How to Become a Welding Inspector in 5 Steps

As a welding inspector, you could make sure that welding work is always done right. Read here to learn more about first becoming a welder, then advancing to a welding inspector position. Learn about certification options and salary potential in this field. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Welding Inspector?

A welding inspector is a technical expert who examines welded metal components in buildings, infrastructures and manufactured goods to ensure the components are securely bonded. Your inspections include welds on structures and goods both finished and in process, welds produced by machines and humans and welds made at construction sites and in machine shops. Penetration, dimension, joint strength and freedom from defects, such as pits, cracks and spatters, are factors in your evaluations. After completing an examination you approve the work or recommend that it be redone or scrapped.

Step 1: Complete Welding Education

Welding courses and programs may be available at the high school level and can prepare you for entry into the field. If you don't complete welding courses before graduating, you can attend a formal program at a technical college. The number of years of welding education you finish will have a bearing on your ability to find a job as a welder and then as an inspector. Programs at all levels teach you metallurgy concepts, standard oxyacetylene welding, gas metal arc welding, gas tungsten welding and safety procedures. Associate's degree programs may also include a course or courses in welding inspection.

Step 2: Work as a Welder

In the broad category for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 412,300 workers in 2008 (www.bls.gov). Your potential employers include architectural, engineering and manufacturing firms. Manufacturers encompass auto makers, construction and mining machine makers, boiler and shipping container makers, ship builders and consumer goods makers. Having the widest variety of welding skills and training in the newest technologies will give you the best prospects for employment.

Step 3: Consider Inspector Training

A number of community, technical and vocational colleges offer 1-year certificate programs in welding inspection technology. Programs teach you destructive and non-destructive testing methods, visual evaluation methods and how to use inspection tools. Many are designed to prepare you for the inspector certification exams offered by the American Welding Society.

Step 4: Obtain an Inspector Job

Figures for welding inspectors weren't available, but BLS figures for building and construction inspectors showed 106,400 workers were employed in 2008. This category was projected to grow 17% to 124,200 from 2008-2018. Your job prospects will likely track strongly with economic trends in construction and manufacturing. According to September 2011 statistics on PayScale.com, certified welding inspectors in the 10th-90th percentile earned a salary range of $32,261-$-$75,130.

Step 5: Obtain Inspector Certification

Earning certification demonstrates your knowledge and competence and can improve your job security and income. The American Welding Society is the primary certifying body for inspectors. It offers the Certified Associate Welding Inspector (CAWI), the Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) and the Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI) designations.

You need an 8th grade education and four years of welding experience, the equivalent of a high school diploma and two years of experience or an associate's degree and six months of experience to be eligible for the CAWI. CAWI is valid for three years and may not be renewed. You must obtain the CWI if you want to remain certified.

Eligibility for the CWI exam requires an 8th grade education and nine years of welding experience, a high school diploma and five years of experience or an associate's degree and 3-4 years of experience. To be SCWI-eligible you need a high school diploma and 15 years of experience or an associate's degree and 13-14 years of experience. To pass the CWI and SCWI exams, you need a score of 72% or better.

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