well prepared to set out on your lifetime adventure as a maritime welder.
Are you ready to take your first step toward a career as a maritime welder? Contact Advanced Technology Institute today to learn about our Associate of Occupational Science in Maritime Welding Technology With Service Management.