How to Become a Welding Inspector in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a welding inspector. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Welding Inspector Do?

A welding inspector ensures that welding work is properly done. This includes making sure welders follow proper welding and safety procedures. They also make sure equipment is working like it should and that welding materials are in good condition. If a project isn't up to standard, a welding inspector will halt production until the violation is fixed. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent
Key Responsibilities Inspect welds at construction sites and in machine shops
Approve/reject craftsmanship after evaluation
Licensure Licensure required in many states
Training Required Moderate-term on-the-job training
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 8%* (all construction and building inspectors)
Median Salary (2016) $61,883** (all certified welding inspectors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale.com

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 397,900 workers in 2014 (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 construction and building inspectors showed 91,480 workers were employed in 2015. This category was projected to grow 8% between 2014-2024. Your job prospects will likely track strongly with economic trends in construction and manufacturing. According to October 2016 statistics on PayScale.com, certified welding inspectors in the 10th-90th percentile earned a median salary range of $43,213 - $101,185.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of different types of building inspectors with job responsibilities that resemble welding inspectors' duties. Some of these include coating inspectors, electrical inspectors and plumbing inspectors. These careers require a minimum of a high school diploma and focus on checking paint, electrical systems or plumbing systems for any issues. In all of these careers, professionals must make sure that completed projects are done correctly and pose no problems.

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