Advice for Recruiter Client’s Welding Engineer position – #1

This is the FIRST in a series of responses from my e-mail archives, which I’m publishing because the Recruiters noted them as helpful advise and perspective on their client’s Welding Engineering positions. Most recruiters and even most HR Managers have little experience or exposure to the Welding Engineering segment because it’s so small. It’s my hope that these will help increase understanding of some of the realities, needs, obstacles and rewards in finding and retaining degreed welding engineers.

Regarding the “#41XXX Welding Engineer Position”, if I could offer some advice for your client as a degreed W.E. with 21 years experience who has interviewed roughly 200 Welding Engineers to hire about 10 W.E.’s in the last 5 years…

A salary range of $44-55k is unrealistic for a degreed Welding Engineer with 3-5 yrs experience unless their cost of living is 20-50% below the national average.

There are only three ABET accredited W.E. universities in the nation: LeTourneau University, Ferris State University, and The Ohio State University. At OSU (for example), the average starting salary is about $60k for a brand new (2008) graduate. Recent LeTourneau University graduate majors are Materials Joining Engineering instead of Welding Engineering. After 3 years experience, average 2nd position starts at about $70k. With 5 yrs experience, a good degreed W.E. with the capabilities they’re looking for is likely going to be in the $65-$80k range.

Keep in mind that there are only about 100 W.E. graduates a year, totaled from the 3 schools. That’s why about 70% of the “Welding Engineers” in industry are only titled as W.E.’s. Those 70% are people, some with other engineering degrees and some with none, who can ENABLE the welding processes. However, of the 30% of degreed Welding Engineers, only about half of them can optimize processes for excellent profitability and quality. That’s why the best W.E.’s, with experience, make $75-120k base salaries: they are the only ones who can make profitability differences measured in millions of dollars.

Most recruiters and even most HR Managers have little experience or exposure to the Welding Engineering segment because it’s so small. So I hope that helps. If you have any other W.E. position openings that could benefit from strong expertise with a history of dramatic process improvements beyond the “benchmark” performance standards, let me know…

Brian Dobben

2nd in this series:

7 Responses to Advice for Recruiter Client’s Welding Engineer position – #1

  1. Ben says:

    One caveat: Ferris State offers a welding engineering technology degree. LeTourneau’s program, while excellent, is not accredited as a welding engineer program by ABET.
    Your “70% of WE’s” statement can actually be applied to other fields of engineering as well. I know an industrial engineer who is the other degreed IE in her IE department (the others hold the title, but not the degree. There’s an accountant, a guy from the floor, and her manager has a IE tech degree). I don’t know why companies won’t call a spade a spade, but I’m sure there’s a reason. Any thoughts?

  2. weldsparks says:

    Ben, thanks for the comment. Your caveat needs a point corrected, and it’s also an excellent opportunity to discuss the “flavors” of degrees.

    I’m assuming you made a sincere assertion. So, not trying to pick a fight, and not saying this describes you or any other specific OSU alum, but let’s lay the cards on the table so everything is clear. LeTourneau has never lost a single football game to the OSU Buckeyes – not even once. But we don’t go around saying that – much less try to turn such an irrelevant technical fact into a mark of superiority.

    Point 1: LeTourneau University doesn’t have a football team.
    Point 2: LeTourneau’s engineering programs are ABET accredited. As a LeTourneau grad, I can tell you that their Engineering degrees have been continually ABET accredited since at least 1988, which you can see here at this link by going to LeTourneau by name:

    In LeTourneau’s words on Accreditations:
    “ABET: LeTourneau University’s engineering and engineering technology programs are accredited by the Engineering and the Technology Accreditation Commissions of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology”

    Your statement that “LeTourneau’s program… is not accredited as a welding engineer program by ABET” makes a false implication that has stirred more than one LeTourneau grad. On one hand it’s incorrect. However, the exact wording means it could also be interpreted as technically correct because the Welding (or Materials Joining) Engineering is not independently accredited separately from the other engineering disciplines.

    All of LeTourneau’s Engineering studies are accredited together as a comprehensive program, as are all of their Engineering Technology degree curriculum. They do not choose to structure or accredit any of their engineering disciplines as “standalone” programs – which explains why a LeTourneau Welding Engineering program is not specifically listed by ABET in the same way as OSU’s separately structured programs.

    Knowing LeTourneau’s history and committment to practical application of head-knowledge, and their goal of enabling graduates to smoothly work in parallel with all other engineering disciplines, their approach makes great sense. It’s also one of many elements that have produced their long reputation for turning out graduates who can “hit the ground running” in industry, making contributions almost from “day one”.
    [I’ve edited my original response in these next two paragraphs, because it was not as gracious and evenhanded as I had wished.]

    Some confusion is understandable, particularly with new/recent grads, since LeTourneau doesn’t appear to be listed by ABET until you pull it up by the University name. However, there seems to be a long-running history of correcting this misconception – and Yoni Adonyi has been correcting OSU staff and graduates for many years. Would OSU staff be wiser and more professional to just start saying that LeTourneau’s engineering degrees are also ABET accredited, rather than apparently trying to split hairs in semantics in order to deceive people and put The Ohio State University on a higher pedestal?

    Perhaps that’s a bit judgemental, and if I’m misinterpreting based on appearance I apologize in advance. But on the other hand, under the circumstances, perhaps the onus is on OSU staff to show that their program is not deliberately misleading people and unprofessionally smearing LeTourneau?


    There is indeed different emphasis in Bachelor of Science approaches between an Engineering Technology degree and a “straight” engineering degree. Both LeTourneau and Ferris State offerings include A.S.W.E.T. degrees. For nearly three decades LeTourneau has offered a comprehensive program blend of A.S. and B.S. degrees as well as both “straight” Engineering and Engineering Technology B.S. degrees across nearly all their engineering disciplines. And I considered hard at LeTourneau whether to take my B.S. under the Engineering umbrella or the Engineering Technology umbrella. I chose M.E.T. and W.E.T. B.S. majors for two reasons: 1) I was not interested in pure theoretical R&D work, and had no love affairs with Calculus or high-end physics. 2) My goal and vision was to be able to bridge the vast gap between design concept and high-performance manufacturability, and I wanted to be firmly grounded in the hands-on practical application of what I was learning.

    [For clarity, the primary difference between LeTourneau’s Engineering and Engineering Technology Bachelor of Science programs is that the “high-end” chemistry, physics and math are replaced with class/lab combinations such as Internal Combustion Engines, Rotating Electrical Machinery, and Hydraulic and Suspension Systems. The focus is on learning and hands-on application of the principles, and a key part of your grade is how successful you are in applying the principles correctly to the real-life technology.

    My view is that the two different thrusts carry equal value with different results based on the individual and on the industries they ultimately serve in. But in order to be effective in industry, hands-on technology experience is required – whether within or separate from the classroom. Some of the highest performance people are those who worked for 5 or 10 years in industry and went to school to get their bachelor’s. In contrast, a key performance difficulty is when reality-grounding doesn’t occur prior to, or soon after, graduation. This explains why too many intelligent engineers are confidently wrong.]

    You bring up a good point about engineering in industry – I assume manufacturing. I’m actually considering doing an article on that, but haven’t decided how to shape it yet. Bottom line, I think the key factors are a desire to save money (non-degreed or A.S. degreed employees are cheaper), and a lack of management understanding of the roles and capabilities of the engineering disciplines and Tech vs. Associates vs. Bachelors vs. Masters.

    If you ask the five “whys” and drive to the root cause, I see it as a fallout of our draconian and deliberately complex IRS tax structure, and of the years of deliberately forcing privately owned businesses into public corporate ownership through the death-tax. As a consequence of this bureaucratically-induced climate, MBA’s who are technical lightweights have far too much decision-making prominence: in order to deal with the sobering business ramifications of the tax laws, and with the delicacies of stockholder relations and how things look on annual reports, you can’t simply let highly competent engineers make manufacturing process decisions. Or so it’s assumed.

    Most Techs and A.S. people have no earthly idea what they have missed by not having a B.S. And they never have frustrating struggles trying to assemble extensive reports or presentations in order to explain the scientifically obvious to upper management… because they can’t see what’s really going on in the first place, and they’re reactionary, not strategic.

    That’s one reason why Six Sigma is such a strong cultural influence when it’s adopted. I was doing DMAIC for more than a decade before I’d ever heard of Six Sigma, but I just called it optimizing and stabilizing the processes. Some companies who step into Six Sigma never realize that the reason it’s so powerful is because they are training their employees to function with engineering thought processes.

    • Ben says:

      Yours is a breadth of knowledge I dearly wish more people/employers/recruiters possessed.
      With regard to different flavors of degrees, I suppose it’s as much a difference in the name of the degree as anything else, and certainly breaking out degree programs for individual accreditation makes sense for a school like Ohio State, but perhaps not for LeTourneau, which has a considerably smaller student body. I’m sure that the streamlined, inter-disciplinary approach you spoke of factors in as well. (Historical note: OSU’s WE program has been ABET accredited since 1958.)

      I will also say this: at Ohio State, we are/were constantly told about how the work we’re doing is important, that’s there’s a critical need for WE’s, and that we’re the only WE program in North America (apparently there’s one in England, and another in Kiev, Russia). Given these statements, mostly from faculty, but from recruiters as well, many of us can’t help but be a little (or a lot) indoctrinated.
      I’ve never worked with a LeT grad, or a Ferris grad. I’ve heard many good things about both schools.

      Six Sigma: I remember touring the Ohio State industrial engineering department in 2001. I asked the chair of the department about Six Sigma, since it was a buzz word I’d heard. His response was: “Six Sigma and Lean are nothing more than classic industrial engineering tools, aggressively applied.” That really stuck in my head. These days when I find myself hearing about a new way of doing things, I have to ask myself: is it really new, or did you (new idea guy) just give it a new name?

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  4. David Williams says:

    Well I am going to say wow, what a load of basicaly put crap!!
    I have been in the industry for over thirty years, in this time I have come across more welding engineers that have not got a clue, this sounds to me like an idiot trying to justify the fact that they have received a degree, how about going out there and learning the fundimentals before spouting off?
    I know a lot of very good specialists who were not born with a silver spoon in there mouths, and better equipt than most degree engineers, not all good engineers have had the chance to go to universaty but have still studied hard to get where they are.

    I take these comments as being very rude not to mention insulting, I have a full understanding of the welding industry from all aspects, how many peaple can say they have taken the specialist qaulification in a different language other than there own, I took mine in German and I am English, the problem is the qaulification can only be taken if you meet a certain critiria which makes it difficult if you went to school in the sixties.

    The specialist takes exactly the same course as the engineer under the IIW qaulification and yet it is not recognised because you dont have a degree.

    I think the comments in this artical are extremly insulting and very condisending, I for one can only say to the individual who wrote them get out in the real world and do some real work.

    • Brian Dobben says:

      David –
      Rather than taking the comments as rude and insulting, I suggest taking them as an example of the GIANT difference between Europe and the United States when it comes to welding engineering. I understand your comments because I’ve had some exposure to European welding, but believe me, your comments sound just as out-of-touch in American industry as you think the article is in your experience.

      In the United States the term “specialist” has little meaning – it could mean anything, including taking a single 4 hour training class on one weekend. There is no path here to take a similar course of education and be something other than a welding engineer. In some areas there are groups of several weeks of training that produce people called a welding “technician”, but it is as far from welding engineering as teaching basic automotive tune-up and oil changes is far from an automotive engineer who designs vehicles.

      We have welders, who typically have been trained in the techniques of using one (maybe two) welding processes to manually make “good” welds that meet the requirements of production for a specific type of welded subassemblies for a specific industry. Then we have robot programmers, who typically are maintenance technicians who learned a robot programming language in one or two weeks of training… with almost no training in the (MIG/MAG) welding process at all, other than how to insert commands to turn a weld on/off and set volts and wire feed speed with a programming pendant. The best robot programmers (probably less than 20%) are more capable because they used to do some manual welding – so they have some idea of what they are teaching the robot to do.

      Over here in the United States most companies think welding is simple and don’t want to pay for an actual welding engineer. But since they have welding problems, they take someone with a two-year technician’s degree in something other than welding (at best it’s an “Associate of Science” degree, which builds hands-on skills, with little physics or sciences) who can recognize a welding process, and put them in charge of assisting with keeping the automated welding systems making acceptable welds. Through this they build experience and learn to keep production running, and some come to be called a “welding engineer” – without realizing that they have no earthly idea of how to optimize a weld for high performance, quality or profitability. Over time they get better, but don’t understand anything about welding processes beyond what they try in production. Again, about 70% of the titled “welding engineers” fall in this category. They are nice people, they can make their processes function, but they lack the training and exposure that could enable them to optimize welding and create high-performance profitability. The exception I’ve seen is when a degreed Electrical Engineer takes on Welding Engineering responsibilities: their education equips them with enough of a solid foundation that they can often become better than some degreed Welding Engineers.

      There are a few exceptions to these generalizations in a few industries in some specific geographical areas, but they are the exceptions.

      Hopefully this clarifies. And yes, thank you for pointing out that the context of my comments is to clarify specific advice that I gave for filling a specific welding engineering position.

  5. David Williams says:

    I would like to appologise for the comment just posted and point out that it refers to the artical from Brian Dobben in the subject Advice for Recruiter Client’s Welding Engineer position – #2

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