The amount of money a TIG welder can make depends on several factors like experience level, location, specialized skills, industry, and willingness to travel. Entry-level TIG welders can expect to earn $25,000-$40,000 per year while experienced TIG welders working in high-demand industries like aerospace or underwater welding can make over $100,000 annually. Overall, TIG welders have strong earning potential especially as they gain expertise, certifications, and opportunities in lucrative industries.
If you’re considering a career as a TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder or looking to increase your welding income potential, you probably want to know – do TIG welders make good money?
It’s a great question. Like any skilled trade, the earning potential for TIG welders can vary quite a bit based on factors like:
- Years of experience
- Location and industry demand
- Specialized skills and certifications
- Willingness to travel for work
- Being an employee vs. business owner
In this guide, we’ll break down exactly what kind of salaries TIG welders can expect to earn at different career levels and situations.
You’ll get a realistic idea of the income possibilities as a TIG welder. From there, you can make informed decisions about training, skills development, and career moves to maximize your earning ability if money is your primary motivation.
Let’s get started!
Do TIG Welders Earn Good Salaries Overall?
The short answer is yes – TIG welding can be a very lucrative career. Here are some key stats on welding salaries to consider:
- The national average salary for all welders is $44,190 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- The top 10% of welders earn over $63,000 annually.
- In high paying states like Alaska and Hawaii, the top 10% make over $85,000 per year.
- Underwater welders can make $100,000-$200,000.
- With business ownership and specialized skills, six-figure incomes are possible.
So while entry-level welding incomes are modest, there is huge potential to earn an excellent living as your expertise, credentials, and opportunities grow. TIG welding skills create a path to the highest welding wage levels.
Salary Factors To Consider
While the salaries above paint a rosy picture, your actual earnings as a TIG welder depend on several important factors:
How many years of hands-on welding experience you have makes a massive impact on income potential. Consider:
- Entry-level TIG welders straight out of welding school or training programs can expect to earn around $25,000 – $40,000 per year.
- With 2-5 years experience, salaries typically range from $40,000 – $60,000.
- Senior level welders with 5-10+ years experience have more specialized skills and certifications. They can earn $60,000 – $100,000 depending on industry and location.
- Master level welders at the top of their field with decades of expertise can make over $100,000 with the right job situation.
The more years you have perfecting your TIG skills and gaining niche expertise, the more lucrative opportunities will be available to you. Patience and persistence pays off.
Location & Regional Demand
Where you live and the local demand for skilled welders has a huge impact on earning ability.
For example, areas with booming construction and oil/gas industries often have more welding job openings than they can fill, creating excellent income potential.
Meanwhile, regions with fewer industrial sectors may be saturated with welders competing for work, keeping wages lower.
Some of the highest paying states for welders include:
- Alaska – $63,610 average salary
- Hawaii – $60,560
- Washington – $56,130
- Wyoming – $55,630
- Connecticut – $55,240
Relocating to regions with high welding demand can significantly boost your income over time. If staying put, research local job markets and specialize in the most in-demand skills.
Certain industries offer much higher wages for skilled TIG welders than others. High-paying sectors include:
- Aerospace manufacturing – $55,000 – $75,000 range
- Underwater welding – $80,000 – $200,000
- Nuclear power – $75,000 – $100,000
- Oil and gas pipeline work – $70,000 – $120,000
- Construction welding (union) – $50,000 – $100,000
Targeting niche sectors that value your specialized abilities is key for maximizing income. Be willing to relocate if needed.
Specialized Skills & Certifications
Developing expertise in higher-value skills directly boosts earning power:
- Exotic metal welding like titanium – Up to 20-30% more pay
- Code welding for nuclear/aerospace – $75,000+
- Underwater welding – At least $100,000
Likewise, prestigious welding certifications like AWS or ASME open up more opportunities. Investing in the most lucrative skills for your target field pays dividends.
Self-Employment Income Potential
Starting your own welding business entails risk and hustle, but far greater upside:
- No income ceilings like a salaried job
- Charge higher shop rates – up to $100+/hour
- Low overhead if operating mobile
- High demand for custom work
The most successful welding business owners make over $200,000 through high earnings and leveraging employees.
If you are willing and able to travel to where the best welding work is, you can expect:
- Up to 50% higher pay rates
- Per diem pay for living expenses
- Short-term intense projects with overtime
- Full employment and constant variety
Many of the highest paid pipelining, shipyard, and construction welders work travel contracts. The lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but the pay makes it worthwhile for those who can take it.
As you can see, a wide range of factors influence just how much money you can make as a TIG welder. With the right combination, six-figure earnings are possible for those able and willing.
Next let’s look at actionable tips to maximize your salary potential at different experience levels.
Maximizing Your Earning Potential
Here are smart strategic moves to boost your welding income over the course of your career:
- Learn basic welding skills thoroughly from a qualified mentor
- Earn AWS D9.1 certification for best opportunities
- Build work ethic and “soft skills”
- Research highest paying industries and relocate if needed
- Consider lower-paying but skill-building roles (underwater helper, shop lackey)
- Ask about upward mobility opportunities
$25,000 – $40,000 range
Mid-Level Welder (2-5 Years Experience)
- Gain expertise in most complex/valuable welding processes – TIG aluminum, exotic metals, etc.
- Get specialized training and certifications
- Keep developing speed, efficiency, quality skills
- Carefully consider side work and self-employment
- Join professional welding associations
- Stay on top of highest paying job openings
$40,000 – $60,000 range
Senior Welder (5-10+ Years Experience)
- Obtain senior-level certifications (CWI, CWEng)
- Become an expert in your target industries
- Train junior welders for management potential
- Solidify rockstar professional reputation
- Expand professional network and contacts
- Weigh pros/cons of starting a welding business
- Focus job search on elite high-paying roles
$60,000 – $100,000 range
Master Welder (Decades of Experience)
- Achieve Master or Journeyman status and pay rates
- Leverage network connections for best opportunities
- Consider consulting or training work
- Travel extensively to highest paying work
- Launch and grow successful welding business
- For employees – become invaluable irreplaceable talent
- Focus on passion projects & giving back knowledge
With the right mindset and strategic moves, your earning potential as a TIG welder is truly unlimited. But you get what you put in – work ethic, persistence and constantly improving your skills are key.
Now let’s look at the pros and cons of working for others vs working for yourself.
Employee vs Business Owner Pay
Should you work as an employee welder or start your own welding business? Here are the key factors to consider:
- Steady reliable income
- Benefits like health insurance and 401k
- No business risk
- Predictable work hours
- Learn from experienced welders
- Income limited to what employer will pay
- Less control over job selection
- Capped earning potential
Welding Business Owner
- No income ceiling
- Charge higher shop rates – up to $100+/hour
- Flexible hours
- Creative freedom – work you enjoy
- Leverage employees to make more money
- Unpredictable fluctuating income
- No guarantees of work/clients
- Pay for own benefits like insurance
- Long hours marketing and on jobs
- Substantial business risks and costs
As you can see, going into business for yourself has greater income potential but requires hustle and carries financial risk. Determine what works best for your personality and financial situation.
Many welders start as employees learning the ropes before later starting their own shop with their experience and client network. This can be an excellent middle path.
Developing a Lucrative Niche
Another key strategy is to develop specialized skills and expertise in the most profitable welding niches:
Aerospace & Rocketry
- Highly complex work on expensive sensitive materials
- Require proven skills and flawless accuracy
- Often need code certifications like AWS D17.1
- Can earn $55,000 – $75,000+
- Dangerous work with higher pay to compensate
- Must get commercial diving certification
- Deepwater welding skills are in high demand
- $80,000 – $200,000+ income potential
- Intense training and elite certifications mandatory (ASME SEC IX)
- High stakes environment demands perfection
- Major nuclear new builds and maintenance pays well
- $75,000 – $100,000 typical for top nuclear welders
Oil & Gas Pipeline
- Physically demanding working conditions
- Code welding to API 1104 standard
- High pay for remote travel work
- $70,000 – $120,000 average salary range
Picking the right profitable niche for your interests and gaining specialized expertise in it is a direct path to higher welding wages. Focus your training and certifications strategically.
Developing High-Income Side Hustles
Even as an employee, you can boost income throughwelding side businesses:
- Weekend/after-hours contracting – Use your welding skills for local construction/repair jobs.
- Custom fabrication – Make and sell furniture, sculptures, tools, or other fabricated metal items.
- Online sales – Sell home/hobby welders, custom signs, plans, templates, etc.
- Youtube channel – Post welding tutorials/projects and monetize the views.
- Training/coaching services – Teach novice welders via in-person or virtual classes.
With just a small home shop, minimal website investment, and some hustle, six-figure side incomes are attainable for expert welders.
- TIG welders can earn good salaries – entry-level wages start around $30,000 per year but experienced TIG welders in demanding industries can make over $100,000.
- Income largely depends on your skill level, certifications, location, niche, willingness to travel, and whether you work for yourself or not.
- With strategic moves, the right mindset and persistence, you can maximize your income potential as a TIG welder over your career.
- Combine salaried welding work with side businesses for the highest possible earning ability.
The rewards are there for taking – start where you are, perfect your craft, develop niche skills, and pursue the highest paying opportunities. With the right strategy, TIG welders can earn an excellent living doing satisfying, high-demand work.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do entry-level TIG welders make per hour?
Typical entry-level TIG welders can expect to earn $15 – $25 per hour depending on their skills, certifications, employer, and location. With some experience under your belt, $20 – $30 per hour is common.
What industries pay TIG welders the most?
The highest paying sectors are aerospace, oil/gas, nuclear power, underwater welding, pipelines, and union construction. Targeting niche industries that value specialized skills maximizes earning ability.
How can I make 6 figures as a TIG welder?
Reaching a 6-figure income as a TIG welder is achievable through a combination of years of expertise, elite certifications like CWI, traveling extensively to the highest paying work, and building side businesses around your welding abilities.
Can you be a successful full-time freelance welder?
It is certainly possible, but becoming a full-time self-employed welder requires good business acumen and sales abilities on top of master welding skills. Expect to put in long hours winning and completing jobs until you build up steady clients.
What is the easiest way for a TIG welder to make more money?
The simplest options are getting additional certifications to qualify for better roles, moving to regions with high welding demand, and taking on side jobs and contract work outside your full-time employment.
A career as a TIG welder can be lucrative, rewarding and exciting. With the right combination of skills, expertise, certifications, luck and strategy – six figure incomes are possible in the welding trade for those who work hard and hustle.
While outcomes depend on your unique talents and situation, focusing relentlessly on developing your abilities as a TIG welder and progressing strategically will maximize your income earning potential.
Hopefully this guide provided you with a realistic overview of what it takes to reach your welding income goals. Thanks for reading and best of luck! Let me know if you have any other questions.