How To Join A Welding Union – What you need to know

Last Updated on Nov 12, 2022

Are you interested in becoming part of a local welders union? You’re not alone. Many people are looking for welding unions near their areas and have tons of questions about these places.

How much do union welders make? How do you find welding union jobs?

These are common questions among people interested in becoming professional welders. Still, you should know that, at some point, every welder must decide whether to go solo and become a non-union welding contractor or become part of a welding union.

Either option can work pretty well, depending on the individual. This article will guide you through the differences between union and non-union welding jobs and the pros and cons of both options. This way, it’ll be easier for you to decide what path you’ll take.

Union vs. Non-Union – Benefits and Drawbacks

Below we’ll discuss whether this path could be advantageous or if you should opt to become a non-union welder.


There are different advantages related to union welding jobs. Most people prefer to go through this path for the following reasons.

  • Better job security: As part of a welding union, you’re likely to receive benefits and better safety conditions while you’re working. For instance, the benefits may include healthcare and retirement plans (they can vary from one union to another).
  • More safety: Welding can be unsafe when done in inappropriate conditions. Therefore, welding unions are obligated to make sure that each employer provides the welder with an appropriate environment to work in and also veil for each member’s injuries if something happens during the project.

Welder unions will advocate for your rights and ensure that you’re receiving fair pay and benefits. They can be excellent options, but some situations may arise from time to time, leaving you unsatisfied or discontent.


The main disadvantage of being part of a welding union is that you must adhere to the rules of the workplace. Plus, you won’t have that much power in the jobs you do, which may lead you to complete jobs that you don’t like.

Additionally, some welders believe that individual work grants them better rewards compared to the compensation that welder unions tend to offer to their workers.

If you’re new to the field, you’re also likely to be given less priority when it comes to assigning orders. Seniority is a strong factor in welder unions, which may leave new welders with job opportunities they don’t want or like. Hence, growing professionally as part of a welding union can be challenging.

How to join a welding union

If you believe that joining a welding union is the best option for you, here we’ll teach you what you need to do to become part of one.

First steps

Before we start diving deep into the differences between union and non-union welding jobs, it is important for you to make sure that you have all the documentation at your disposal. Don’t forget that even if you decide to become a non-union welding contractor, you’re required to have an AWS welding certification.

While the AWS welding certification is a must-have requirement in most places, please note that not all welding unions are equal, and some may require different documents. Most of the time, unions that require you to submit meticulous requirements provide you with the best benefits.

Start researching about local welder’s union in your area

Once you get all the documentation right, it’ll be time for you to start searching about potential welding unions in your area if that’s what you’re interested in. During your research, you will find many potential places with different benefits, but they will also come with very distinctive demands and requirements.

Therefore, we recommend you make a list and filter them based on how beneficial it would be for you to join it.

Submit your application

Once you find a welding union that resonates with you, it’ll be time to start working on your application. You will have to submit some paperwork and pay a membership fee. We highly recommend you contact the welding union and ask them for help regarding the paperwork.

If you comply with the requirements posted, you’ll likely be able to join the union in little time. Then, you’ll start working by the rules established.

What kinds of unions are there?

While there are many sub-categories of welding unions, there are three main types of welding unions we can mention.

  • Boilermakers specialize in heavy-duty construction. A boilermaker is also qualified for manufacturing and typically works in industries like shipbuilding.
  • Ironworkers specialize in structures and construction of different types. It could be houses, schools, sports facilities or even vehicles.
  • Pipefitters specialize in plumbing and welding types. As it happens with ironworkers, they can work in large industries or households.

You may fit into one of these unions based on your level of expertise and specialization. It is crucial to think thoroughly of what type of union could work better for you, as you will be obligated to do that type of job until the contract spires.

Apprenticeship requirements for a welding union

The apprenticeship requirements for a welding union vary depending on the industry you’re interested in. Here we list the three options described in the section above (boilermakers, ironworkers, and pipefitters).

Boilermaker’s union requirements for an apprenticeship

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • High school diploma or GED. You can use an equivalent document.
  • You must be physically fit heavy work.

Ironworker’s union requirements for an apprenticeship

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • High school diploma or GED. You can use an equivalent document.
  • You must be physically fit for heavy work.
  • You’re required to have relatively good agility and balance.
  • You must be free of alcohol and drugs.
  • You must comply with the requirements established in citizenship laws.

Pipefitter’s union requirements for an apprenticeship

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • High school diploma or GED. You can use an equivalent document.
  • You’ll be required to go through a drug and alcohol screening taste.
  • You should also present a current and valid driver’s license.

How do I become a journeyman welder?

If you want to become a journeyman welder, you’ll be required to go through a training program or perhaps an apprenticeship. Additionally, you must have proven technical skills specific to the job as well as be able to use the computer software utilized in the business.

You’re not required to have a college degree. You’re good to go with your high school diploma or an equivalent document. Still, you’re required to go through the apprenticeship and get your license. It can take up to four years for you to become a journeyman welder, combining the work experience and all the theoretical study you must go through.

Do union welders travel a lot?

Union welders are known for traveling a lot from time to time. These travels usually last for prolonged periods, but you’ll get a considerably high paycheck once the job is done. Still, it all comes down to personal choice – if you don’t want to travel, you don’t have to do it. You can work in the location of your preference.

Still, we highly recommend you to read the contract before joining the welder’s union. Sometimes, the union specifies a pre-determined place to work. If you’ve already signed, you’ll be required to work by the rules.