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.

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Do I Want to Be 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.

Job Requirements

These professionals begin as welders, which can be gained through experience or postsecondary training, and can become certified inspectors through the American Welding Society (AWS) after meeting education and experience requirements. The table below summarizes common requirements for welding inspectors.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma; postsecondary education can help students advance to a welding inspector position*
Degree Field Engineering, engineering technology*
Experience Varies; certification requires 3-12 years experience*
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*
Technical Skills Familiarity with blueprint reading**
Computer Skills Familiarity with Microsoft Word and Excel**

Sources: *American Welding Society, **Job listings accessed during December 2012.

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 also might 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.

Success Tip:

  • Bolster related skills. Skills in mathematics, 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 skill 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 grooves, 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.

Success Tip:

  • 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 high school diploma or a postsecondary degree and completed three years of documented work experience may apply to become Certified Welding Inspectors (CWIs). 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.

Success Tip:

  • 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.
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