DIY Tools

What License Do I Need to Start a Welding Business?

Starting any kind of business typically requires licensure from the city or state where the business is located. Welding businesses may require additional licenses depending on the jurisdiction.
Kaytlyn Smith Avatar
A welder at work.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Starting a welding company can be a lucrative endeavor for those with the appropriate experience and entrepreneurial drive. However, welders who want to start their own business need to have the proper licenses to operate legally.

Prospective welding business owners will want to familiarize themselves with the different requirements needed in their area, as they can vary depending on location. Although a general business license is a step in the right direction, specific certifications may be needed for these specialized trade services.

The first step for an aspiring business owner to take is to learn how to get a welding license and what types of licenses they need to start their entrepreneurial journey.

A welder at work.

The licensing requirements for welding businesses vary from state to state.

The requirements to be a welder and start a welding business in the United States can vary from one state to another. Each state has its own set of rules and prerequisites for licensed welders, which can include specific state-level licenses, examinations, and educational qualifications. 

“Some states may require you to have additional occupational or business licensing to comply with the law,” notes Chase Hughes, founder of Pro Business Plans, a New York City–based company that has worked with clients in the welding industry to develop business plans and strategies.

State-specific licenses often encompass both general business licenses and specialized certifications for different types of welding, such as MIG and TIG welding. For instance, welders certifications from professional organizations are commonly required for welders to perform certain specialized tasks.

Local regulations at the county or city level may also require welding entrepreneurs to obtain additional permits or licenses. This may depend on the type of welding work, including structural, commercial, or artistic. Welding professionals who want to work across state lines might even need specific licenses that transfer across multiple locations.

It’s advisable for entrepreneurs to consult an experienced legal professional who understands the trade services industry to better understand the requirements in a specific state or location.

As part of the application process, you’ll need to take a written test to get an American Welding Society (AWS) certification.

Before starting their own business, a welder will need to become certified by the American Welding Society (AWS). This is a key step for many welding industry professionals, says Jeff Grill, a certified welding expert and owner of

“These certifications can validate your skills, knowledge, and expertise in various welding processes and positions,” says Grill.

The first step for an entrepreneur to take in obtaining an AWS certification is passing a written test. The test evaluates various aspects of welding knowledge, including but not limited to knowing how to weld, the specifics of various welding processes, and safety standards. These tests are administered at AWS Accredited Testing Facilities (ATFs) globally. 

Depending on the specific certification program they pursue, a welder might encounter different types of questions on the written exam. For example, the Certified Welder program requires candidates to take tests aligned with basic welding tools and procedures, while the examination for Certified Welding Inspectors (CWI) includes questions on welding practices, codes, and standards. 

Welding candidates can prepare for the written AWS exam by diving deep into the welding standards and codes. AWS provides resources and courses to help candidates prepare effectively to gain—and renew—their certification in welding. Entrepreneurs can also look into the best online welding courses to keep their welding knowledge fresh.

“Once you gain a certification, AWS certifications have a validity period after which they must be renewed,” says Grill. “[This] helps maintain a high standard within the industry.”

A welder at work.

You’ll also need to complete a practical exam as part of the AWS certification process.

The AWS certification process also includes a performance qualification test where welders demonstrate their capability to perform welds according to specified standards. This hands-on practical exam is an integral component of obtaining a welding certification.

During the performance test of an AWS certification exam, candidates demonstrate their welding skills by performing specific welds at a local Accredited Testing Facility based on standard welding techniques and AWS criteria. 

The completed welds are evaluated for quality through visual inspections and/or ultrasonic or radiographic testing to ensure they meet AWS standards. Welds are judged on their appearance, dimensional accuracy, and absence of defects.

To obtain an AWS certification, candidates must contact an ATF location, register for the test, and complete the written and practical performance tests. Once the candidate passes the welding test, the ATF will forward the application—along with the test results and payment—to the AWS to be processed.

If you plan to offer a variety of welding services and/or hire employees, you may wish to pursue multiple AWS certifications.

Grill notes that the 11 offered AWS certification programs target different expertise levels and roles within the welding field. It may be ideal for a welding entrepreneur to obtain several AWS certifications if they plan to offer multiple services or expand their business in the future. For instance, a Certified Welding Supervisor certification might be helpful for a welding business owner who wants to hire multiple employees and take on bigger projects.

Hughes says that holding multiple certifications offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to increase their business’s credibility and marketability.

“The best practice is to get a range of certifications, which confirm the mastery of different welding techniques,” Hughes says. “This will give you the chance to work with a wide range of customers and offer more services.”

Here is a brief overview of the professional certification programs offered by the AWS and which ones might be appropriate for different types of welders:

  1. Certified Welder (CW): Ideal for novice welders who need to validate their skills with no prerequisites required.
  2. Certified Associate Welding Inspector (CAWI): Suitable for welding professionals who want to move away from daily welding tasks and into welding inspection; this has less rigorous prerequisites than a CWI​​.
  3. Certified Welding Inspector (CWI): Best for experienced welders and inspectors who understand both practical and theoretical aspects of welding inspection​.
  4. Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI): Aimed at experienced CWIs, this can further their careers through a deeper understanding of advanced welding inspection topics​.
  5. Certified Welding Educator (CWE): Welders who want to teach the trade can validate their ability to instruct effectively in various welding techniques​.
  6. Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS): Targets those responsible for supervising welding operations to ensure they can lead a team effectively and improve productivity​.
  7. Certified Welding Engineer (CWEng): Appropriate for those with an interest and significant work experience and education​​.
  8. Certified Radiographic Interpreter (CRI): Appropriate for those who specialize in the radiographic examination of welds, the certification tests welders’ use of radiographic film to interpret weld indications according to AWS standards​​.
  9. Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT): Best for welders who design or operate resistance welding equipment, it focuses on practical and theoretical knowledge of resistance welding​.
  10. Certified Robotic Arc Welding (CRAW): For operators and technicians of robotic welding systems who want to expand their knowledge of programming, safety, and the operation of robotic welding​​.
  11. Certified Welding Sales Representative (CWSR): This designation is specific to those in welding product sales, and they will learn the welding processes, products, and customer needs to effectively advise and sell​​.

Each AWS certification caters to specific roles within the welding industry, from hands-on welding and inspection to education, supervision, and sales. The choice of certification(s) depends on a welding entrepreneur’s current experience and business ambitions.

Two welders at work in a workshop.

Once you’ve completed the required tests, you can apply for a state license.

Once welders meet welding certification requirements with passing scores on all their tests, the next step is for them to apply for a state license to legally operate their welding business. Requirements vary from state to state, so aspiring welding entrepreneurs will want to familiarize themselves with the specific requirements of their home state.

The state welders license application process typically involves several key steps. First, welders need to have the necessary documents ready, which typically include the AWS certification, a business plan, financial statements, and proof of insurance coverage​​. Welders may also need to register their business with the state, which involves choosing a business name and obtaining a federal tax identification number from the IRS. 

In some states, welding professionals may need to provide proof of a contractor’s license, fingerprints, and other legal documents to comply with state regulations. At this point, a welding business owner may choose to hire one of the best LLC services (such as LegalZoom or Northwest Registered Agent) to handle legal and government communications on behalf of their business​​. 

Potential business owners will want to check with the state board where they intend to operate, or the appropriate regulatory agency, to confirm the exact requirements for their specific type of welding business.

Depending on your location, you may need to get a general business license.

A general business license, which serves as a basic permit to operate legally within a particular area, is often required by state and/or local governments. This license is separate from the professional certifications and specialized licenses necessary for specific welding activities.

In most cases, the only requirements for obtaining a general business license are an application with the chosen business name, legal structure, and operating location, as well as a registration or licensing fee. For independent welding contractors, a valid general business license may also be required to secure additional permits or specialized licenses to work on structural welding or public infrastructure​​ projects

Welding business owners may also find a general business license helpful when obtaining insurance, bidding on contracts, and qualifying for business loans or lines of credit. Many potential clients and often larger companies will prefer or require welding contractors to have all the necessary local licenses as a condition of awarding contracts.

Your state might also require you to carry business insurance in order to be legally licensed.

In many states, business owners in the construction and trade sectors are required to carry specific types of business insurance to secure and maintain their licensing. This requirement helps protect both the business and its clients from potential liabilities that can surface from accidents, damages, or failures to fulfill contractual obligations. 

Much like operating licenses, insurance requirements vary by state and the specific nature of the business. At a minimum, some business owners choose to purchase general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.

For welders specifically, general liability insurance is one of the most fundamental types of coverage to consider. This type of insurance protects against claims of property damage or bodily injury caused by the business’s operations, especially since welding work often involves high-risk activities and environments.

Workers’ compensation insurance is also a necessity—and mandated in most states—for businesses that employ workers. It covers medical costs and a portion of lost wages for employees who get injured on the job and provides essential protection for both the employees and the business from financial burdens that can result from workplace accidents.

Welders might also be required to carry additional specialized insurance policies depending on the type of projects they work on. For example, if a welding business is involved in major construction projects or government contracts, it may need more comprehensive coverage that includes umbrella insurance to extend the limits of its existing liability coverage. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance, might also be necessary for welders who provide consulting services or design work as part of their business offerings. 

Welding businesses will want to look into the best small-business insurance companies (such as NEXT Insurance or Thimble) to see which one has adequate coverage to meet legal requirements and client expectations.

Once you have the correct licenses, keep track of renewal dates to ensure they don’t expire.

Licensing authorities typically require periodic renewals to ensure that all operating businesses continue to meet the required standards and regulations of the license. Renewals may involve additional paperwork, fees, recent work samples, updated insurance coverage, and, in some cases, retesting or continuing education to confirm that the welder remains up to date with current industry practices and safety regulations.

If a welding business owner fails to renew licenses on time, their license status may lapse. Lapses can cause the business to halt operations and even expose the business to legal risks and potential fines. Therefore, welding business owners will want to implement a system to track the expiration and renewal dates of all their licenses.

Setting automated digital reminders on a smartphone or computer can help welding business owners stay on top of upcoming renewal deadlines. A proactive approach is important to maintain continuous compliance with state and local regulations.

After obtaining your initial licenses, focus on finding your niche and building your business reputation.

The licensing process, including periodic renewals, is only one component of operating a successful and legally compliant welding business. Once these tasks have been completed, welders can focus on establishing a niche and building a business reputation.

Grill advises new welding entrepreneurs to focus on a specific area to build their credibility and expertise. He provided a few examples of popular welding niches:

  • Automotive welding: This may include restoration projects for classic cars, customization, or repair work for race cars and motorcycles.
  • Pipeline and structural welding: This type of welding involves constructing and maintaining pipelines for oil, gas, and water, as well as structural frames for buildings and bridges.
  • Mobile welding services: Entrepreneurs can offer convenient on-site welding services for repair and fabrication to cater to a wide range of residential or commercial clients.

Hughes agrees and recommends that welding entrepreneurs concentrate on the types of welding they’re good at.

“Make sure you provide a quality service that will help build your reputation,” says Hughes.

No matter what niche an entrepreneur chooses to specialize in, they’ll need to purchase the right equipment to make their business a success. Business owners can research the best welders and the best stick welders to find equipment that is within their budget and is high enough quality to last for years to come.