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MIG, TIG or Arc? Specialization in the World of Welding

All welds are not the same. Some are made with an electric arc (stick), others with metal inert gas (MIG) and still others with tungsten inert gas (TIG). Each has its merits and appropriate applications. The welders who make these welds are like that too. Some specialize and focus on one technique, while others diversify and become proficient at all three. We were curious to learn more about how welders choose their professional path, and listened in on the welder social media conversation for revealing insights.

Welder advice column
On a popular subreddit, a self-professed twenty-year old woman asked a simple question – “…wondering how far I can go with a welding career...” sparking a rich and intriguing thread. One of the commenters was straightforward in suggesting, “The best advice I can give is to specialize.” The resulting conversation reveals the great diversity of opinions when it comes to the range of options available to young welders in planning their rewarding career. Like this welder who, later in this same conversation, recounts their decision to specialize in order to, one day, make themselves more valuable in the job market. “I chose TIG because I didn't want to sell my skills short (MIG and Stick seemed too easy). I stayed under the hood and improved as much as possible, and my instructor recommended me to my current job.”

Be a sponge
From another subreddit thread we found familiar advice we’ve heard before, to be a sponge, in this comment from a seasoned welder advising newcomers to the profession. “Be a sponge… this is the point in your career where it's totally okay to be utterly clueless. On top of that, if you're eager to learn and be humble about it, everyone WILL notice and they'll love it. We have a kid in our shop right now who is trying to learn as much as possible and he's already a hell of a welder. He's going places.” What strikes us about this advice is both its applicability to almost any skilled trade, as well it being sound advice for any young professional eager to decide what skill they’d be most satisfied building their career around.

MIG vs TIG vs Arc
When it comes to welding, there are plenty of choices for specialization. A YouTube video does a stellar job breaking it down for anyone considering a welding career, providing actionable advice for deciding “which is right for you”. The debate about MIG, TIG and Arc welding techniques inevitably extends into the broader question about specialization versus generalization. In a popular welding forum, one welder recounts his search for the right tools to match his passion for the specialty of “welding tubular structures”. We love how he recounts his journey toward finding just the right “TIG machine” to match his specialized passion for welding tubular structures. “I don't have a MIG, I was mainly searching for TIG machines, as I would like to get into welding tubular structures (think bike frames) and saw this guy … with an arc welding stinger … it could double for "general" welding work as a stick welder.” As we see, his investigations uncover an arc welding tool which he hadn’t considered — one he realizes could serve double-duty for him to support his particular passions and his general welding duties. All this enthusiastic sharing offers fellow welders, especially those new to the trade, some great insight about specialization.

Choice is good
As with almost all skilled trade professions, there comes a point in many of our careers when we make a choice between remaining a heads-down doer, or aiming to become more of a heads-up manager. Welders typically encounter this fork in their career paths several years into the profession and often the various options available aren’t simple to chart out. From the subreddit conversation we quoted earlier, one experienced welder offers encouraging advice regarding these career choice moments, and the alternatives available to thoughtful welders. “It can be what you make it! Many choose to be under the hood for much of their career, with the goal of working their way up to foreman or supervisor. Some take additional specialized training and become certified weld inspectors, and others take classes with a goal of becoming a manager, weld engineer, or even a teacher/professor! Welding as a career can mean a variety of rewarding opportunities, each with the potential for decent compensation.”

Whether you’re a TIG, MIG or Arc welder, a manager, inspector or the strictly under-the-hood type, chances are you can find your next welding gig working with our team at Aerotek. We invite you check our current welding opportunities and create your free career account.