Welch attended Salem High School. Welch went to college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering. After receiving his bachelor’s degree Welch went on to earn his M.S. and Ph.D at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1960.
Welch began his career with General Electric in 1960. He worked as a junior chemical engineer in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In the beginning Welch received a salary of $10,500 annually. After his first year, displeased with his pay and work environment, Welch planned to leave General Electric. A higher executive knew he was too valuable to lose and took him out to dinner convincing him to stay with the company. Welch was convinced and did not leave.
Welch moved up through the company. He was named vice president of General Elelctric in 1972. Welch continued up the the ranks to become senior vice president in 1977. Welch became vice chairman in 1979 and in 1981 Welch was named General Electric’s youngest chairman and CEO.
Welch’s popularity climbed as he became known for streamlining General Electric. His tactics were often viewed as harsh and brutal. However, when Welch retired from General Electric in 2001 the company went from a $14 billion company to a value more than $410 billion at the end of 2004. These statistics made General Electric the largest and most valuable company in the world. Welch’s personal net worth was estimated at $720 million in 2006.