5 Tips for Advancing Your NDT Career

A career in industrial inspection and NDT presents a unique opportunity–making the world a better, safer place while earning a very good living. Like most careers, however, it is also not without its unique challenges–frequent travel or shift work; a profession that most people haven’t even heard of; and constantly evolving technologies and certifications are just a few of the things that can make the career advancement path in NDT both challenging and confusing.

At Surehand, we are deeply committed to helping all the hardworking men and women who are keeping the rest of us safe in our daily lives. We’ve put together 5 helpful tips to help you get the most out of your NDT career, increase your job satisfaction, and advance your earning potential.

1. Find a mentor

Having a “tour guide” for your NDT career path is not only convenient, it is vital–both technically and personally–as you start your career. Whether it is a particularly challenging application of a specific method or a routine inspection with a material you’ve never encountered before, a mentor has probably been there and done that (or at least knows someone else who can help). Beyond the technical questions, a mentor can offer guidance in many ways. Personal relationships can often get strained with frequent travel. Crew relationships on the job site can be tricky to navigate. It is likely your NDT mentor has been down the same road before you and can offer some good advice.

“But where would I find this type of mentor,” you ask? Sometimes, they are conveniently already at your place of employment, and you work with them every day. ASNT and other trade associations offer formal mentoring programs that pair you with someone who shares technical background or sector interests with you. Informally, involvement in a professional society on the local or larger scale can bring you together with people who can help you along the way. Online professional groups are also a great place to connect with others in the industry.

NDT is a profession where integrity matters. Having a mentor–who can keep you on the right path as obstacles and challenges come your way–is truly priceless.

2. Invest in continuing education and training

A career in NDT is one where you are constantly learning both in the field and in the classroom. The more education and experience you get, the more earning potential you will have. Employers will often offer programs through which they will pay for your education in a new method or to deepen your knowledge in a method you are already certified in. Unfortunately, this is happening less and less these days as employers are scared of losing high potential techs once their training is paid for. You should definitely ask your employer to invest in your education, either wholly or through a cost sharing program. Online courses are a great option to keep travel and lodging costs down and to keep conflict with billable hours at a minimum. Even if your employer is not willing to pay for your education, invest in yourself, it will pay off as you gain increased earning potential.

3. Specialize

Careers often fall into one of two focus areas–broad or deep. A technician that has five Level II certifications has great breadth of knowledge and skills. In contrast, one way to differentiate yourself is to obtain deep knowledge in one method or one industrial sector’s application of a given method. Another way to stand out in the job market is learning a method that is a little outside the ordinary, such as Guided Wave or Infrared Thermography. ASNT also has a new sector-specific certification (ISQ) which may be another way to deepen your knowledge and increase your value to employers.

4. Learn adjacent skills

While we’re on the subject of investing in yourself, there are ways to advance your career even if you’re not keen on picking up new methods. One option includes learning (or even certifying) in an adjacent skill.

Like rock climbing? Perhaps getting your IRATA or SPRAT certification would be good for you to pair with your NDT skills.

Looking to move into management? Perhaps a technical management course or one that is specifically geared towards technical writing is the way to go.

Whatever aspect of your job you really enjoy, invest time and money in getting better at that. Doing so will increase both your job satisfaction and your income in the near and long terms.

5. Get involved

As much as inspection is a technical field, it’s all about developing relationships and lifelong learning. These two things are easily enhanced through involvement in your professional society. Plus, these groups often steer the direction of certifications, specifications, and standards through volunteer involvement. Beyond that, you may even get experience in executive skills development and meeting management. Of course, it is also a way of giving back to a career and an industry that has given so much.

Once you get a leg up and advance your career, professional societies allow you to easily turn around and help the next person who is just starting out. And if all that isn’t enough, here’s a list of 10 reasons to join a professional organization.

Whatever the stage of your career, NDT is serious business. You should treat your professional development the same way. Surehand offers industrial inspectors a free career advancement platform to keep all of your professional information in one secure, easy-to-access place. Organize your certification documentation and wallet cards. Receive targeted job alerts from employers looking for your exact skills and experience. Download a beautifully formatted resume or Cert Book for sharing your credentials.

And remember, even if you’re not actively looking for work, it’s always good to be open to new opportunities to build experience and increase your earning potential.

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