How to Become a Welder in Canada
Canada has a huge need for welders over the coming years, as more and more tradespeople retire from the profession. Here's how you can become a welder.
You may have heard that Canada is in desperate need for skilled tradespeople to enter the workforce in the coming years. With thousands of tradespeople retiring over the next five years, this demand for skilled workers will only grow.
One of the fields in need across the country is welding. Professional welders are in short supply, but welding is a critical part of most infrastructure projects. To address our many national challenges, like housing affordability and climate change mitigation, we need welders. Welders join pieces of metal, fabricate parts, and perform maintenance and repair on all kinds of structural metals.
Here's how you can become a welder and start building your future.
Step 1: Pre-apprenticeship welding training
Typically, your best bet will be to get some pre-apprenticeship training. Many colleges (and some universities!) offer programs in welding that can help you establish a baseline level of competency, and get a sense of what to expect in the job.
Like other trades, your training happens in tandem with your apprenticeship. Each province and territory offers technical training, also called "in-school" training, so finding a school near you should be relatively easy.
The technical training period is typically about three years, but most of that time will be spent learning on the job, rather than in the classroom. Your total in-class time will be anywhere from 22 to 26 weeks, depending on your province — roughly half a year. That means the majority of your learning will come from your apprenticeship.
Be aware, if you have no experience with welding, you may first need to take a pre-welding course — sometimes called welding foundations. These courses will help you get up to speed so you're ready to train as an apprentice. Here are just a couple examples:
Step 2: Becoming an apprentice welder
So, you've found a college or university that offers the in-school side of your welding education. Now, you need to find a working welder who will take you on as an apprentice. When working as an apprentice, you'll be paid to help your mentor with daily tasks, learning as you go. Apprentice welders earn about $26 per hour on average, but this figure varies by your skills and location.
You'll be putting in a lot of hours as an apprentice. Most provinces and territories, including Ontario, Alberta, and BC, stipulate how long you must be an apprentice. On-the-job training can last anywhere from 4,175 hours (roughly two years of full-time work) in Manitoba to 5,280 hours (about two and a half years full-time) in Ontario.
You'll occasionally take a break from your apprenticeship to attend classes at your school, of course. Overall, between in-school technical training and on-the-job training under a working welder, you'll need about 5,400 total hours (this figure rises to 6,000 in Ontario). Assuming you're working and studying full-time, your training will take about three years to finish.
How do I find a journeyperson welder to apprentice with?
In most cases, you'll be responsible for finding a working welder — often referred to as a "journeyperson" welder — who will take you on as an apprentice. If you don't know someone personally, you can look online. Canada's job bank has a section for apprentice welders, so check in now and then to see what's been posted.
Provinces and territories have websites for apprentices, too. Explore your options based on your location with the Government of Canada's apprenticeship page.
After a few years of technical and on-the-job training, your apprenticeship will be complete! Your employer will contact your provincial or territorial ministry to let them know your training is done. You'll receive a Certificate of Apprenticeship a few weeks later. You will now need to pass a certifying exam which will confirm that you have the skills necessary to work on your own as a welder.
Step 3: Pass your welding certification exam
To become a welder, you'll need to pass a certifying exam. It's not enough to have the training — you need to prove it. You typically have up to a year after completing your apprenticeship to pass your certifying exam.
Each province has its own exam setup. You'll need to do a practical exam, demonstrating your skills as a welder, and a theory exam to showcase your knowledge. In most cases, the theory exam will be open book, meaning you can reference your notes as you write. Expect to pay roughly $150 to write your exam.
You'll be provided specific pieces and instructions to weld. You can prepare with practical exam guides (PDF) put together by your provincial trades authority. By the time you've completed your training and received your Certificate of Apprenticeship, your final exams should be a breeze.
Professional certification and licensing for welders in Canada
Passing your practical and theory exams will earn you a Certificate of Qualification, ensuring that you're licensed to work as a welder in your province or territory. With this certificate, you'll be able to earn more money, work bigger jobs, and take on larger responsibilities than an apprentice welder.
Many welders go further, though, to earn a Red Seal: the "final exam" of the trades.
How do I earn a Red Seal in welding?
Getting your Red Seal is entirely optional, but doing so lets you work as a welder in any province or territory across Canada. If you get your Red Seal, you don't need to write additional exams or take further training if you want to work in another part of the country.
The Red Seal exam is multiple choice, and is administered by your provincial or territorial apprenticeship authority. You can take a Red Seal self-assessment online (PDF) to get a sense of whether you're ready to write the exam. You'll find plenty of exam advice on the Red Seal website, too.
If you think you could use a refresher, some schools, like Ashton College, offer online Red Seal prep courses to help you sharpen your skills.
You've made it! By the time you've completed your apprenticeship, in-school training, and passed your qualifying exams — and perhaps your Red Seal, too — you'll be a full-fledged welder.
Going forward, you may have to pass additional inspections — with the Canadian Welding Bureau, for example, depending on your employer. But otherwise, you're ready to merge and sever metals with the pros!
Learn more about welding in Canada