The Differences Between a Welding Engineer and a Certified Welder?

After reading my recent article about Welding Engineering Compensation salaries, Garrett asked me some great questions: 

What is the difference between a welding engineer and a welder with a certificate? Would it be difficult for one to get into a school for W.E.? And where is W.E. offered? Thank you for your time.

 

Garrett -

Many people have those questions, and I don’t know of any central place to send you for complete answers.  So here are my answers, and if any of our rapidly growing audience can add comments or valuable links to the discussion, please do!

 

What is a welding engineer?  What is the difference between a welding engineer and a welder with a certificate?

In my mind, a “welder with a certificate” has been trained and tested in personally making specific types of welds on specific types of materials with specific welding processes requiring specific qualification test types.  A welding certificate is usually very limited in scope, and the focus is on physically making the welds needed for those exact types of parts – there is nearly zero training on the sciences of physics, chemistry, electricity or photonics, or on the design, maintenance and troubleshooting of the welding systems and equipment. Extensive training in those areas is all part of a “4-year” Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in welding, plus extensive exposure in all types of welding processes, thermal processes (like cutting and heat-treating), and materials joining (including polymers and ceramics).

 

The National Center for Welding Education and Training is an important new effort that I’ve linked to in my sidebar.  They do a superb job of explaining some of this, like in these job descriptions for various types of careers in welding.  And their welding career videos should be seen in every high school in the country.  But breaking it out further, here’s what I would add:

 

Two-year Associate of Science (A.S.) degrees leave out about 1/2 to 3/4ths of the sciences and math, and most of the cross-functional engineering training that equips you to team with other engineers and to use the basics of other areas of science. But, they spend thousands of hours under the hood and destructing welds, perfecting their skills in welding, fabrication, weld-quality inspection, and welding training skills.  Their focus is to serve a company’s daily shop-floor needs in a mostly-manual welding environment. That includes training welders to the high skill levels needed to pass the demanding weld quality tests used for applications like military, nuclear, structural, pipeline, and ship-building.  They can also develop into good leaders of robotic welding tech teams. 

 

A well-trained A.S.W.E.T. (Associate of Science in Welding Engineering Technology) can take and pass the CWI (Certified Welding Inspector) test the first time, with high scores.  In the manual-welding and code-heavy industries there are more openings and sometimes greater demand for an ASWET with their CWI than there are for BSWE/BSWET graduates.

 

On the other hand, a B.S.W.E. does not have a sharp focus on developing manual welding skills.  Educational content varies from program-to-program and decade-to-decade, but these degrees excel in applications that are demanding in areas like metallurgy, R&D, and Finite Element Analysis.  Those going through a B.S.W.E. program are susceptible to two key weaknesses: to the extent that they haven’t personally welded, they can’t optimize a welding process, and they can’t train someone to weld.  In addition, even the speed of progress in R&D can be limited because it takes longer to correctly identify what is happening without being grounded in manual welding.  The B.S. Welding Engineering Technology approach (B.S.W.E.T., an option at both LeTourneau and Ferris) is a way to resolve these weakness, bridging the gap between high-end theory and practical reality, by trimming out classes like Chemistry II, Calculus III, Differential Equations, etc, and instead teaching you practical welding physics and grading you at how well you apply them “under the hood” in your own welding.  Of course in resolving these weaknesses, you are exchanging them for others.  But for the bulk of automated welding environments, this is the perfect degree.   

 

Another excellent option is a combination of a B.S.W.E. blended with or followed by a professional training program in (for example) certified pipe-welding.  Many companies are stunned to find an OSU W.E. who can actually weld, which was Nick Erchak’s recent experience. Attending a Hobart School of Welding is a surefire way for OSU grads to get this stunning reaction, but the option of the Lincoln Welding Bootcamp in recent years has helped a great deal – a week of hands-on welding is far from LeTourneau or Ferris, but much better than nothing. 

 

70% of “welding engineers” just have a job title, and are unqualified except in the limited role of enabling the welding processes to function.  These unqualified welding engineers (UWE’s) are usually an ongoing profit liability when unguided by a BSWE/BSWET, and have convinced themselves and many around them that they’re just as good as a degreed B.S.W.E.  Because although they bring clear fabrication experience and honed fine-motor-skills to the company’s welding, with genuine value that cannot be easily replaced, its’ simply impossible for 15+ years of experience to equal a BS degree.  A B.S. Welding Engineering is someone with an educational degree covering a broad range (at least most) of the welding processes and the sciences behind them, which should have equipped them to tune or optimize the welding processes, the welder training and the equipment in order to get the highest quality and efficiency (profits).   Combined together, the classroom and hands-on training in the welding processes and sciences is between 2,000 and 4,000 hours for a B.S. degree.  That scientific training is structured, arranged, and guided by welding expertise – no amount of “shop-floor experience” can substitute for it.

 

But that doesn’t mean that Welding Engineers are “better”.  It just means that the role of a genuine W.E. is just as critical to profits as the role of the welder.  Without a skilled welder, the company can’t make quality products to sell.  Without a smart W.E., the company can’t optimize their welding processes, maximize their profitability, and plan for strategic improvements in welding that can produce big gains in marketshare and profitability.  The reality is that for any company to do high-performance welding, they need a high-performance team whose development is led by a Welding Engineer.  Most companies haven’t assembled a team like that, but the ones that do will be the most successful.

 

Would it be difficult for one to get into a school for W.E.?

Getting into a W.E. program just takes applying for admission at the University that you are interested in.  They’ll guide you from there – in fact, their Admissions departments are designed specifically to assist you.

 

What Universities offer Welding Engineering programs? 

I’ll give you two answers: the classic answer, and the broader answer that’s deserved.  But no matter how you look at it, the list is short, and the total annual B.S. welding graduates in the U.S. range approximately 75-120 people per year.  The classic answer is that there are only three ABET-accredited Bachelor of Science welding degrees in the United States, as follows:

-          The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

-          Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan

-          LeTourneau University, Longview, Texas
   (LeTourneau’s programs are now degrees in Materials Joining Engineering)

 

Though more from Ohio than any other state, I’m partial to the quality and historical focus of LeTourneau’s program. Perhaps that’s because of my own views about what makes a “good welding engineer”, or as Patrick Donjon calls them, a “Smart Welding Engineer”.

 

The broader answer is that once you allow that a BSWET is indeed a Welding Engineering bachelors, and that not everything has to be specifically called “welding engineering” to qualify, you have to add a couple more ABET-accredited programs.  Keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t list Welding Engineering, and however arcane it may be, still buries it as a subset of Materials Science Engineering.  Admittedly, compared to Ferris and OSU, most welding engineering programs are limited in students enrolled. But a great student-teacher ratio is a valuable asset that often results in better learning. If they cater well to your experience or specific interests, if they’re in your backyard – or you’d love to see their backyard every morning – you might consider them:

-          Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado
   (Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, dating from 1936.)  Includes the Center for Welding, Joining, and Coatings Research. OK, so it’s hard to find Welding Engineering info in their disjointed online presence. Someone enlighten us here. But where else can you be in the Rockies every weekend, much less get hands-on foundry training?

-          Montana Tech, Butte, Montana.  It’s part of the University of Montana.  Here’s a brochure on their Welding Engineering program.

 

There are also some other programs that lack ABET accreditation, such as Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn State), Williamsport, PA.  These tend to be newer programs that are strongly focused on practical hands-on application, and may be more cost-effective than other programs.  They may be building toward ABET accreditation, but it takes many years to put all the components in place. 

 

Those leaning toward academic snobbery sometimes imply that non-accredited programs are worthless, but let’s be real.  A welding engineering degree is valuable.  In the end, you’re the one who owns the level of excellence you aspire to.  Don’t fret over the education differences you would have gotten “if only” you went to a different school – they all have their own weaknesses.  The “best” one is the one that equips you to be your best, which you can afford to attend, and which you actually graduate from. 

 

Non-ABET programs may be solidly grounded, yet lack some breadth or depth in various areas such as metallurgy, physics, and in developing engineering thought-processes.  If you may ever consider going on to a higher degree such as a Masters, or if you want to use the courses to count toward another degree, it’s likely that many of the classes won’t transfer – sometimes leaving you to take and pay for the nearly the same thing a second time.  That’s the potential downside.

 

But if the cost is reasonable, it’s close to home, you’re going to finish all your education at that institution, and you’re more a hands-on-doer who struggles with the intellectual patience to endure an A.S. or B.S., then look over the course curriculum and consider the qualifications of the teaching staff.  If they are qualified to equip you to reach your goals, you’re comfortable with the program, and you won’t regret going there instead of “where you’ve always wanted to go”, then go for it. 

 

Finally, note the additional links under Blogroll in the sidebar. 

 

Brian Dobben

LeTourneau University Alum – BSMET/WET

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52 Responses to The Differences Between a Welding Engineer and a Certified Welder?

  1. Can I say this?

    A Certified Welder is just a welder who does production welding while Welding Engineer develops procedures for the welder to follow.

  2. Adam Lawrence says:

    Brian,

    Montana Tech is an ABET engineering accredited school, both their General Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering programs are ABET (EAC) accredited. Their WE degree is under their General Engineering program. The reason I can elaborate on this is because I have a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering from Montana Tech with the additional course work, “options” in welding engineering and mechanical engineering. Since then I have also acquired the AWS CWEng certification.

    It would fair to elaborate on the differences between the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) and the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) under ABET. And it appears that only OSU has an (EAC) BSWE degree, while Ferris and Letourneau primarily offer Technology (TAC) degrees and do not specifically show a BSWE degree as being ABET accredited?

    Eight years as a certified welder in the oil patch and mining industry are what convinced me to go back to college and become a degreed professional. And as you have pointed out, starting out as a certified welder will contribute to ones degree-ability and employ-ability as a Welding Engineer.

    Adam Lawrence BSWE, AWS CWEng.
    (Former AWS certified structural welder and pipe welder)

    • Adam St.louis says:

      Is there any way I could contact you personally about how you moved from grunt to suit. I’m wanting to accomplish the same thing. adamstlouis63@gmail

      • Brian Dobben says:

        Adam –
        Many companies are embroiled in welding process “firefighting”. If you show that you can move them from reactive to proactive, from measureable losses to measureable profitability, that requires and demonstrates leadership. In my latest article, in answering a commenter’s questions, I basically answered your question. See if it will help.

        Brian Dobben

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Adam – I haven’t made it a point to dig into the inner workings of the accreditation variants. However, keep in mind that the degree names at OSU and LeT-U have changed to Materials Joining Engineering. Congratulations on your strong career path and experience.

      Brian Dobben

  3. Brian Dobben says:

    Adam –
    Thank you for the info on Montana Tech’s Metallurgical and Welding Engineering programs. Like Montana Tech, LeTourneau’s BSWE program is ABET accredited as part of the entire engineering program.

    The confusing point is that Welding Engineering and Welding Engineering Technology Bachelor of Science (or MS) degrees can either be accredited by ABET as stand-alone, meaning they show up like OSU’s BSWE in ABET listings, OR they can be ABET accredited in an overall umbrella of the Engineering or the Engineering Technology Bachelor’s – which is the route that LeTourneau and Montana Tech both take. OSU staff appear to have an uncomfortably long history of using this difference in a deceptive way, pointing to their lonely standalone ABET accreditation listing to imply/state that other BSWE programs are not ABET accredited.

    In the comments here, this is explained more fully:
    http://weldsparks.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/advice-for-recruiter-clients-welding-engineer-position-1/#comments

  4. Fred Schweighardt says:

    Do you have any experience with the old Utah State WET program (since moved to Weber State)

    • Brian Dobben says:

      No I don’t, Fred. But looking at it initially, Weber State may have an ABET accredited program. Anyone with knowledge of Weber State’s offerings, please comment!

      • George Purvis says:

        I’m currently enrolled at Weber State as a bachelors candidate for Welding Engineering Technology. The program is ABET accredited and I have to tell you I feel like I am being exceptionally prepared for my future career. Personally, I’ve been in the welding industry for nearly 10 years and this was the logical next step for my career. I’ll tell you its not a joke and its real engineering school.

  5. Can anyone give me information on where I could post a job for a welding engineer with a manufacturing background in Atlanta?

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Wendy – look in the margin column to the right, and you’ll see under Blogroll an entry for Welding Jobs. Also, be sure to slide your mouse over some of the words in the Tags cloud (in the righthand margin) – you’ll find some remarkably helpful postings to assist you in successfully filling a welding engineering opening.

  6. jim burke says:

    I think you forgot the Weld Eng BS Tech program at Arizona State Univ, College of Manufacturing Engineer. Please tell us what you think.
    Thanks!

    • Brian Dobben says:

      The AWS and the National Center for Welding Education Training (see link in upper right sidebar) are assisting in growing a number of Associates and Bachelors programs. In the last 5 years several have sprung up, and I think that’s a great thing, but I can’t comment on them or ASU’s program content at this point.
      If anyone has gone through the program, please encourage them to share about it!

  7. Excellent differentiation between a welding engineer in title vs skill and knowledge.

  8. Nick Schulz says:

    So if I’m leaning more towards working with manual welding and maybe training welders I’d be better going with the Associate of Science in Welding Engineering Technology (A.A.S.) degree rather than the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree? Also get my CWI certification to make myself more marketable perhaps?

  9. Nick Schulz says:

    Hello Sir,
    Why haven’t you given me an answer/reply at all, Mr. Brian Dobben? You are the only experienced welding engineer that I know I could ask. After reading this blog (which I found very interesting) I don’t want to ask anybody else for advice because I believe you could guide me into the correct direction down the right path, therefore I would so very much appreciate your help really much. I understand you’re probably a very very busy guy, but when you have some free time PLEASE take a short moment to send me your thoughts and/or opinions. Thank you so very much sir, take care now!

    Sincerely,
    Nicholas A. Schulz
    (AWS Certified TIG Welder at Alloy Products Corp.)

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Nick –
      My apologies. I overlooked your question. (Although you are right about me being very busy.) Overall, I’d say yes, that’s probably a good direction for you. A WETAS with a CWI is a good combination for manual welding and training welders. Taking further steps in marketability would be robotic programming, and then perhaps a version of a CRAW (Certified Robotic Arc Welding) certification. Keep in mind that both a CWI and a CRAW have value with a B.S. as well.

      HOWEVER, you should also consider a few other things that might alter your direction. First, assess your talents/interests/skills and compare them to your direction. For example: how hard is studying/reading? Do welding codes and metallurgy interest you? Do you want to tackle the distance required to get a BSWE (or BSMJE for Materials Joining Engineering)? You can take some transferable classes locally, but eventually you’ll need to put in 2 or 3 years on campus.

      Next, consider if you have an area of the country that you REALLY want to live in long-term, and look at the industry/job-market potential for each direction.

      Finally, keep in mind that an experienced hands-on welder has a completely different and far richer perspective sitting in college classes (or online), talking about welding metallurgy, arc characteristics, heat affected zones, hot cracking, etc. If that sounds fascinating to you, it’s likely that you are one of those guys that would make a superb welding engineer: able to handle it adeptly from the grain growth to the torch angle and fit-up gap. I’d hate to discourage anyone like that from forging ahead, because we need you!

  10. Sarah Guerra says:

    Hello, I am graduating from HS (homeschooled if that makes a difference) and would like to know if I should go to trade school (which for me would be Tulsa Welding School) first and then go to LeTourneau, or perhaps the other way around? Is that even a good idea? My father went to TWS and has over 20yrs experience and he has recommended I go to TWS to have a better understanding of the physical aspect of welding. Is the ASWET better or BSWET, if I go to TWS?
    I’m more of a manual working type of girl but I also want the best education (and maybe even get paid more) and the ability to have more than one option when being hired. If there is a job opening for one and not the other, then I may not be unemployed. Would love to have your imput, my education may ride on it. Thanks for any answers.

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Sarah –
      Congratulations in so many ways. Homeschooling done well is awesome. Far better, in my opinion, than any public school “education” indoctrination, and much less traumatic. Your father’s wisdom is excellent. From a marketability and flexibility standpoint, a woman welding engineer who can actually weld seems great to me – I suspect you could cultivate that practical ability to ask great questions and make suggestions with wisdom that could diffuse a lot of the mythical baloney and financially harmful directions that welding can take in so many companies. An embarrassing number of degreed BS Welding Engineers (mostly Ohio State) don’t know what they’re talking about in practical welding matters because they’ve done so little of it, and theory is too often a searching substitute for an intuitive awareness of what’s going on in the arc and how the joint will respond. So, getting good at manual welding prior to more involved engineering training gives you a much better foundation for the value of what you’re learning, and the questions to ask, as well as improving your true understanding of what they’re trying to teach you about electricity, metallurgy and material sciences.
      With such a background you’d have many opportunities to sweetly ask if you “could try welding that”, quickly turn rolling eyes into respect, and develop a reputation for a kindly “no BS” zone of welding reality. And someone of your caliber and background would appreciate being treated in a more professional and proper manner than you might run into in the welding-tech ranks. My suggestion would be the ASWET at TWS, followed by a BSMJE or BSMJET from LeTourneau. Your interests, skills, and goals will allow you to decide between those two when you have more experience. However, if you’d like to go that route, try to work closely with LeTourneau beforehand, to get as much work to transfer as possible.
      Also, note and consider my responses to Nick on considering areas of the country in your decisions. I say that because some people don’t care or know where they want to live long-term, while others are adamantly specific about the area or industry they want to be working in.
      The best of wisdom and Providence to you.

    • Brian Dobben says:

      P.S. Sarah, if anyone EVER tells you that you can’t get a job as a female W.E. … that’s like saying the sky is green, or the ocean is purple, or we evolved from lower lifeforms, or Obama showed us his birth certificate… so don’t believe the snow-job. If you ever want help landing a job when you graduate, let me know.

  11. Nick Schulz says:

    Brian-
    Thank you so much for your input, I cannot thank you enough. I do find those speicific areas quite fascinating, but not many people think much of it. The local univserity here in WI only offers B.S. or M.S. degrees, not the two year A.S. I would eventually like to make my way out to CO, I have family there as well and it’s a beautiful state. I do know you mentioned there is a materials joining engineering school out there? As far as taking classes locally to obtain my A.S. degree and then transfering, how would I go about finding the right college with the specific corriculum/academics needed?

  12. Nick Schulz says:

    Also, I very much so agree with being an experienced hands on welder that it does and/or will create a much stronger foundation and understanding before moving on to a higher level of education. Very good point you made Brian.

    Sarah-
    I started welding in high school at the age of 17. A few years later I decided to move south and attend the Lincoln College of Technology in Texas, also known as Lincoln welding bootcamp. I very much recommend and suggest that you learn more about the phyical/manual hands on welding before moving on to a higher leve. That would be like walking before you learn to crawl.

  13. armando jimenez says:

    hi brian,
    i have graduated high school last year and i took welding courses at this moment im working at a refinery a coworker put me to think and he told me i can study for welder engineer which he got me interested an i wanted to know if aswet would be best for me i like more hands on then books or reading. but i want a career that is a good and short career that pays good, i dont want a long career. the school that is close to me is longview, tx. i would appreciate your advise i see that you are a very experience person in this subject. i thank you and sorry for the inconvenience i know you are a very busy person.
    sincerely,
    armando

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Hola Armando –
      In my opinion, LeTourneau University in Longview Texas has the best welding engineering technology degrees available, however I think they are 4-year degrees. They now call these Materials Joining Engineering Technology degrees.
      LeTourneau says this:
      “We are the only university in the nation that provides an Engineering Technology program with a concentration in Materials Joining that is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission and the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.”

      If you are near the Longview area, you might consider doing a mixture of work and school. Even a couple of years will help.

  14. Darryl L. Kilgore Jr. says:

    Hello Mr. Dobben. My name is Darryl L. Kilgore Jr. I am currently getting my AWS certification, and was trying to figure out exactly which of the schools was the best option in receiving a B.S.W.E. and if the B.S.W.E.T. was a better option as well. I want to get go to whichever one that employers recognize the most and will get me paid the most. I would greatly appreciate your help.

  15. Brian Dobben says:

    Darryl –

    I would let your interests, strengths and skills guide your decision. You’ll make the most money in the long-term from whatever program equips you to be your very best.

    If metallurgy, advanced mathematics, residual stresses and FEA (Finite Element Analysis) modeling of weldments sound exciting, you definitely want to go with a “straight” engineering degree.

    If you value “hands-on” and a manufacturing environment is more important to you than a lab and a computer screen, then I recommend an Engineering Technology BS degree: they substitute practical hands-on for the high-level science and math, producing a grad who can “hit the ground running” in a manufacturing environment.

    Other welding engineers will have their own perspectives, and I certainly welcome their comments here, but this is my view on the “big three” welding engineering options:

    If fabrication is a stronger interest than manufacturing, if manual welding holds more interest than watching a robot and making occasional program “tweaks”, then Ferris State’s program is definitely your strongest choice. This program emphasizes the practical hands-on welding process exposure. The biggest weakness is metallurgy/research. For employers who want someone to train/lead/manage manual welding, FSU’s program excels.

    OSU is on the other end of the scale, very strong on welding theory, weak on practical welding application. They don’t spend a lot of time under the hood learning how all the physics and principles blend together, how the process variables interact, what can be done and what it takes to do it consistently vs what cannot be done consistently. So be aware that if you want to actually learn how the processes work “real world”, you’ll need to add manual welding classes on your own. Lincoln Electric’s “bootcamp” opportunity would be a minimum “must have” to keep you from chasing your tail or drawing wrong conclusions for a manufacturing application. However, your comments sound like you may already have some solid hands-on welding skills.

    To take it up several notches, pair OSU with the Hobart Welding Institute (one of their 4 to 6 month programs): every guy I know that put practical welding experience with an OSU degree is a superb welding engineer.

    LeTourneau University has always emphasized a blended approach of science and practical hands-on. I regard it as a great balance between FSU and OSU, producing (on average) a more well-rounded Welding Engineer who is exposed to quite a bit and equipped to lean in any direction according to their interests, strengths, and employer’s needs. If you don’t really know what type of welding engineering you want, LeTourneau is a great place to figure it out.

    However, there is more to an academic environment than the programs themselves. If you want to learn in an environment that respects truth, respects opinions, encourages logical critical thinking and good behavior, but isn’t devoted to a Politically Corrupt (PC) environment of hostile indoctrination, isn’t overwhelmed by moral retardation, and isn’t allergic to taking an honest non-censored look at science and the evidence for a real Creator God, then LeTourneau is the very best choice.

    If snow sports are a dream location, you’ll love FSU. If you hate snow, you’ll love LeTourneau. If you want a big-city, big campus, big sports feel, OSU is the place.

    LeTourneau changed it’s degree names several years ago to Materials Joining Engineering, and OSU followed their lead recently.

    • Philip says:

      Mr. Dobben I was very pleased to see this article and the current conversations about welding. So I pose this question for you. I am 30 years old with a family, the company I worked for (a good paying unskilled labor position) folded 3 years ago, I was considering welding as a new field, however I am not sure what the best route to take would be considering the cost\time of school vs payout. I enjoy being hands on so would you recommend simply a simple Certified Welding position, an A.S.W.E.T. or B.S.W.E.?

      • Brian Dobben says:

        Phillip, in your hands-on case, and considering as you say “cost/time of school vs payout”, I would recommend an A.S. program for you.

        Be sure to avoid debt as much as possible. Debt buildup is being credited as a leading factor in college fallout prior to graduation: they can’t go to college and still make their payments.

  16. Michael s says:

    Brian,
    I’m a AWS certified welder working at a nuclear power plant in south Carolina. I’m interested in furthering my education to become an WE. However the schools in Ohio and Montana are just to far from my home base. I’m able to go to schools in ga,sc,nc and nothing any further. The only thing I cam find is ecpi. However real skeptical about this school. Was Hopimg you had some useful insight. Thanks

  17. Russel says:

    I have been a Union welder/ Union Trades Millwright/ pile driver, for over 20 year. I’m inrolled back in college for ECTT AAS degree in construction trades Technology. They gave me credit for my Millwriight Apprenticeship.
    What college would work best for me for a Welding Engineering degree?

  18. Sam White says:

    I am the General Manager for Bayou Welding Works located in New Iberia, LA. I am in need of a hands on Weld Engineer who would be interested in the role of Quality Manager. Basic needs related to welding is ability to write weld procedures, qualify welders, create ITP’s etc. Would also be responsible for managing 2 qualitiy techs and all sourced CWI’s as needed. We mainly serve the Oil and Gas industry and specialize in deepwater applications. API 1104 is our guiding specification. Any thoughts on where to find such folks would be greatly appreciated. I am having a tough time finding talent in this area.

    Sam White

  19. Alex says:

    Dear Brian,

    I am currently working full time as a welder and going to school full time for Welding Technology (associates degree) at Illinois Central College and attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for a Bachelors degree in Industrial Technology. Upon completion of these two degrees I would like to transfer to a four year school and pursue a Welding Engineering bachelors degree. I have ruled out Ohio State as they do not except transfer students from Welding Technology programs, and I also am kind of skeptical towards FSU as I hear they are too focused on the automotive aspect and their waiting list for transfer students is already out to the fall of 2015. I am kind of leaning towards Penn State’s W.E. program. I would vary much appreciate any feed back on choosing a W.E. program, or the W.E. profession in general.

    Thank you kindly,
    Alex

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Alex,

      OSU tends to be very science and metallurgy heavy while being too neglectful of the value of manual welding. FSU is very hands-on heavy and a great preparation for any manufacturing floor role or code-shop, but they are light on metallurgy and a good span of all the welding processes. LeTourneau has always tried to be a great practical blend of both science and personal skill, producing the most well-rounded graduate, and they are not allergic to transfer students. That’s just my perspective, based on exposure and the historical norms of the various programs. I don’t know enough about Penn State’s program to comment, but I can tell you that in general most of the other available programs are limited in focus, staff, equipment and exposure.

      As far as the W.E. profession, it’s wide open, industry is starving for them, over 90% of W.E. grads have accepted an offer months prior to graduation, it pays better than most degrees, and there are many different industries to choose from. That’s the upside. Because most companies don’t understand that welding is by far their most complex process, and needs to be a central focus for building core expertise, they typically don’t empower or appreciate Welding Engineers anywhere near what would be wise, sustainable and profitable for the company’s future and growth. As a result, Welding Engineering can tend to be a frustrating journey through ignorant companies making dumb welding decisions… and yet there are some great successes in the battlefields along the way.

      There are many industries with extensive welding, and there is value in broad exposure. One eventual decision that can be helpful along the way is to realize the major segments in the profession and focus in the areas that you find to be the most fun or most interesting or most stable… depending on your priorities. Plate thicknesses, or gauges? Manual or automated? Volume products or custom challenges? Steel, stainless, aluminum, or copper alloys?

      If you notice, I didn’t say one word there about any industry. That’s because Welding Engineering is much more about the physics, sciences, metallurgy, techniques and variables than it is about which particular industry you happen to be involved in at any given point.

      [That's a key point that defies the HR/management logic in most business segments - you're not really in agricultural equipment or automotive or appliance or medical equipment: you're in welding engineering, and they are in the business of selling their expertise at manufacturing welded assemblies. How smartly are they doing that? Most companies barely have a clue, which explains why they aren't trouncing their equally ignorant competition or seeing the flashing neon signs of opportunity: blind people can't see signs without touching them or running into them.]

      I think if you identify your interests based on the divisions of the physics and skillsets, and then look at industries which must typically bow to the laws of physics in those ways, you’ll be more successful.

      Many companies are driven by their ignorance to search for a welding engineering wizzard who will give them a special blessing and a potion that allows them to defy the laws of physics as they see fit. The more persistent they are in searching for this wizzard with the power to grant them their wishes, the more likely they will shipwreck themselves and be just another sunken vessel on a business map. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is often to educate them that the glorious path of legendary profitability and growth is in the direction of learning and serving the laws of physics better than any of their competitors.

      I hope that’s helpful.

      Brian

  20. Shelby C. says:

    Mr. Dobben,
    I am 26 year old welding technician with an Accociates of Applied Sciences degree in welding technology from Texas State Technical Collage (TSTC). Opon graduation from this program 3 years ago I was immediatly hired as a welding tech for a company that specializes in deepwater welding applications for the oil and gas industry. My company also does W.E. consulting for many other large oil companies. We have a team of 8 W.E. that have all but one graduated from Ohio State’s program, so i find it a great truism when you say OSU grads are lacking in hands on applications. I have seen it first hand as a shop grunt!!! Although I do love my job, I have greater asperations than striking an arc my hole life. I come from a modest background so at the time a A.S. was all I could afford and remain out of the burden of dept. I have already surpassed both my parents on the social/economic ladder at age 26, BUT WHY STOP THERE!!! I was wanting your suggestions as to the best way to make the transition from my shop floor to our engineering team. We are based out of Houston TX, and i would very much like to stay here. As a full time employee I was wondering If there is a way to obtain as much of a B.S.W.E.T. online as possible to limit my time off from work. I know eventually I will need to take a year or two to do the required lab’s, but I dont enjoy the prospect of being a starving collage kid again. Any suggestions would be geatly appriciated.
    Thank You.

  21. Brian Dobben says:

    You are quite fortunate living so close to LeTourneau. They have a number of satellite campuses that might give you an opportunity for a head-start in some classes without making changes yet. Since you have the background you do, I suggest moving to Longview for three years or so, and doing some combination of working and studying – as needed to keep your financial balance. There are multiple companies you could work at, and Trinity’s rail operations there have some welding similar to what you’re probably already familiar with.
    Another thought is that if you like the company you work for, you might approach them with the idea of funding a substantial part of an education sabbatical. Many companies have interest in such ideas, typically tied to working for them at least a couple of years after you graduate.

  22. Brandon W says:

    Hello,
    I am just looking for some advice on starting a new career in welding. I’m 32, I have a background in residential construction but no welding experience, I am going to be getting an AA in Welding Technology from Lake Washington Institute of Technology located just down the street from me in Kirkland, WA. They seem to have a good reputation and say they are placing a high percentage of their graduates with local welding companies, there are quite a few aerospace facilities in our area that work with Boeing so I could see that being true. After the AA and maybe some work experience I plan on looking into engineering degrees. I’m generally an optimistic person but I find myself wondering if I’m a little old to be starting out in this career direction. I have the brains to go for the engineering degree, I excel at hands on jobs and am a bit of a techy as well so I have been advised that I should look into robotic welding. Sounds great but I know nothing about this, and again the initial question, is 32 a little too late? Thanks for any advice you have on any or all of my questions.

    • cobbler1234 says:

      Brandon, the only restrictions we have is those we place on ourselves.

      • Brandon says:

        I can appreciate that outlook on life, and in general I agree, but I’m I’m talking about the time it takes to become a valuable employee in the welding field, can a guy just starting out in welding expect a decent career to be blossoming in a couple years, 5 years, 10? I get that if I get some education and some experience that I could most likely make a decent living, I just want some straight advice about whether or not this a realistic career path to try and start halfway to retirement, if I’m making 50k a year with full benus now how long would it take to reach that salary for a new welder fresh out of class?

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Brandon, in most areas of the country, my guess is that you would likely be making 50-60k as a responsible welder right out of school with a 2-yr Welding Technology. It’s been known for over 5 years that the shortage of welders is growing larger every year and there are no signs yet that we’ve reached a point where the gap is slowing. In addition to welding, WT people can provide guidance and training for those needed welders.

  23. cobbler1234 says:

    I have been welding for 20 years now. I have worked on heavy freight car wrecks to light repairs. I have welded in positions that would amaze most people. ( broom stick with stinger taped on end and another broom stick as a trigger welding 5 foot away in a pocket measuring 2 foot by 3 foot). My welds have passed bend test and x-ray test. Curious as to what a career move might be for someone like myself? I have been told that I should be teaching welding not looking to gain more experience.

  24. Winston McCuen says:

    It is true that 15 years of hands-on welding experience does not equal a B.S., but neither does a B.S. equal 15 years of welding experience. THE main weakness of B.S. weld engineers today is their nearly unanimous lack of an internal, real understanding of the behavior of metals during weld operations. A little lab work during the B.S. program does little to plug this massive lacunae. The typical B.S. weld engineer is virtually useless when it comes to training welders or weld operators, and they are often real and expensive liabilities for companies when it comes to their trying to solve complex weld-related problems and establishing solid processes. Businesses continue to suffer enormously from the endless hype, ungrounded theorizing, and blind guess-work of B.S. weld engineers who lack truly substantial hands-on welding experience.

    Winston L. McCuen, B.A., M. A., Ph.D (metaphysics/philosophy)
    Weld Engineer (certified pipe-welder, weld instructor)
    Began welding in 1986.

    • Brian Dobben says:

      I completely understand your point, and I have often seen that R&D dollars are too often a substitute for lack of applied welding knowledge. But in agreeing with you, I only think it’s fair to point out that in general terms you are describing the historic weakness of The Ohio State Welding Engineering BS program. Graduates have stated that they were told “we don’t train welders, we train welding engineers”, as justification of why OSU didn’t attempt to foster any practical feel for physical application of the sciences they were studying. In the last decade this shifted somewhat, but remains somewhat problematic. However, I have met several OSU WE’s who actually could weld, and they were excellent WE’s.

      LeTourneau and Ferris State never had that academic snobbery problem to overcome, so they didn’t inflict it on their students.

  25. William L. Roth, PE, CWI says:

    Comparing Welding Engineers to Welders (certified or otherwise) is like comparing race car builders to race car drivers. Neither can accomplish much without the other. Some can do both and some cannot. I think it is arguable that those WE’s with strong welding backgrounds likely can relate to challenges under the hood much better than those who only had one or two classes in hands on welding. This was the case for me. I had a two year vocational school run, followed by three years making tanks and pressure vessels.

    One thing I didn’t see on this string is the difference between an engineering degree (welding or otherwise) and an engineering technology degree. The engineering technology degrees normally don’t have the heavy math and physics in their curriculum as does a regular engineering degree. In most cases, having an engineering technology degree will either delay or prevent one from being able to sit for the professional engineers exam. While most jobs do not require a PE license, there are limitations to what work you can do without one. In some states, you can’t market yourself as an engineer or open a company with the name engineering in it if you don’t have a PE License. Getting an AWS Certified Welding Engineer qualification is nice, but is not recognized by any state as a license. With all that said, I have never met plenty of graduates from engineering technology programs that I would rather work with than some from engineering programs. It all comes down to the person, what they know and how they can use it to solve problems.

  26. Kenny says:

    Brian, I have a 17 year old son who graduates in May of 2014. He got into welding two years ago at high school and absolutely loves it. It’s all he can think about or talk about. He want’s to go to college and make it his career. We’ve looked at the OSU program (out of state so very expensive) and the LeT program (in state but still very expensive).

    Mainly, he or we are not sure if this is the best route for him. We want him to get a 4-year degree, and so does he, but in the end he really wants to design, plan, and be the one who builds (by welding) the design and plan, and were not sure the Welding Engineer degree will do this. We’ve looked at Welding engineer, mechanical engineer, fab engineer, etc and just aren’t sure what he should do.

    We live near the University of Texas at Arlington and would like him to go there since it’s close, cheaper, and has a good engineering program. We’ve also considered him going to the Air Force as a welder first to be able to pay for perhaps OSU or LeT later, but he’s afraid that many years away from the Math will hinder him in college.

    I know you can’t tell us exactly what to do, but I would really like to know what you think is the best option for a young person who wants a 4-year degree at an affordable price (even starting at a Jr. College and transferring to a 4 year University later) who in the end wants to be involved in the designing, planning, but most importantly, very hands on with the welding.

    Thanks for your time and response to this, I have researched so much information I am on sensor overload and just need a little help from someone who knows!

    Kenny

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Kenny –
      That’s a challenging question. Here are some thoughts that might help.
      Your son sounds a bit like R.G. LeTourneau, who was really the founding father of bringing welding into the fledgling earthmoving industry and inventing and building much of the foundation of what earthmoving equipment is today. Caterpillar owes much of their success to him, both in their welding engineering prowess, and in the 19 key patents that LeTourneau sold them which were foundational to their now-historical product line. With this kind of interest, it’s really a path of individualistic questions – which as you note are very challenging. Your comment about Jr college and transferring to a 4-yr is wise thought in keeping costs down. Further, living at home for a couple of years rather than on-campus is generally much better/safer for young men/women who aren’t hoping to be shipwrecked in life by their college experiences. It also has advantages in helping to balance real life, a job, and schooling while minimizing debt. Credit card debt has become a major reason for college drop-outs prior to graduation: they get enticed into a card or cards by the banks and department stores, then buried with the payments and penalties.
      However, the element most people miss is talking with the university up front and finding out what really does transfer, and what doesn’t. The Jr colleges have a tendency to not fully disclose everything that may not transfer, and in some cases there’s a lot that doesn’t transfer. The result is wasted time and money – if you don’t plan ahead. The most readily transferable are the basics in math, English, and science.
      LeTourneau is excellent for many reasons. I lived in Ohio when I went to LeTourneau, I have had several friends who graduated from OSU, and I don’t at all regret not graduating from OSU. You have an advantage in not paying out-of-state tuition there. College expenses have become very high in general due to the way the Federal programs are managed, and due to the actual inflation rate which is much higher than the fraudulent public numbers that began in the Carter administration and got more cleverly fabricated over time. But back to subject… Further, while welding engineering is one of the most thinly supplied and highest demand jobs in Engineering, you still will get offered more money and likely have a better career trajectory if you have some practical experience when you graduate. The Longview area is unique in that it offers some opportunities to work as a welder and to go to school also. Quite a few companies have interest in helping someone with those interests and skills, because they make both an excellent employee and an ideal graduate to hire. And there is the added benefit of being paid more as a welder than nearly any other available part or full-time job, which goes a long way toward a pay-as-you-go approach to a college degree.
      One role that could help in the goals you’ve described is to find (probably at some point prior to graduation) a position as a “fabricator”, who reads blueprints and constructs with jigs, welding and machining. Depending on the direction that he wants to go or skills he wants to foster, a position as a robotic programmer or a welding engineer responsible for robotic programming will provide solid exposure and experience with how to automate the creation of high-quality welds.

      Perhaps some others will have ideas or suggestions as well…

      Brian

  27. Josh Harrington says:

    Hey im a junior in highschool and im in welding classes in my highschool. I am planning to become a Underwater welder but i also heard they have short life span. Im also planning to go to trade school for welding. I just want to become some type of hands on welder who makes alot of money. I am 16 trying to plan out my future profession so if anyone can help fill me in about welding profession in general would be apreciated.

  28. Srinidhi says:

    Hi Brian,
    I have completed a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering and have worked in a mechanical company for the past one year. I am very much interested in the science and ‘art’ of Welding. I would like to get hands-on experience and also good knowledge on the metallurgical aspect of welding. I am from India and would like to pursue the Master’s course in Welding Engineering from OSU in the US or Cranfield in the UK. Which would you suggest is a better option in terms of knowledge and job prospects. I will eventually need a good job in order to pay back the huge amount of loans I will be taking to study abroad.

    Your speedy reply will be of great help because the Fall’14 deadlines are fast approacing during which I plan to apply.

    Also any other courses that might be an option for me woud be helpful.
    Thank You.

    • Brian Dobben says:

      Srinidhi,
      I am not familiar with the Cranfield program. Both OSU and LeTourneau offer essentially the same Master’s in Welding Engineering, which is largely remote learning – making it less expensive and more practical than attending on campus full-time. It is is easily the most respected Masters of its’ kind in North America. Graduates are few and there always seem to be job interview opportunities with few people available to interview. However, the most valuable is to combine some practical hands-on welding skill with the degree.

      Fortunately there are many different manual welding programs available around the world ranging from two weeks to a few months. GMAW (MIG/MAG) and GTAW (“TIG” or “Heliarc”) are the two most widely used manual welding methods, other than SMAW “stick” welding. You can learn SMAW, but I recommend learning one or both of GMAW and/or GTAW before taking the Masters because it will be very helpful. The grounding of the practical hands-on will make the degree much more powerfully effective, as well as producing a graduate who employers will have more confidence in your capability. In other words, it’s important and valuable to be able to practically apply the physics and sciences to real needs and deliver effective solutions. The degree alone isn’t going to provide the ability to excellently link the materials-joining engineering knowledge to the real world.

      Those are my thoughts.

      Brian

      • Srinidhi says:

        Firstly, thanks for the quick reply Brian.

        I most definitely want to study full time but also get hands on experience. And after going through some websites and contacting a few alumni, I would like to apply for LeTourneau University also. Can you suggest a few courses and ideas on how I can also get some experience if I plan to study in the U.S.

        I will also be enrolling for a Welding course on TIG and MIG Welding at the TUV Rheinland training facility in India.

      • Brian Dobben says:

        Srinidhi –
        In the U.S., if you enroll in a degree program, there is a suggested course of study, with recommended classes listed out for each semester. The college’s materials would include a course guide with that information, which also lists the minimum required courses to graduate with a particular degree. The course of study isn’t required to be followed, but is very helpful in the sense of pre-requisites and scheduling classes effectively to avoid having to wait a semester, or a year, for a specific class to be offered again. I suggest looking through that information, and also finding what classes you have that might either “transfer” as complete courses, or let you “test out” of requirements to take an individual class. I trust this is helpful.

      • Srinidhi says:

        Thanks a ton Brian!

  29. Beth maynard says:

    Mr Dobben, would you by chance be available to talk via email? I’m a mom to a high school sophomore who has an interest in welding and I am trying to help him decide what path he should take. I appreciate your time.

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