2022 Welding Certification Guide

April 24, 2022

Welding requires extensive knowledge and precision. Professionals in the field work across the automobile, aviation, shipping, manufacturing, and oil and gas industries. Their job is critical to the overall safety of the project and the personnel.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for welders will grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030. As of 2020, the median pay hovers just over  $44,000 per year. The manufacturing industry remains the top employer for individuals in the industry.

Many professionals will pursue a welding certification for hands-on training and advanced employment opportunities. Trade schools also offer focused welding programs to prepare you for the industry.

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Depending on the job, you may work with stick welding, MIG welding, TIG welding, or flux-cored welding. As the industries grow, the relevant sectors need more welders with the necessary skills.

This article focuses on everything you need to know about welding, from certifications, institutes that can prepare you for these credentials, and the types of certifications available.

What Are Welding Certifications?

Welding certifications are formal assessments that verify and prove a welder’s ability and knowledge of the principles. You can pursue most welding certifications online or as a practical demonstration.

Why Are Welding Certifications So Important?

Welding certifications prove that you have the necessary skills to do the job. Additional benefits include:

  • More job opportunities across different industries.
  • Decreased recertification costs.
  • Demonstration of important knowledge and the skills.
  • Proof of your ability to perform different welding procedures.
  • Higher job stability with permanent positions in the industry.

Welder Certifications Vs. Qualifications

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the difference between certifications and qualifications. To be clear, these terms are not interchangeable.

According to the American Welding Society, you can achieve a certification through a specific channel and process. However, the qualification test depends on the company or the contractor and the tests they choose for their job.

The goal of certifications is to meet the welding codes established by the AWS, ASME, and API. Qualification tests do not depend on codes but each company’s set of parameters such as weld process, base metal type, electrode type, weld position, and base metal thickness.

Certification agencies help you become a certified welder for that extra leverage when searching for jobs. Once you complete the certification, you will receive a certified welder card. Qualification is still necessary after you apply for a job.

The Most Prominent Organizations That Provide Welding Certifications

The three most prominent organizations that provide welding certifications in the U.S. are:

  • American Welding Society (AWS) – The American Welding Society is a non-profit organization that provides professional certifications and opportunities for collaboration in the welding industry. Get leading industry knowledge, resources, and tools for career success.
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) – The ASME has a virtual classroom certification course in welding technology. It includes applicable codes and standards, procedures, principles, symbols, material selection, and preheat.
  • American Petroleum Institute (API) – The API 577 certification provides an opportunity for specialized inspectors, metallurgists, and welding engineers to show their knowledge in the industry. This certification is valid for three years.

Other organizations that provide welding certifications are:

  • The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)
  • Military Standards (MIL-STD)
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • State and Local Welding Certification Codes

Types of Welding Certifications

Welding inspection on butted weld coupon

The main types of welding certifications that can demonstrate your expertise in the profession are:

Certified Welder (CW)

You can use practical assessments to get transferrable credentials and earn a certified welder’s distinction. The welding skills assessment could be in industries like petroleum pipelines, chemical refineries, structural steel, and sheet metal.

You can also take the test for a non-code welding specification for a company. The certification costs $55 for a new application and $30 for renewal. It does not have any prerequisite course requirements and is a performance-based program.

Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)

The certified welding inspector certification demonstrates a high level of skills and leadership in the welding industry. A certified welding inspector works with other project leaders and facilitates certifications for other professionals.

You need at least a year of work experience to become eligible for a welding inspector certification. The exam consists of three computer-based assessments – one on basic welding and two inspection-based, open-book tests.

The certification costs members $1,100 for new applications. Non-members must pay $1,355 for new applications.

The minimum educational requirements vary, from less than 8th grade to a bachelor’s degree or higher. The equivalent minimum work experience varies as per the education level. For example, candidates with less than an 8th grade level education must obtain 12-years of work experience. Those with a bachelor’s degree need just one year of work experience to sit for the certification exam.

The CWI exam consists of three parts:

  • Part A – Fundamentals exam consists of destructive testing, fabrication math, metallurgy, safety in welding, nondestructive testing, WPS/PQR, welding fundamentals, and welding symbols.
  • Part B – Practical exam activities include applying WPSs and PQRs, executing welds, and using inspection tools and methods.
  • Part C – This is an open book exam to assess the participant’s ability to locate and understand the information in the codebook.

Certified Welding Educator (CWE)

The responsibilities of CWEs include:

  • Prepare welding instructional materials
  • Understand the qualifications & determine the educational requirements of a welder
  • Conduct skills and technical training
  • Read welding drawings
  • Prepare reports
  • Understand the welder testing limitations
  • Keep up with the welding processes and procedures

The certification costs $795 for new applications for members. For non-members, new applications cost $1,050. Renewals cost $360 and $615 for members and non-members, respectively.

You need a high school diploma to qualify for a CWE certification test. You also need to show proof of attending a welding training program with at least five years of experience.

Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT)

The Resistance Welding Certification (CRWT) is in high demand. It centers on design sheet metal, appliances, wire products, and automobiles. Certifications provide proof of understanding of advanced resistance welding procedures and principles needed in the industry.

The certification costs $380 for members and $505 for non-members.

To qualify for the CRWT, you must possess resistance welding experience designing, applying, and operating welding lines or cells for manufacturing in automobiles, wire products, appliances, sheet metal products, and other resistance welding products.

You need a post-high school diploma or GED with six months of experience to receive your certification. You can also sit for the exam with a high school diploma and military or state-approved equivalency (GED) with one year of experience.

Certified Radiographic Interpreter (CRI)

Radiographic interpreters can analyze radiographs of weldments and adjacent base metal. Professionals can learn to characterize indicators, identify proper film exposure, select correct image quality indicators, and use the acceptance criteria mentioned in the AWS, API, and ASME codes.

The certification exam costs $870 for members and $1,125 for non-members.

To apply for a CRI certification, you need extensive experience and meet these requirements:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • 40-hours of organized radiographic interpretation and examination with the American Welding Society
  • At least one year of work experience as a company or nationally certified radiographic interpreter
  • Pass a near-vision exam

Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS)

Those who have reached managerial positions in the field can apply for the CWS certification. It is for the industry leaders with experience in quality assurance and problem-solving.

Supervisors need to be aware of what influences productivity, weld quality, material wastage, and safety. They facilitate communication, review materials and manpower, and achieve goals within the safety protocols.

The certification costs $585 for members and $673 for non-members. The candidates must maintain a CWI certification for six out of eight years before taking the CWS exam. They will also need at least 15 years of experience in technical and administrative fundamentals.

The minimum requirement is at least 3-years of practical welding experience in fabrication, construction, or other welding-related industry. Alternatively, candidates may possess two years of work experience with three years of teaching experience.

Certified Welding Engineer (CWE)

Welding engineers with experience in welded joints, assembly, and fabrication can validate their expertise with the CWE certification. The exam consists of four parts on the fundamentals of welding. Candidates must pass the exams with at least a 60% score.

To become a CWE, you need a high school diploma or approved high school equivalency diploma candidates need a minimum of 15-years of welding-based work experience. Those with a Bachelor of Science or higher degree need just one year of welding-based work experience.

The Part 1 & 2 certification costs $585 and $675 for members and non-members, respectively. Part 3 & 4 exam costs $625 and $715 for members and non-members, respectively.

Certified Welding Sales Representative (CWSR)

The welding sales representative certification places you among the industry’s top professionals. Once you receive your sales representative certification, you can:

  • Provide valuable expertise to the customers
  • Act as a conduit between manufacturers and distributors and the customer base
  • Help welders improve their welding skills, quality, and productivity
  • Ensure a safe workplace for the customers

The minimum education requirement for a CWSR is a high-school diploma or equivalent. You also need a minimum of five years of work experience in the sales of welding equipment, cutting equipment, and supplies. You can also qualify for CWSR with two years of work experience and a training certificate in welding and cutting processes and filler metals.

The sales representative certification costs $380 for members and $468 for non-members.

Certified Robotic Arc Welding (CRAW)

CRAW operators and technicians are familiar with various codes, standards, and specifications in the welding business. You need to renew this certification every three years and stay updated with the evolving industry.

The minimum requirement for CRAW is a high-school graduation or state/military approved high-school equivalency (GED). You can also apply with  six months of experience as a manual or semi automatic arc welder. Other options include 12-months as an operator or 18-months of technician experience as a welder.

The technician/operator certification costs $410 for members and $665 for non-members. The operator to technician upgrade costs $115.

Welding Certification Tests

The welder is welding to pipe

Certification organizations conduct tests to see the welder’s ability to work under the code. Most tests consist of:

  • Following the instructions and welding the metals in the required position.
  • Cutting the metal welded according to the instructions and preparing it for a bend test or another approved method for quality testing.
  • Performing bend tests and radiographic (x-ray) tests on the material.

Welding Certification Positions

The welding certifications depend on whether the welder is working on a plate or a pipe.

Plate Welding Certification Positions

There are two types of plate welding position:- fillet weld and groove weld. Most plate welding certifications are on a groove weld because this also qualifies you for fillet weld. The coding system to identify the welding position is:

1 – Flat position

2 – Horizontal position

3 – Vertical position

4 – Overhead position

F – Fillet weld

G – Groove weld

Using the coding system above, we’ve outlined the different positions below:

  • 1G plate welding certification position – This position has the plate in a beveled flat position. It is the most basic position.
  • 2G plate welding certification position – This position has the plate in a beveled horizontal arrangement. If you clear this test, you automatically cover the 1G position.
  • 3G plate welding certification position – This position has the plate in a vertical position. You can either start at the bottom and weld upwards or the other way around. The 3G test covers both 1G and 2G positions.
  • 4G plate welding certification position – This position has the plate in the beveled overhead position. The 4G position covers both 1G and 2G positions but not the 3G position.
  • 3G and 4G combo plate welding certification positions – It is also common to take 3G and 4G welding tests together.

Pipe Welding Certification Positions

The coding system for pipe welding certifications is as follows:

  • 1 – Horizontal position and rolled
  • 2 – Fixed vertical position
  • 5 – Fixed horizontal position
  • 6 – Fixed position at an angle of 45-degree
  • R – Restricted position
  • F – Fillet weld
  • G – Groove weld

Using the coding system above, we’ve outlined the different positions below:

  • 1G pipe welding certification position – The welder places the pipe in a horizontal position and rolls it while welding.
  • 2G pipe welding certification position – The pipe is in a vertical position and fixed, and the welding direction is horizontal.
  • 5G pipe welding certification position – The pipe is in an overhead position, horizontal, and fixed. The welding is vertical and flat, with a full transition of all three positions.
  • 6G pipe welding certification position – The pipe is in a 45-degree position and is fixed. There is an easy side and a hard side to this welding position. This position certifies you for pipe and plate welds in all positions and is for high-paying jobs.
  • Restricted pipe welding certifications and positions – This test checks your ability to weld in confined spaces.

There are three ways to limit access:

  • Unusual body position of the welder.
  • Using ceiling, walls, restrictive rings, and other obstacles to block access to the joint.
  • Blocking the visual access and forcing the welder to use a mirror for welding.
  • 6GR restricting ring-type welding position – This test position comprises an 18″ restrictive ring 1/2″ above the weld joint.
  • 6GR restricted boiler tubing position – This position consists of two boiler tubes, one on each side of the coupon with 1-inch of clearance. It is one of the most challenging tests. It would be best to weld half of it with your left hand and the other half with your right hand. It is not permissible to walk the cup.
  • 6GR box type restriction pipe welding position – Box type restricted welding is applicable in the shipping industry. The pipe is inside a welding booth with a steel grading ceiling in a 6G position. If you are right-handed, the pipe is on the right side of the booth, 12″ from the right wall, ceiling, and back wall. This makes the 3 to 12 o’clock positions almost inaccessible.

Welding Certification Processes

Standard processes for welding certification tests are:

  • GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) or TIG welding
  • SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding) or Stick welding
  • GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) or MIG welding
  • FCAW (Flux Core Arc Welding) or Wire Wheel welding

Other welding processes in which you can get certifications are:

  • Brazing
  • Plasma welding
  • Laser welding
  • Soldering
  • Resistance welding
  • Stud welding
  • Submerged arc welding

Common Welder Qualification Test for Jobs

The welder qualification tests for jobs vary in positions, welding processes, and the type of welding inspection. While some jobs may require just the visual inspection, others may ask for a bend test and x-ray of the weld as minimum requirements.

Qualification Tests for Construction Jobs

Welder qualification tests are equivalent to and sometimes even more challenging than certification tests. Most construction jobs will likely ask for a 3G and 4G combo MIG welding test. They may also require either stick welding or flux-cored arc welding, or both.

Qualification Tests for Shipyard Jobs

Shipyard jobs ask for stick welders in the 3G and 4G combo welding positions. They do not allow weave beads. It is always an open root weld using ceramic backing tape. The flux cored arc welding test combines 2G, 3G, and 4G positions.

Qualification Tests for Power Plant Jobs

The most common test in power plant jobs is a pipe in the 6G position using a TIG root and hot pass. They will x-ray this weld and will not allow any grinding.

Nuclear and coal-fired power plant jobs require three tests. The first is a 2″ double heavy wall schedule 160 carbon steel pipe in the 6G position with a TIG root and hot pass, and the rest stick-welded with an E8018.

The second test is a 2″ double heavy wall schedule 160 carbon steel pipe in the 6G position that is completely TIG welded. The third is a 4″ thin wall schedule 5 or 10 stainless steel pipe fully TIG welded.

Conclusion

START YOUR WELDING CAREER

Earn your degree in Welding Engineering Technology from NEIT and begin your new career path today!

ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

Welding professionals work in different weather conditions, indoor, outdoor, and confined spaces. Their job requires attention to detail, spatial orientation, and physical stamina. Job sites vary from welding shops to shipyards.

Certification and qualification tests ensure that the welder can do high-quality work with minimal flaws.

Related Read: Learn everything you need to know about the best welding schools in the U.S.

FAQs

What Is Gas Metal Arc Welding?

Gas metal arc welding is a fusion welding process that uses an electrical arc as the energy source to fuse the metal pieces. The electrode acts as the filler metal in the welding process.

What Is Shielded Metal Arc Welding?

Shielded metal arc welding or manual arc welding uses a consumable and protected electrode. The protective cover melts with the electrode and protects the weld area from atmospheric gasses.

What Is an AWS Accredited Testing Facility?

An AWS accredited testing center can test and qualify welders. The facility could be an independent laboratory, educational institution, or manufacturing plant and needs to take a qualification test to get the accreditation.

Apply to our welding program and graduate in less than 2 years.