I'm a certified ASME welder for high pressure water systems, boilers and steam. I have the paperwork to do TIG and pulsed MIG fror both stainless and carbon steels. I also handle all the QC paperwork and qualifying calculations in our shop as well, hence all the posting.
Basically it was a family business so I started welding and fabbing shit as an actual job when I was 14- the earliest you can get working papers in my state. It all just flowed from there as I gained experience and got better and better at certain procedures. There are vocational schools that can teach you as well as specific courses, but the best way to learn is by doing it over and over and over imo as there's no substitution for experience.
Like I said I work for family so I get paid in dog shit wrapped in a brown paper bag, but the scheduling is lax, as it's all production deadline based so it's sort of a wash I guess. Also I get a redic amount of freedom in regards to side projects, which makes me a good amount of cash pretty regularly and that comes in handy for buying ski shit.
As for how I like it, it has it's ups and downs just like anything else. If you go into a union, you'll make good money, work in shit conditions most of the time and be laid off most of the year. I was trained for stick welding on pipe by the same guy who does the union training and he says the seniority is pretty tough to get past in some places, but there is always room in a skilled trade for someone who knows their shit and can do their job well. I'd say you should probably start off in a shop near you- tell them you want to learn and you're willing to sweep floors for pennies in the meantime. By doing this you'll already have a good understanding and decent torch skills by the time you are in front of the union trainer, and they like that. Also you'll get a feel for the work environment you can expect- namely being surrounded by surly, dirty torch monkeys that think because they put X number of years in at their job, they're fuckin special. Also most welders think they're the greatest welder in the state, etc so be ready for that as well.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I may not be all that helpful in some instances because of my somewhat rare employment circumstances but If there's any info I can give you to help I will. All in all thoug, it's a cool trade and skilled tradesmen will never not be needed, so there is a certain amount of job security in it as well.
Not to shoot you down, but that is just about the worst welding job I can imagine.
Not only that, underwater is SO FKN DANGEROUS- you can die about 69 ways every day. I would not recommend that at all unless you just don't give a fuck about anything.
What I would recommend in your case is getting into a shop and learning TIG. If you can already do it, get better. What I'm getting at is proficiency is key. You need specialization if you're going to go anywhere with it as MIG monkeys get like $12 an hour, and that blows for how much work it is. A really good TIG welder like my buddy who welds jet engine parts makes a stupid amount of money and I mean retarded. Dude barely breaks a sweat and pulls in over 100k a year but he's fkn nasty at what he does and works for a huge company so he can get it no problem.
If you can't get in a shop right away, I'd take up classes. Check Craigslist, talk to people at a voc or tech school, and check out courses in your area. Then try the shop again. If you get started out at MIG, don't be heartbroken. Just keep learning. Anyways, keep us posted and let us know how you're doing, it is a really cool trade for sure. Good luck dude!
Yes, it certainly can be lucrative and wasn't trying to shut you down at all, just saying there's welders who make over 100k without ever having to leave home for months of isolation to dive with sharks under drilling platrofms in freezing water and in constant danger of falling objects, suffocation, electrocution, etc.
The only downside to that is that you'd have to be a top-level TIG welder to bring in that kind of ching. ANY underwater welder can make 80k, but that takes a LONG TIME to learn and they better plan on hating their job every day and having their life put in jeopardy on a regular basis. After all that, there's plenty of people who think it's worth it, I just don't personally. Don't let that stop you from trying though.