Welding trade schools frequently run late night TV advertisements that targets a demographic susceptible to the dream of a better life. Specifically, these commercials show guys having fun with a welding gun and wiring feed molding metals at a promised starting salary of $25 per hour (which often amounts to annual income in the $50,000-$55,000 range) with some even alluding to possible compensation of $50 per hour (i.e. the $100,000 per year threshold). This type of advertising is often misleading, as the median salary for first-year welders is $18 per hour, or annual income the $35,000-$40,000 range.
More broadly, there seems to be a naivete from people in their late teens and early 20s that make them think, “Oh, I’ll just get a $100,000 per year job” as if it something you just go to the mall and find sitting on the rack.
There are less than thirty professions in the United States where the median, mid-career salary is north of $100,000 per year. For the rest of the field, it often requires performance in the top 10-30% of the field to earn anywhere near six-figures.
The proper inquiry for those seeking higher compensation would be something like this:
- Determine whether your likely source of value is the number of hours that you can contribute to an endeavor, or the high performance you can bring to it.
- Then, calibrate your conclusion to the available jobs. Figure out whether the higher earners in a field do so because they are working 70 hour work weeks, or figure out where it is because they are creating a superior work product.
There are certain fields that have no opportunity for high earnings, and should be summarily discarded if making real money is important to you and your family. But after that, what matters is your ability to either put in time or develop a superior skill set, or perhaps both.
There are not many “magic bullet” occupations. Welding can be incredibly sophisticated and physically tolling. And it will take years and years before the salary crosses the $50,000 per year threshold.
Nearly every other occupation has a catch like this. If you want to earn a high salary, you will have to choose a craft that you will hone day in and day out for years on end. Almost no one can escape that premise.