Welding Inspector: Job Duties, Employment Outlook and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a welding inspector. Learn about training, certification, potential salary and job prospects 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 Is a Welding Inspector?

Welding inspectors are responsible for ensuring that safety codes are followed during construction projects that involve welding. They inspect the welding work to make sure that it follows federal, local and state guidelines and also review work plans prior to construction. Welding inspectors also inspect the tools and materials that are being used on work sites they're responsible for. They play a critical role in ensuring that safe, quality welding work is completed on their job sites.

Degree Required Certificate; associate's degree
Education Field of Study Welding technology
Key Responsibilities Inspect human and/or machine produced welds; make recommendations for accepting or rejecting work, ensure safety standards
Certification Professional certification required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all construction and building inspectors)*
Median Salary (2016) $61,883 (for all certified welding inspectors)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

What Will I Do as a Welding Inspector?

As a welding inspector, you'll ensure that welded joints on buildings and manufactured goods meet quality specifications and safety standards. Your primary duty involves inspecting and testing welds on completed and in-process projects. You might inspect welds produced by a welding machine on an assembly line or by individual human welders in machine shops or at construction sites. In the latter instance, you would also observe the welder's technique and performance. Based on your tests and examinations, you'll make recommendations for accepting, reworking or scrapping various pieces of work.

The features to look for include proper dimension, joint strength, weld penetration, conformance with work-order specifications and defects like cracks, spatters, pits or cold welds. Your test equipment may be ultrasonic scanners and x-ray machines when visual inspection isn't enough. Both allow you to see nearly invisible internal defects in a weld that could potentially cause it to fail.

What Kind of Employment Outlook Can I Expect?

Your employment opportunities directly tie into those for welders, which relate to the economic trends in the manufacturing and construction industries. Welders will be needed - and their work will need to be inspected - whenever automobiles, airplanes and ships are assembled, bridges and buildings are constructed and pipelines are laid.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), there were approximately 386,240 welding, cutting, soldering and brazing workers employed in 2015, earning a median salary of $38,150. For that same year, there were 91,480 building and construction inspectors who earned a median salary of $57,340. Employment of welders was projected to increase 4%, and employment of construction inspectors was expected to increase 8% from 2014-2024. Employment outlook figures specifically for welding inspectors weren't available.

What Are My Education Options?

You don't need a postsecondary education to become a welding inspector, but certificate programs in welding and associate's degree programs in welding technology are widely available from community colleges. Course topics in both could include metallurgy, oxyacetylene process, gas tungsten arc welding and blueprint reading. Some curricula have courses in weld inspection. Associate's degree programs may cover a given topic in greater depth across beginner, intermediate and advanced level courses and also require you to complete general education courses in English and math.

How Can I Get Certified?

You'll start the certification process by becoming a Certified Associate Welding Inspector (CAWI), administered by the American Welding Society (www.aws.org). You'll need at least a high school diploma or equivalent and two years of welding experience to qualify for the exam. This designation allows you to work under the supervision of a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) or a Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI). To retain certification, you'll have to pass the CWI exam, which involves a vision test. You can qualify for the SCWI designation once you've accrued six years as a CWI.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar occupations include plumbers and construction managers. Plumbers work on the plumbing systems that are being installed or repaired on job sites. They must also adhere to strict safety codes. Construction managers oversee all workers on a construction site. They review plans to make sure they meet all safety and building code requirements and inspect the work of their contractors to ensure the work meets these safety code requirements as well.

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