How to Become a Welding Inspector: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a welding inspector. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the welding field. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Welding Inspector?

Welding inspectors examine the connections and bonds between metals. Inspectors use visual tools and electrical instruments to check and ensure the quality and safety of connections.

In addition to working in the field completing their examinations of welding projects, inspectors spend time in an office setting compiling their reports. The majority of inspectors work on a full-time basis, primarily during business workdays. Some risk may be associated with this profession; welding inspectors utilize protective gear during their evaluations to keep themselves from harm on welding sites.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; postsecondary education can help students advance to a welding inspector position
Degree Field Engineering, engineering technology
Experience Varies; instructor certification requires 3-12 years experience, depending on education
Certification Certification may be required or preferred by employers
Key Skills Ability to perform physical work and climbing as part of the job, communication skills, familiarity with blueprint reading, familiarity with Microsoft Word and Excel
Median Salary (2016)* $60,965

Sources: American Welding Society, Job listings accessed during December 2012, * (2016)

Becoming a Welding Inspector

Now let's check out the specific steps you can take to become a welding inspector.

Step 1: Earn a Postsecondary Education

Formal training through a community college or vocational school isn't required, but some employers seek welding inspectors with postsecondary education. Technical programs in welding typically last 1-2 years and result in a welding diploma or certificate. Topics generally include blueprint reading, metallurgy, fabrication, and arc welding. Students might also consider 2-year associate's degree programs in welding technology. These programs often include general education coursework as well as welding-specific classes in arc, gas tungsten arc, and pipe welding.

To really shine, bolster related skills. Skills in creating objects and designing diagrams can be developed in courses like mathematics, wood or metal shop, and drafting. Welding inspectors must use mathematics in calculations to determine the strength of the weld as well as drafting skills to examine and evaluate other welders' designs.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Welders work in a variety of industries, including construction, aerospace, and machinery manufacturing. Before moving into the role of inspector, welders might perform entry-level work, such as cleaning and degreasing parts, checking angles and dimensions for accuracy, inspecting equipment, and mixing and applying protective coatings.

As new hires gain experience, they might advance to reading blueprints and using their knowledge and skills in metallurgy and welding to join, bind, and fuse two or more metals together. Skilled welders might move on to even more complex tasks, such as welding difficult angles or materials, like titanium or steel. Advanced welders can also develop templates and models, estimate parts and labor costs, and examine work for defects. Promotion to welding inspector could include duties like writing inspection reports, ensuring that equipment complies with engineering, welding and testing standards, and training other welding staff.

It can be helpful to participate in an apprenticeship or internship. Completion of an internship is one way to gain experience in the welding field. Some unions will assist aspiring welders in securing internships.

Step 3: Pass Welding Inspector Certification Exam

Welders who have attained a postsecondary certificate, diploma, or degree and completed 3-4 years of documented work experience may apply to become Certified Welding Inspectors (CWIs) from the American Welding Society (AWS). The certification exam covers three areas, including welding fundamentals, practical applications, and welding code application. Certifications generally last three years; however, CWIs can take additional exams or courses in order to prolong recertification for up to nine years.

You can also consider attaining endorsements. CWIs also can earn supplemental inspection credentials. While not required, these endorsements might allow CWIs to execute inspections that might have been excluded due to customer or jurisdictional requirements, such as inspections of bridges and railroads. Upon passage of a qualifying codebook exam, inspectors are given a separate endorsement card and certificate of completion.

To recap, with some postsecondary training, on-the-job experience, and certification, welding inspectors can earn about $61,000 a year to examine the connections and bonds between metals in industries like construction, aerospace, and machinery manufacturing.

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