According to the American Welding Society, welding jobs in the manufacturing sector have steadily increased since 2000 and several major oil pipelines have begun construction.
Numerous bridges, highways, utility and water pipelines require considerable repair throughout the U.S.
Many industries utilize welders: Manufacturing, Vehicle Assembly, Aerospace, Construction, Pipelines, Oil Refineries and Drilling, and Military Support. Demand for certified, skilled welders is not likely to slow down any time soon.
Most welding jobs will require a high school diploma or GED, technical and on-the-job training and an up-to-date certification acquired at a school or job site.
In this comprehensive article, we'll show you how to become a certified welder, all the information about welding courses and the benefits of becoming certified.
Benefits Of Becoming Certified
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual pay scale for welders nationwide begins at $24,490 for the lowest 10 percent to $55,240 for the highest 10 percent.
The median 50th percentile earns $35,920 a year.
Certified welders are more likely to earn the better salaries, as they have demonstrated a certain level of competency by earning their certification.
It is not uncommon for a certified welder to earn $35 per hour and above. (Find the information here).
More Job Opportunities
Welders who keep up to date on the latest technology and are certified are in high demand with employers. Additionally, welding skills are very transferrable among employers and states.
Once you are certified in one state, it is relatively easy to work in any other state. Welding skills are also transferable among industries because the basic skills are the same in all industries.
There are a Variety of Locations for Welding Jobs
There is a need for welders in both stationary locations and locations that require constant travel.
Whatever your life stage and family situation, welding is a career that can offer you consistent, stable work in a manufacturing plant/warehouse or the adventure of traveling around the country or overseas from jobsite to jobsite.
Obtaining your Certification can be Completed in a Short Period of Time.
Welding is a skilled trade that does not require a college degree. It won’t take four years to get trained and certified to become a welder. You can even learn on the job while you are earning your certification.
For those eager to learn a trade and get into the job market and earn a salary quickly, welding is a good choice.
How to Become a Certified Welder
Learning how to become a certified welder isn't straightforward. A welder needs to have a firm basic understanding of process and procedures as well as practical hands-on welding skills.
Many employers now require welders to pass a written examination before the hands-on traditional welder certification test is taken. The written examination will cover safety protocols, workmanship standards and definitions.
All employers will require a welder to demonstrate their competency in welding by either taking a hands-on test in their facility or by furnishing an up-to-date certification that was acquired at a school or job.
Job descriptions for welders will often specify the level of welder certification that is required for that job such as “2-G” or “4-G” where the number is the position level and the letter is the weld joint type. “2-G” would mean a welder can weld a groove joint weld in the horizontal position.
In order to pass the hands-on certification test, a welder must be able to:
Types of Welding Certifications Levels
Many people assume that there is one universal Welding certification exam that will prepare you for employment as a welder.
The welding certification process is not a written text like the SAT or ACT.
Each certification certifies a welder has passed the approved process for a single weld and a single position. This can be confusing for many new welders but welders need to be certified according to specific welding codes. Each welding code is used for:
Specific industries such as Automotive, Aerospace, Pipelines, Oil Drilling or Refining, Manufacturing etc.
Types such as Plate, Pipe, Boilers etc.
Position such as vertical, horizontal, flat or overhead.
Metal type such as structural steel, sheet metal, aluminum, stainless steel
Metal thickness. The thicker that the metal is the more frequently you will need to pass the welding torch or arc in order to fill the joint and thus the higher the degree of accuracy needs to be.
Each code has its own unique set of rules and skills that are required to be learned and mastered in order for a welder be considered competent and qualified. Each number and letter represents a different degree of mastery.
The good news is that you do not have to pass all welding certification code levels before you can begin working at a welding job.
What the Codes Mean
There are literally hundreds of welding codes because there are so many types of work that welding is used for and there are several different organizations that oversee welding procedures.
In general, certifications are determined based on the type of structure that will be welded ie: structural plate or pipe.
Structural Plate Certification Coding Can Be Interpreted As Follows:
The number is the position level of each weld type.
The letter is the type of weld joint being welded.
F - Fillet weld joint
Simple filler weld commonly referred to as “tee joints” which are two pieces of metal perpendicular to each other or two pieces of metal that overlap each other and are welded together.
G - Groove weld joint
A groove weld is where two pieces of metal are placed side by side or parallel to one another and welded on the same edge. It requires a higher level of skill than a fillet weld.
If a welder is certified in groove weld joints they are also qualified for fillet welds because a groove weld joint requires a higher skill level than a fillet weld.
Pipe certification coding can be interpreted as follows:
The number is the position of the weld type.
1 - pipe in the horizontal position while the welder welds in the flat position while rolling the pipe.
2 - pipe in the vertical fixed position while the welder welds in the horizontal position.
5 - pipe in the horizontal fixed position while the welder welds in either overhead, vertical or flat position.
6 - pipe in fixed 45 degree position while the welder welds in overhead, vertical, horizontal or flat position.
The letter is the type of weld joint being welded.
F - fillet weld joint
G - groove weld joint
R - restricted weld joint. These are the most difficult type of welding , which requires welding in tight or confined spaces.
If a welder is “6G” certified, they are qualified to do all positions of pipe or structural plate welding.
Types of Welding Tests
The certification is a hands-on welding test given and overseen by a certified welder that has been trained to inspect welds to determine that it has been performed according to the approved procedures and guidelines of the certifying organization, usually the American Welding Society (AWS) or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or the American Petroleum Institute (API). Military and Government organizations use their own certification requirements.
The written welding test is designed to show the welders understanding of welding concepts, technical terminology, procedures and protocols.
The test consists of questions about recognition of welding symbols, basic welding procedures, safety, welding processes and positions, different types of welds, storage and transfer methods, material handling and rigging.
The hands-on welding qualifications test (also known as the weld inspection test) is designed to show the welder’s skill level and can be either a nondestructive test (NDT) or a destructive test.
The test is conducted by a qualified, certified welding inspector who must judge whether the welds inspected conform to the specifications and quality criteria defined in drawings, specifications and welding standards.
The professional and industrial organizations in the United States that lead the development of standards include: the ASTM International, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the American Iron and Steel Institution (AISI), the American Welding Society (AWS) and the ASME International.
1.Non destructive tests use various methods such as visual inspection, ultrasonic vibration, X-ray, liquid penetration, etc. to test the quality of a weld and reveal cracks, unfilled craters, overlaps etc. that could lead to repairs or rejection of the work.
During this test, the inspector will be evaluating the welder’s attention to safety procedures, welding procedures, accuracy, conformity to drawings and specifications, equipment use and storage, work area maintenance, weld joint preparation, etc.
2. Destructive tests are either chemical tests, hardness tests or mechanical tests which all involve cutting a section of the welded joint along the weld and testing it until it ruptures.
Welding Certification Test Locations
Welding Certification tests are usually performed at a workplace or a welding school and should be conducted by a Certified Welding Inspector.
You can check to see if the Inspector for your test is certified by looking them up on the AWS inspector registry at https://app.aws.org/certification/search.html/
The American Welding Society website has a listing of nationwide Accredited Test Facilities where you can take an ATF test for the welding code you want to be certified in. AWS certification sites can be found in most major cities in every state throughout the country. https://app.aws.org/certification/ATF/
If you are a member of a local trade union, they will also likely have a listing of testing facilities that are in your area.
Welding Certification Test Costs
Welding Certification Test costs will vary depending on the type of certification you are trying to obtain and where you take the exam.
Generally speaking, if you take the certification exam at a vocational school that offers a welding program, the cost is cheaper than if you take it at an accredited testing facility. Unfortunately, vocational schools with welding programs do not always offer all of the different certification code tests that you may need, so for some certification tests you may have to use an accredited testing facility
Additionally, there is an upcharge of about $100-150 to be tested at an American Welding Society Test Facility because it is the most common and accepted certification in the U.S.
A big benefit of testing at an AWS test facility is that they will automatically register you in the National Certified Welder registry upon passing the certification exam and provide you with an AWS registered welder’s card, which allows you to skip the recertification test that an employer may require for non-AWS certified welders.
How to Prepare for the Welding Test
Unfortunately, there is not one overall welding certification that encompasses all types of welding. Additionally, certification tests must be frequently repeated to keep up to date. As such, test preparation is an ongoing process.
Welding certification tests will test your knowledge of specific welding processes according to the code level you seek certification for. Brazing and soldering, mechanical and thermal cutting methods, as well as preparation of the surface materials you would be welding are usually included in the testing process.
If you are not utilizing the skills you will be certified for on a regular basis, you should be taking advantage of video instruction and hands-on practice to not lose your edge.
There a number resources available that can help you to prepare for the welding certification test.
1. Welding Classes
If you enroll at a vocational school or local community college for welding classes, those classes typically prepare you to pass both the written and hands-on welding certification test for whatever code level you are seeking certification for.
2. Welding Exam Practice tests
While the welding certification test is not a written test, Practice tests can present you with the type of questions and the format you can expect to see on the written certification exam so you can get a good idea of what you need to know for the test.
The Tests.com website has a free 20 question welding practice test and a offers a Welding Practice Exam Kit with 360 questions and fully explained answers for $59.95.
Another free practice test is available at the ProProfs.com website
3. Video Instruction
The American Welding Society website contains a number of online welding courses and instructional materials that are available for members.
The Welding Tips and Tricks website run by former welding instructor Jody Collier has a wide variety of videos on everything from methods, processes, test prep etc.
Welding Certification Online
While the welder qualification test consists of both a written test and typically a hands-on test conducted by a certified welding inspector, there are many online certification sites that can help you prepare for each type of test.
Welding is a very hands-on trade and thus you will not be able to receive a welding certification that would be recognized by most employers by ONLY taking an online certification program. However there are a few welding course programs that can prepare you for certification.
Several reputable websites that offer online welding courses in include:
What Jobs Can You Get With a Welding Certification?
Welding is considered a critical skill for many jobs in a variety of industries.
Some of the career paths available for welders include: Welder, assembler, machine operator, construction or manufacturing welding technicians or supervisors, welding inspector, engineer, and technical sales.
Building an appropriate resume can help you land a job in any of these career paths. This welder resume guide by Novoresume can help you through that process.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of the over 316,000 welders in the U.S. are employed in the manufacturing industry.
Welding is an essential process in industrial processes, construction, ship and boat building, auto manufacturing and repair, agricultural equipment, industrial maintenance and repair, oil and gas pipelines and a host of other industries.
How Long Does a Welding Certificate Last?
Welding certifications are not like college degrees where you receive a degree one time and it is good forever.
Welding certifications are good for a specific length of time, usually six months.
Employers maintain logbooks that every welder must sign to evidence that they have utilized that welding certification skill in that particular position during that six month time period. Welding is a precise skill and without constant use or practice, that skill deteriorates.
What you need to do to renew your certification
If you were certified through a non-AWS facitlity, many employers will want to retest you every six months or when you change jobs.
An AWS welding certification requires the welder to submit evidence of signed documents from your employer that your skills for that particular certification have been used regularly and are current.
Welding is considered an essential skill that is necessary in many industries worldwide. The strength of fusing metal pieces together through the welding process is superior to other forms of joining such as bolting or riveting.
Due to the ability of a failed weld to cause a catastrophic accident, welding is a skill that requires training and frequent evaluation.
A certified welder can be trained and employed in as little as 7 months in almost any state in the U.S. there are numerous career opportunities for a certified welder and wages can be very lucrative depending on the certification type and level and location of the job.
A certified welder who is willing to travel and work in hazardous conditions can earn over $100K per year. Even with the advent of robotics, automated systems, and computer programming, welding will still be considered a necessary skill.
Those that are certified in welding will have a bright future.