Welding can be a lucrative career choice, but it does depends on what type of welding method you want to train in, or heck, master all of them!
A lot of jobs out there are Union, doing such things as structural steel, (bridges, buildings, etc.)
There are always hundreds of the non-union jobs available too, some are better than others, one close to my area builds garbage dumpsters, using the MIG (wire feed) method. It is basically a sweatshop and pays around $8-10 an hour, which is lousy pay!
Union jobs pay much better but can still be sweatshops, one locally that I worked at for quite some time paid $21 an hour to start and 99% of the welding was done with 3/32” Dual Shield, even though it was Union, I still had some of the biggest knucklehead bosses looking over mine and everyone else’s shoulders.
Safety can be a factor, but not as much as you might think, OSHA is quite stringent about what is aloud and what isn’t when it comes to people’s lives.
Moving huge and extremely heavy objects via overhead crane is the norm, but safety should always be the #1 concern.
Health wise, there isn’t a whole lot that is going to get you… there are some things, like burns (count on dozens if not more!) metal falling on your foot, and as Murphy’s Law goes, that piece of metal will always land on the bridge of your foot and not the steel toe guard!
The gases (shielding gas) isn’t very hazardous, I have no idea what BS “dapperwilliam” is babbling about in his statement. Argon is an inert gas, is non-toxic. It does not satisfy the body's need for oxygen and is a simple asphyxiant. People have suffocated by breathing argon by mistake, but your never going to be in a situation where you would be exposed to such high levels as to warrant fears of personal safety! – there is no “mutation” or “radioactivity” involved with Argon. There are radioactive elements in Tungsten which is used in the TIG process but the levels of radioisotopes are so low they will never cause you any harm. But don’t use your Tungsten as a toothpick, or jab it into your arm or anything like that.
You will be exposed to ultraviolet radiation, and yes it will cause a “sunburn” on your skin and eyes, that can be avoided with proper care, protective clothing, and an ounce of common sense!
After I welded in the field for about 20 years I have since moved on to become a College level welding instructor.
I am accomplished in all forms of the welding processes, and currently hold 14 certifications.
Welding to me is still fun, I try to show new students every quarter how to think of it as a fun thing to do and play around with, rather than looking at it as a “job skill”. I mean, what’s cooler than getting to play with fire and electricity?!
In the end, yes, it is a great career and a growing one at that, welders are in very high demand and if you shop around, you’ll be able to find the $$ your looking for as well.