To become a professional maintenance welder, an industrial welder, a fabrication welder or a special-applications welder, novices typically require four years in a welder apprenticeship program or another skills-based training program. Many welders gain sufficient training by combining a one- or two-year technical school program in welding with on-the-job training.
Occupational regulations for welders vary according to local law. Apprenticeship or technical school training requirements are rare. In fact, many state, county, and city governments do not require any occupational licensing or certification to work as welders. However, a welding certification from the American Welding Society is required by employers across the country for journeyman-level positions. Local governments that opt to license welders, such as New York City, typically rely on AWS certification as proof of professional competency in welding skills.
AWS certification programs are designed to evaluate the technical skills and knowledge of experienced welders under work-site conditions. These certification programs do not include training. AWS certification is granted upon successful completion of a comprehensive welding skills test at an AWS-accredited testing facility. Special certification tests are available for chemical refinery welding, petroleum pipeline welding, structural steel welding, and sheet metal welding. AWS also offers a separate certified welding fabricator program.