Being a quality welder takes skill, dexterity, and focus. It also requires a knowledge of metals and their properties as well as a variety of welding techniques.
Sure, anyone can type up a resume and say they have these skills, but how do you know if the welder you’re considering hiring is actually any good? The answer: the right certifications.
Certifications from a recognized credentialing organization can tell you a lot about a welder’s knowledge, experience, and proficiency level.
A welder who’s certified has been vetted by someone higher up in the field, so you can feel confident you’re hiring a person who has demonstrated their skills in the eyes of a professional.
So which welding certifications are the best ones to look for and what do the different credentials mean? We’ll break it all down here.
The American Welding Society is the main credentialing organization for welders in the United States. The non-profit group was founded in 1919 with the goal of advancing the science and application of welding and related technologies like brazing and soldering.
Today, AWS’s primary function is to certify welding professionals and publish the codes by which the certification process is completed.
Here’s how it works. On a regular basis, AWS publishes codebooks that outline the processes and procedures to be used in various welding methodologies and techniques and with specific materials.
AWS D1.1, for example, covers structural welding, while AWS B1.11 explains how to visually examine welds. These codebooks have come to be recognized as the industry standard for welding and welding inspection.
With its certification program, AWS tests welders and prospective welders to the standards outlined in its codebooks.
So, if a welder wanted to become certified in, say, resistance welding, they’d need to meet the qualifications outlined in AWS C1.5, Specification for the Qualification of Resistance Welding Technicians.
Each certification comes with its own set of required knowledge and prerequisites. With the exception of the lowest-level credentials, which don’t require any prerequisites, most AWS certifications require a combination of formal education and work experience. So, in addition to certification showing you a welder’s skills are up to snuff, it also tells you they’ve put in a minimum number of years on the job.
AWS offers certifications and endorsements for pretty much every aspect of the welding field imaginable; a full list of their offerings is available here.
The CWB is Canada’s certification and registration organization for companies and welding professionals. In addition to certifying companies that produce welded products, it certifies the employees of those companies and the welding inspectors who examine their products.
A CWB certified organization has what is known as accepted welding procedures, which specify the welding processes used by that particular company. Every two years, the company’s employees must be tested by a third party, the CWB, on their knowledge of these welding procedures and ability to weld in compliance with them.
Welding inspectors are certified independently by CWB at one of three levels. To become a CWB certified welding inspector, professionals must complete the eligibility requirements (which get more rigorous at each subsequent level) and pass an exam. Learn more about CWB certifications here.
While ASME doesn’t directly certify welders, it does certify welded products like boilers, bioprocessing equipment, and nuclear components. Companies that produce or work on these products often need to obtain ASME certification. Individuals who work for these companies, then, can become ‘certified individuals.’
Certified individuals ensure that products branded with the ASME certification mark comply with all applicable ASME codes. There are different areas in which welders can become ASME certified individuals, including boilers, pressure vessels, pressure relief devices, and more.
You can learn more about the ASME certified individual credential here.
AWS’s certified welder program is the starting point for most welders entering the field. It’s a performance-based program that tests welders to the procedures used in the structural steel, petroleum pipeline, sheet metal, and chemical refinery welding industries.
Companies can also use AWS to test candidates for their unique welding specifications.
There are no prerequisites to take the certified welder exam. To obtain this credential, a welder must physically demonstrate their ability to weld to a set of provided specifications before an AWS certified welding inspector at an accredited testing facility.
Although the credential doesn’t call for any specific coursework or experience leading up to the exam, many welders have a few years of on-the-job experience under their belt or go through a welding program at a vocational school before taking the exam.
When you hire a certified welder, you can feel confident you’re hiring someone who’s committed to the profession and who has demonstrated their ability to produce clean, quality welds.
After several years of formal training or professional experience, a welder can apply to take the certified welding inspector exam and become a Certified Welding Inspector.
This highly-regarded credential is recognized internationally as the mark of knowledgeable and highly skilled welding professionals. Companies can rely on it to hire inspectors who will do their jobs to exacting specifications.
Unlike the certified welder exam, which anyone who knows how to weld can apply for, the CWI exam requires candidates to meet a strict set of requirements as follows:
Once a candidate fulfills these requirements, they’re eligible to take the CWI exam. This is a rigorous exam divided into three parts: welding fundamentals, practical application, and code application. It’s not uncommon for welders to require multiple attempts to pass the CWI exam.
When you hire a CWI, you can rest assured you’re working with an inspector with both a high level of technical expertise and the practical experience needed to do their job well.
Becoming more widespread in adoption, resistance welding uses a combination of heat, time, and pressure to create long-lasting welds. It’s used primarily in the manufacturing of cars, appliances, and other wire or sheet metal products.
Because resistance welding involves costly equipment and highly technical procedures, requiring candidates to hold this certification before performing resistance welds is a prudent hiring decision.
To get certified in resistance welding, candidates need to have a high school diploma and a year of work experience or three years’ experience without a diploma.
They must also pass an examination on the setup, operation, maintenance, testing, and quality control of resistance welding equipment.
If you need to hire someone who can find indications on radiographic film, look for candidates who are certified radiographic interpreters. This credential verifies that workers can properly read and interpret images produced by radiographic testing, which aims to identify flaws in welds with the use of x-rays.
To become a CRI, candidates need a high school diploma, at least 40 hours of formal training in radiographic interpretation, and at least a year of work experience. The work experience component can be fulfilled either as a company-certified or nationally-certified (through the AWS) individual in radiographic interpretation or while working under the direct supervision of such an individual.
Does your work involve arc welding robots? Then you’ll want to hire someone who’s a certified robotic arc welding (CRAW) technician or operator.
This credential requires a high school diploma or GED and between 12 and 18 months of experience as a welder or three to five years of experience in a welding-adjacent field.
CRAW certification can be completed through the American Welding Society.
In addition to meeting these requirements, candidates must pass a thorough exam that covers robotic arc welding processes, equipment, robot programming and logic, safety, and more.
CRAW-T and CRAW-O are good credentials to look for if you want to be sure you’re hiring a robotic arc welding technician who keeps their skills current, as re-examination or proof of active practice is required every three years.
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