Well, I'm not a pipe weldor, but a lot of what you do in the welding field depends on what's available, as you mentioned & what kind of life you want to live. Here in Michigan, there are no big pipeline jobs, but a great deal of production & manufacturing. These are mostly MIG welding, in a booth 12 hours a day for $12 bucks an hour. All the same, many of the non union contractors here employing weldors travel out of state & work a lot of hours too. The pay (around $20/hr) probably isn't near what an independent operator is making on a pipeline, but as I said there are no real pipeline jobs here. Union gigs are hard to come by & if you get in, you're lucky.
I worked for two non union contract companies here as a weldor & did not have a good experience with either. Both were hack shops, working lot & lots of overtime & one wanted out of state travel on a regular basis. When I refused, he found a creative reason to fire me. Where I'm going with this, is that I worked in two factories prior to working as a weldor. I worked for GM for 5 years & made $29 per hour with full benefits for my entire family provided without cost. Great deal, but we worked a lot of overtime & I was stuck on nights & I never saw my family. I took a buyout offer GM extended, so I could make more time for my family & be a better husband & father. As soon as the welding contractor hired me, he started pressing me to travel, even though I had emphatically told him I would not travel before he hired me.
Point is, I would see my family even less than I did working at the shop, but make HALF AS MUCH MONEY!!! He did me a favor. The second contractor was a 100 hour a week operation & majorly unsafe work practices. No thanks. If you are someone who wants to live on the road, out of a suitcase, pipeline is the ticket. Although I have never worked as a pipeline weldor, I have had jobs that soaked me for 90 hours a week & was never home. Same difference. Unfortunately, a lot of welding jobs around here are like what I have described. My experience with the first contractor really dampened my desire to weld for a living, especially when just about all the contract outfits around here are the same deal. Lots of overtime, traveling & living for the company's every whim & need.
That said, if a good opportunity were to open up & be WORTH the move, it may be worth looking into. I don't know what your job is like where you are at, but most utility jobs are union, pay well, have excellent benefits & a reasonable measure of security. I wouldn't walk away from that, if I were happy & making a good living for my family. Like you eluded to, money isn't everything...To some people, it's the ONLY thing. But after burning yourself out, working 80+ a week & find yourself 15 + years into it, you're going to realize that your not young anymore & you can't get that time back. Especially if you have a family (or HAD one). I watched some good friends live for a paycheck & it never got them anything real. Sure, they had lots of money, but guess what? If you fall over dead tomorrow, is that going to matter?
Myself, I get by doing what I'm doing & the bills get paid. I work about 30 hours a week, watch my son every day & have a good relationship with my wife. I'm home every night, drinking beer & watching baseball. That's a hell of a lot more important than making $2500 a week in a factory. I still miss being on the job, on the steel with my hood down & the sparks flying, but I try & stay practiced up doing stuff around here. I would look at some Comm Coll. classes to get some more technical experience & time welding. I took the pipe course here & loved it. I would get a side gig rolling & keep the phone co job. You know what you have with that & jobs that are quality jobs are getting scarce in this less than ideal economy. Hope I made a little sense. Good luck & keep the faith!! S.W.
Hey 52linclon, welding is a great skill that people have to obtain with alot of practice. It is a great job as a welder where i am located in tennessee. you have many companies around you that have alot of welding and a great demand for them. The pro to me is doing something not alot of people can do( at least around here) second the pay, most welders start out around 20 and move up from there and some never stop moving up. some of the cons are to be on the road living out of a suitcase, not getting to see you family, and etc. Another is hot work, welding is a hot job the worst is a production welding job( that sucks). When you have to weld the same thing all day long 10 hours a day. But, i have been welding for 5 years and am only 21 and the places i have already seen and the work i have done is great. Plus the money i am making is great. But it is all up to you.
I broke out around '85. Started on new const jobs. Mainly power plants. Around '90, got into shutdowns. In 95, I got married and took a job in a rail tank car repair shop. It is a union shop, but the company still does what it wants to with the employees. I stayed there for 13 yrs, mainly cuz I was at home, had health ins, and a retirement plan going. But they started jackin me around and put me on a "off shift" even though I had senority, along with management runnin the plant in the ground, I had stomach all I could take. I quit back in Feb. Went back to working shutdowns. I worked 2 jobs, 11 weeks total, and have made almost (short by $500) what it took me to make at the shop in a whole year.
So, the Pro's are the money. Another is the money. And did I mention the money??!!
The Con's- Depending on where you live, you will be on the road and away from home. But, when you make this kind of money, you might not have to work but 6 months out of the year. Now, where I live, there are 4 power plants going up right now, all within driving distance from me. Then, there is so much drillin for gas around here, pipelines are going everywhere. Supposed to be like that the next 5 years.
If you decide to take it up, you can go single hand (without a rig). Learn how to tig or heliarc pipe. That is where the money is. That consist of tube welders, which there is a shortage of, stainless pipe, chrome, etc.....
If you decide to do rig work, learn the downhill. And you'll make even more money.
If you take a "shop job", you won't make near the money and it will evently become a "9 to 5" job. Other words, boring!!
I don't mind the traveling. I have done it most of my life, except for those 13 yrs.
Oh, I'm sorry. You already knew about the money.
Pro- Meet new people. A lot of good folks out there. Get to see new places. Not welding the same thing day in day out.
Con- Away from home of course, long hours, out in the weather, wet, dry, hot, and cold. Eating out gets old. You'll miss that home cookin.
That's why I just pick up a girlfriend every place I go!!!!!
Did you work for GATX? The money is most of the pros and the man thing is being your own boss for the most part.