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Earning your AWS welding certification is the next step toward advancing your welding career. Welding jobs are in demand across the country, and these positions can lead to a fulfilling career.
We’ve performed reviewed on the best welding schools in the USA, which can help you achieve your career goals in welding based on where you live.
It’s also important to note the difference between a welding degree vs certificate. Be sure to review the job description of your ideal position or company and see what they require.
Learn more about getting your welding certification below.
The AWS – American Welding Society – was founded in 1919 as an educational and professional community dedicated to upholding high standards for the welding profession.
To foster access to quality education for welders across the country, American Welding Society Learning was created as an online resource for education opportunities. It combines a catalog of online courses, instructor-led seminars, and a series of conferences to connect welders to the latest training and technology needed to succeed.
They also maintain a library of professional development resources including newsletters, YouTube videos, and a blog.
A certification from the AWS is the gold standard for professional welders. They offer the following certifications:
A combination of online courses and seminars may be taken in order to complete a given certification. AWS maintains a list of accredited facilities that can administer seminars or examinations for their certifications.
Education through AWS adheres to strict standards, which are approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These standards are supported by industry experts who maintain the highest levels of quality across numerous industries.
Welders may become members of the American Welding Society and support their 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation, which offers grants for welders going through education and certification programs.
Nearly three quarters of everything used in our society involves a welded joint or structure. Welding is very commonplace in buildings, devices, automobiles, and more; and there is a constant need for informed and educated welding professionals.
Welding is a profession that requires physical and mental fitness, concentration and attention to detail, precision and accuracy, and dedication.
Most welders are required to earn some kind of certification or degree. This ensures that they are working according to the latest professional standards and are properly qualified for their respective work.
Earning a welding certification also requires a mix of textbook learning and practical work. You will need to work under an experienced welder to learn the hands-on techniques, as well as learn the science behind assembly and the materials you’ll work with.
However, welding can become a profitable career. Earning your AWS welding certification is often a required step to advancing your career – many employers require a certification to become a welder, and earning a certification can make an AWS certification salary higher than those of other professionals.
These programs may offer scholarships, since many companies are in need of welders. Younger welders can also enter apprenticeship programs in order to gain valuable experience.
Earning a welding certification can also introduce you to the different kinds of welding, each of which may require its own continuing certification or further education.
While salary can vary by state and industry, even entry-level welders can earn an average of $38,000 per year, with experienced specialists commanding six-figure salaries.
These are the certifications offered through the American Welding Society. They require passing an AWS certification exam:
In addition, there are endorsements offered for different materials and assembly items, allowing for further specialization. Endorsements include pipeline, structural steel or aluminum, bridge welding, railroad, aerospace, pressure vessel and piping, and structural bolting inspection.
Each certification requires a combination of education and experience in order to be certified. Depending on your education level, a certification may require as little as one year of experience.
Beyond the initial certification, AWS offers professional certifications that let you specialize in a particular type of welding. AWS offers the following professional certifications:
The AWS certification path is a robust program that can include online courses and in-person seminars, culminating in a hands-on test to demonstrate your proficiency.
Online classes may be completed in subjects such as economics, fabrication math, metallurgy and materials, welding safety, and more.
Seminars are often required for professional certifications, typically lasting several days to ensure that all relevant material is covered.
The AWS certification cost can vary by certification. The 8-week online seminar offered for Certified Welding Inspectors (CWI) can cost less than $2000.
Every 9 years, you will be required to attend a recertification seminar to maintain your credentials. This 6-day seminar costs $1705.
AWS maintains a list of accredited test facilities approved to give the exam in-person. There are numerous locations in most states, as well as some international locations.
The AWS website also features test materials and all supporting documentation required to achieve your certification. Depending on the certification you are pursuing and your testing location, you will need different types of documentation or supervisor approvals.
Recently, AWS began moving to computer-based testing, which allows for greater flexibility from welders in gaining or maintaining their certification.
Only certain programs are available with computer-based testing, however. Candidates can visit the AWS testing website for a list of approved testing sites.
If you work with materials, welding is a valuable skill that is critical in many positions and industries.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) shows an increase in the need for qualified welders, and those with an AWS certification can increase their lifetime earnings quite significantly.
Some of the benefits and job opportunities available for the different types of certifications are as follows:
Most welders will need to demonstrate hands-on proficiency in welding in order to be certified. They will need to know the different types of welds, as well as the different positions for the welded materials.
The four positions of welds are as follows:
In addition, there are two different types of joints:
Most plate welds are performed in groove welds. The other advantage to groove welds is that they will also cover fillet welds as it relates to your experience.
Combinations of these four numbers and two letters are used to code the different types of welds. These codes are typically left at each proposed weld site, so welders will need to have these codes memorized in order to perform quality work in a timely manner.
For example, a weld that is marked 1G would be a flat groove weld, 2G would be a horizontal groove weld, and so on.
By engaging with each of these different types and combinations of welds, welders can grow their proficiency and experience in order to achieve their desired certification. Some welds are considered more valuable by employers due to their complexity and real-life application; improving your expertise in these will not only make the certification process easier, but it could lead to a more advanced position.
As weld certification positions increase on the number scale, they increase in difficulty. This means that, when considered for a certification, testing in a higher number weld means that you will not need to test for lower numbers.
For example, testing on a 4G weld includes testing for 1G, 2G, and 3G weld as well. It is assumed that if you are proficient in a higher number weld, you can become exempt from testing for the others.
On the other hand, a lower weld like the 1G does not include testing for any other weld due to its simplicity. Be aware of this when signing up for a welding certification test.
This is the most basic welding position. The 1G weld is a flat groove weld, which takes two plates and welds them together in a flat position. The weld is performed in what is sometimes called the downhand position.
Both plates are on a flat surface parallel to the ground, and a straight weld is performed to join the two pieces. The weld itself is beveled, which creates a groove between the two pieces – hence the reason it is called a groove weld. Welding metal is drawn downward into the joint, which makes for a faster and easier weld.
This is typically the easiest test to pass, but it is the weld least desired by employers since it is not very usable in many industries. It demonstrates a very basic proficiency in welding.
This weld is slightly more difficult. The 2G weld is a horizontal groove weld, which takes two plates and welds them together with a horizontal weld. The two plates are vertical, with their long edges next to each other. A groove weld is performed horizontally between the two pieces.
This certification test exempts the welder from performing the 1G welding test, since this one test covers the 1G and 2G positions.
This weld can also be done as a 2F weld, with a fillet weld performed between two perpendicular pieces. However, the 2G weld demonstrates a higher level of skill and expertise, which is more valuable to employers.
The 3G weld is one of the more difficult welds. It is a vertical groove weld, which takes two plates and welds them together with a vertical weld. The two plates are vertical, with their long edges next to each other. A groove weld is performed vertically between the two pieces.
The 3G certification can be taken either traveling vertical up or vertical down. The difference is the direction of the weld. Welding vertical up means that you begin at the bottom of the plates and weld upward to the top, and welding vertical down means that you begin at the top of the plates and weld downward to the bottom. Typically, the test is performed measuring vertical up progress.
The 3G weld covers the 1G, 2G, and 3G positions, which makes it the most versatile welding test to take.
The 4G weld has an even higher degree of difficulty. Here, the two plates are in an overhead position, parallel to the ground with their long edges next to each other. The welder performs an overhead groove weld, which means the weld is performed directly overhead.
As far as positioning, it is not much more difficult than a flat weld, but because the welder is essentially working upside-down it makes the weld more difficult.
The 4G weld covers other welds, covering 1G and 2G. However, it does not cover the 3G weld.
When a welder is certified for structural welding, they will most commonly take the 3G and 4G welding certification tests together.
This covers the most types of welds together, and shows that the welder is sufficiently experienced to handle all other types of groove welds.
Pipe welding has a similar identification system to plate welding: most are groove welds, and are numbered according to the degree of difficulty.
The 1G weld involves two pipes that are joined together with a groove weld. The pipes are rolled while welding, which allows for greater control of the weld as it is being performed. As with the plate welds, this weld is much easier and is not usually used in real-life application; therefore, this test is rarely performed.
The 2G weld involves two pipes in a vertical standing position. The two pipe ends are joined together, and a horizontal weld is performed where the two pipes meet. The pipes cannot be rolled as they are in a fixed position, so the weld must be uniformly performed around the entire circumference.
The 5G weld also involves two pipes joined together with a groove weld. However, though the pipes are in a horizontal position, they are in a fixed position and cannot be rolled. This weld is performed in two phases along the pipe. First, vertical up travel is used as the most common in real life. Then, the vertical down travel is most commonly used for testing.
The 6G weld is the most difficult, since the pipes meet at a 45 degree angle. The ends of the two pipes meet flush, but they are in a fixed position at a 45 degree angle and cannot be moved. This weld can be made more difficult depending on whether or not you are left-handed or right-handed: either way creates a disadvantage for part of the weld. This type of weld demonstrates the highest level of pipe-welding proficiency.
The restricted position for welds usually involves limited (or restricted) access to the weld joint. This is most commonly found by forcing the welder to hold their body in an unusual position, having visual access blocked somehow, or having some other physical obstacle impeding the welding process. Restricted welds are never found in the 1G position, but may be found in the others (2G, 5G, and 6G).
There are two methods used for testing the strength and quality of any weld: destructive testing and non-destructive testing.
Destructive testing allows the tester to determine if the student is making a quality weld by seeing whether or not the materials being welded can hold up under potentially destructive stress.
The most common version for this type of testing is the coupon bend test. Here, the welding area is cut in to thin strips which are then bent into a highly curved position. A successful weld will not break under the stress of the bend.
There are various ways to implement non-destructive testing on welds.
Visual inspection is the most cost efficient, but also relies on the expertise and knowledge of the inspector. A simple visual inspection of the quality of the weld is the only criterion for the certification test. However, it cannot detect any internal defects in the weld, so it is typically only used for non-critical inspection.
Liquid dye penetrant testing is excellent at detecting surface defects, and is a more objective method for testing these kinds of potential defects. However, internal defects still cannot be detected, so this is still not the most accurate testing method.
Radiographic testing or x-ray weld inspection is a much more costly method, but it is the most effective at detecting any kind of defect. A skilled radiographic expert is needed for this kind of test, and it does involve some danger due to radiation and x-ray exposure.