How to Join a Welding Union? American Welding Society AWS – 2023

If you want to choose welding as a profession for the rest of your life, you have two choices: to become a unionized welder by joining a welding union or working independently. If you have made up your mind to work as a union welder, then you would definitely have a question-“How to Join a Welding Union?”. You’ll get the answer to this question here, so carry on reading.

To join the welding union in the USA, you must have an American welding Society (AWS) certificate. If you have this certificate, then excellent otherwise, get certified first. After getting the certificate go through a different welding union and choose the one which you found good during the interaction.

Mostly welding unions may demand hands-on experience or 4 to 5 years of paid training under an expert welder for membership. But don’t worry if you do not have that much experience; there are still many unions that will give you their membership with little or no experience.

Now you have to apply for the membership, and this step requires a one-time fee, which you must have to pay. After that, you’ll become a permanent member of the welders union. But it is wise to research thoroughly over it in this way you’ll know whether your decision is right or not. I’ve squeezed some stuff for you to help you make your judgment; scroll down to look.


Educational requirements to join welding union:

A particular level of training and education is necessary to land both union and non-union welding jobs. Although, the training and experience prerequisites of union welders are typically higher as compared to independent welders.

However, it is not obligatory to get an education from a welding training institute to become a competent union welder. Moreover, a welding school gives you theoretical knowledge, but you can’t sustain yourself in this field without hands-on experience.

Most welding training takes about three to six months, and if you pay full attention, then you’ll learn adequate skills, equipment handling, and safety procedures in that time.

A typical course outline includes:

  • Welding equipment maintenance and handling
  • Safety measures
  • Cutting torch procedures
  • Memorizing welding blueprint symbols
  • Metal plate preparation

Besides, you will also learn how to perform overlapping and use various machines, position plates, replenish fuel, ethics, and take guidelines on work attitude.

To become a union welder, you must have to pass the American Welding Society (AWS) certificate. You will get a discount on your AWS certificate if you are a union welder. These days certificate classes are going online, but there are various experimenting facilities in most states.


Job Description of union welder

Those welders who are a member of welding union are specialized in any one of the following domains:


The welders who work for ironwork unions offer to assemble private, industrial, and commercial building structures. Moreover, these welders are also involved in the development and repair of bridges and highways.

Besides, this job demands workers install metal supports for flyovers, buildings, motorways, and other infrastructure works. Ironworkers might need to take part in the creation of skyscrapers occasionally.

It means an aspiring ironworker must be okay with working at height and should have proper body balance & eyesight. In addition to this, an ironworker is good at using welding machines in the field, not only in workshops.

Typically a journeyman ironworker masters the art in three to four years of paid internship. Interns have to spend 144 hours per year studying maths, safety procedures, welding blueprints, measurements, and welding procedures.

During their training, they also have to devote 2000 hours per year working on the field. These workout sessions help them gain worthy experience. Other than that, they also learn how to utilize ironwork machines to measure, tear, weld, handle and build metal structures.

The routine tasks of an ironworker look are:

  • To assist in the demolition of stale infrastructure and metal frameworks
  • Utilizing metal welding, shearing, cutting, and bending appliances in workshops and on the field.
  • Assembling and arranging heavy iron and steel structures altogether


Boilermakers are needed to build metal broilers that are utilized to heat up gases and liquids. And the broilers they work on are capable of handling extreme levels of pressure which is necessary for generating mechanical energy, heat, and electrical power.

Moreover, these boilers are similar in electric power generation, crude oil extraction, gas & liquid transmission, ship construction, and machine manufacturing. As a boilermaker, it will be your responsibility to check on the broiler and maintain it by repairing its faulty components.

You need to be skillful in manipulating welding appliances accurately and know using bolting appliances and riveting. So, you must gain field experience while studying in a welding institute.

To become a boilermaker, you must have to complete a 4-year internship. In addition, you also have an understanding of the pressure and composition of water and chemicals at various temperatures. Additionally, you have to go and work in harsh and cramped locations, which are quite difficult to handle.

The key responsibilities of a boilermaker are:

  • To accurately assemble different boiler pieces by using various welding techniques
  • Compiling smokestacks, air pollution elimination machines, steam power turbines, and blast furnaces
  • To create, scrutinize, and clear big tanks and vats
  • Maintenance of larger pipelines at dams


Welding union pipefitters help in configuration and laying down transmission pipelines. Pipefitters can work in the oil, gas, and water supply industry and construction sites, and other areas. Pipes are found everywhere and can be used for various reasons.

Pipefitters have to work on the entire pipefitting procedure from scheduling to execution and also know the proper use of lots of welding equipment. Moreover, they are skillful in welding, laying, assembling, and maintaining pipes. They are required to read welding blueprints and symbols to accomplish the project properly.

If you want to become a pipefitter, then following plans and safety measures are necessary. Four to five years of paid training is a must to become a unionized pipefitter. Additionally, a lot of classroom work has to be done, which includes studying maths, physics, chemistry, welding blueprints, safety procedures, and sketching.

The duties of a pipefitter are:

  • He/She has to measure and mark pipe for threading, welding, and cutting
  • Must have hands-on experience of using welders, headers, pipe threaders, cutting touches, and saws
  • To create pipelines designs and to fix and repair as per the requirements
  • Renewing and eliminating old parts from pipes

Advantages of becoming a member of a union welder

Being a union welder has some amazing benefits that you can’t get as an independent welder. These are:

Better salary

It is not surprising that union welders are paid more than non-union welders. There is no rocket science to understand why union members get better salary packages. It is so because the unions have a broad network of clients, including government bodies as well.

Moreover, lots of union members have established welders and have excellent command over what they’re doing. Despite this, they also agree on working in harsh conditions, which makes them more reliable than freelance welders.

All these things set the unions in the position to charge superior for the services of their members, and clients are ready to pay that amount.

Jobs are secure

A good welders union fights for the rights of its members not only about better salary but also on other genuine demands such as healthcare, gratuity, etc. To sum it up, the job of union welder is secure than independent welders.

Freelance welders don’t have too many cards to play when it comes to making a deal with clients. Most of the time, they end up signing a project which doesn’t pay enough to grasp the work.

In addition, as an independent welder, if your employer terminates you, you can’t strike over that matter. But as a unionized welder, if the same thing happens to you, the union asks the employer for appetite reasons for your termination like incompetence, breaches of rules, etc. It means the employer can’t fire you without given the proper insight.

Safe working atmosphere

Unions force their clients to guarantee that their worksites are up to the mark according to safety protocols. It shows that union welders are less prone to get injured than those welders who aren’t associated with a union because they can’t demand this type of safety guarantee from their clients.

Your union will be accountable if anything tragic happens with a member, but a solo welder can’t blame anyone except their fate. In my opinion, these are reasonable reasons for joining a welding union if you’re going to welding as a career for your life.


Drawbacks of becoming a member of welding union

The members of these unions are required to follow the rules and regulations. Often, they have to work on those projects in which they have zero interest. Working as a union welder is like working for a corporation because they’ve to participate in those projects they have no interest in.

Whereas the union-free welders are free to pick only those projects they believe are good for them. It is very tough for a non-union welder to charge as much as a union welder. But an independent welder must have brilliant expertise and a broad client base to earn as much as a union welder.

Moreover, there is no culture inside the welding union to compensate those welders who are delivering more and better work than the rest of their teammates. It makes them think they’re overworking and while the rest of the team is just passing the time.


Joining a welding union seems to be interesting as it offers the worker higher salaries than working independently. It takes a lot of effort to become a union welder, and sometimes as a union welder, you will have to go to those locations you don’t want to be.

First of all, you have to decide whether you can handle the duties of the welding union or not. If yes, then move forward; otherwise, it’ll be a time waste for you. Moreover, we hope that you have learned a lot from this article about how to join a welding union.