How to Get into Pipeline Welding

Looking for a job after graduation can be unsettling. If you have a passion for fieldwork, then we suggest you look into a coveted profession like pipeline welding.

Welders in the field of pipeline welding demand premium wages because of the demands of the job.

So, how do you get into pipeline welding? To get into pipeline welding, you’ll need to have:

  • Hands-on experience
  • Pipeline welder training
  • The ability to deal with tough locations
  • Specific pipeline welder requirements
  • A specific set of welding skills

In this article, we will tell you how to get into pipeline welding and the requirements of the profession.

What is pipeline welding?

Pipelines are the veins of a city. They transport water, gas, and so much more.

And wherever there are pipes, there is welding. Be it a gas station, a construction site, or an oil field, you need pipelines to transports these important materials to and from the sites.

Pipe welders, plumbers, and steamfitters all fall under the same category as they install and repair pipelines.

However, they do differ in the main aspects of their job. Plumbers deal with pipes that carry water, steamfitters deal with pipes that carry steam, and pipeline welders deal with pipes carrying chemicals, acid, and gases.

A pipeline welder’s primary role is to decide which material to use, as well as the quantity of the material. They also have to handle the transportation of the materials.

Pipe welders assemble the pipes to form a network through different welding techniques and tools in various industries. They work in a wide range of sectors, including:

  • The petroleum industry
  • Construction sites
  • Nuclear energy plants
  • Auto manufacturing facilities
  • Fabrication shops
  • Aerospace factories
  • The military

Pipeline welding requires a certain level of expertise. The field is very challenging and is not very easy to get into.

If you want this field to be your forte, then start small.

How to get into pipeline welding

Well-established pipeline welders recommend starting as a helper. You’ll probably learn more as a helper than you will at any school.

Becoming an expert in this field requires a mix of technical education and on-the-job training

Hands-on experience

If you bang on the door of an established welder, asking to be an apprentice, they may give you a try. However, they will first ask you to demonstrate your skill by giving you some trial work.

A good welder can judge your expertise level by the type of weld you produce. Within minutes, you can either land the job or lose it forever.

So, never go around claiming to be an expert, especially as a fresh graduate from welding school.

Fusing pipes in fixed settings is challenging as it requires extensive knowledge of different welding techniques. It requires you to work under challenging situations and cramped quarters in awkward positions.

Even before you start as a helper, you should obtain appropriate training from a welding school.

Pipeline welder training

Welders in all fields are at serious risk of injury. The bright light from arc welding can damage their eyes and even cause the welder to go blind.

They may also end up inhaling harmful gases during the procedure.

To ensure the safety of welders, they must receive essential training when it comes to safety procedures. By following safety procedures and wearing protective equipment, workers can reduce the risk of injury even in the toughest of locations.

Welders also need to be trained in manual as well as automated welding procedures. They must be able to read blueprints and schematics.

Dealing with tough locations

Pipeline welding focuses on transmission pipelines. These lines span over thousands of miles. Thus, pipeline welding entails extensive traveling. Working on the ground is still manageable, especially for those with experience. However, locations such as underwater pipelines are harder to deal with.

Underwater Pipeline Welding

An underwater pipeline is probably one of the harshest environments you can face at work. Welders usually work in a dry chamber in the pipelines that can house two to three people at a time.

The pressure in the pipes is kept low to minimize pressure sickness. Fans pump air in and out of the chamber.

In such situations, a welder has to work fast. They don’t have the time to analyze what material or tools they need.

They should be well prepared and aware of the challenges they may face underwater.

The challenge becomes even more complicated if the pipeline needs to be fixed from outside. The ice-cold water at the bottom of the sea, combined with the task of welding and breathing, makes the job ten times more difficult.

The strenuous situations faced at the bottom of the sea are why underwater pipeline welding gigs pay so much more than other jobs. Such conditions are also the reason why aspirants usually start as apprentices so that professionals can show them the ropes.

Pipe welder job description

Job descriptions for pipeline welding seem intimidating, and rightly so, too. Someone unaware of the exact requirements of the field may get cold feet.

A typical job description could sound something like this:

“We are looking for a professional pipe welder who can assemble and maintain pipelines and transmission systems. The candidate must be able to inspect materials, maintain tools, perform pre-welding preparations, and weld components as per specifications. They should be willing to work in cramped places and harsh weather conditions.”

Being able to read schematics and devise welding plans is considered a plus in the field. An A-grade pipe welder will be able to give great attention to detail and produce smooth and consistent welds.

Pipe welder responsibilities and requirements

A pipeline welder will be responsible for the following tasks:

  • Reading and understanding blueprints, and schematics
  • Determining requires, tools, materials, and welding methods
  • Assembling pipe components and systems
  • Installing and repairing these systems
  • Inspecting and maintaining supplies, materials, tools, and equipment
  • Preparing the materials
  • Ensuring produced welds are up to specifications
  • Following safety procedures and guidelines

Qualifications and experience requirements from pipeline welding candidates are as follows:

  • High school diploma
  • Welding school certificate or completed apprenticeship
  • AWS certificate
  • Prior welding experience (pipeline welding preferred)
  • Up to date knowledge of AWS, ANSI, ASME and API standards
  • Knowledge and experience of all welding tools and equipment,
  • Excellent technical and communication skills
  • Ability to interpret schematics

Typical pipeline welder skills

Almost all main welding tasks are performed via automated welding machines. Welders with work experience and knowledge of automated welding techniques and machines have a higher chance of getting accepted.

Usually, there are several different automatic setups on-site, so a welder does not need to know all of them. Regardless of their past work experience, welders only need to have 1-2 weeks of training to understand each piece of equipment and to be able to carry out their duties.

Because of the unpredictable nature of the job, welders also need to be aware of many manual welding procedures. Not all welding tasks on-site will be on long pipes with large diameters.

For shorter pipes with smaller diameters, a combination of the following manual processes may come in handy.

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)

GMAW is a fast and economical welding process. It is also known as Metal Inert Gas welding or MIG.

GMAW involves the creation of an arc between the base metal and a consumable electrode. This electrode provides filler metal for the weld.

This process is used for mainline welding procedures. Welders also need to master semi-automatic GMAW techniques.

Surface Tension Transfer (STT)

For tie-in welds, STT, or other such waveforms, controlled, short circuit GMAW processes are used. STT is also considered suitable for pipeline root beads.

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

In cases where automated welding techniques are not required, SMAW with cellulosic electrodes is usually used either for root runs of tie-in welds or mainline welds. For certain welds, the entire weld is filled using cellulosic electrodes.

This welding process is not suitable for uphill or downhill, progressing pipes, such as stovepipe welding.

For projects in which SMAW with cellulosic electrodes is not allowed, Low Hydrogen Vertical Down (LHVD) electrodes are used instead. They are mostly used for the fill and cap passes of tie-in welds.

Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

FCAW may be used in the mainline welding process for smaller pipes, especially for the fill and cap passes. Certain tie-in welds warrant the use of the gas-assisted FCAW semi-automatic process.

There are also automated FCAW setups, but they are rarely required.

Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)

Welding double joints require the use of the Submerged Arc Welding process. Double joints are rare and are only applied if they are economically beneficial.

Not all pipeline welders know the ins and outs of this process, and only a few are involved in the procedure.

Related questions

What is the annual pay of a pipeline welder?

Pipeline welders make about $69,991 per year on average in the United States. The highest annual pipeline welder pay recorded was $133,500, whereas the lowest was $23,500.

Welders who specialize in daring tasks such as underwater pipeline welding are paid more. The average annual pay of each individual may differ from year to year, depending upon the kind of tasks they undertake.

How to become a pipeline welder helper?

To become a pipeline welder helper, you need a high school diploma, additional specialized training, knowledge, and experience of both automatic and manual welding processes as well as physical strength and stamina. The best way to become a helper is to ask a professional to take you under their wing and teach you the ropes.