You’re a self-taught welder. Or maybe someone showed you the ropes. Either way, your school was a workshop and your books were a spool gun and a grinder. Still you’ve always wondered, “What really is the benefit to welding certification?”
First, let’s cover the basics. There’s no “one” welding certification or even “one” welding certification organization. While the American Welding Society is the largest organization, there’s also the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Petroleum Institute. However, the American Society Of Mechanical Engineers covers certification mostly for boiler and pressure vessel codes, while the American Petroleum Institute covers certification for pipe welding in the oil and gas industries.
Why Certification? Think of it like a trucker’s driving license: Just a piece of paper that ensures you won’t run your big rig through someone’s front door trying to put it in park. It’s a certification that says “Hey, I can perform this specific weld in this specific position in the correct way that’s up to code.”
Generally, certification is part of applying for a specific job. For instance, if you want to weld pipe for a milk pasteurization plant, you can bet you’ll need several different certifications to prove your welds aren’t going to poison an entire population. Some industries list the specific certifications you’ll need online, while with others, you might need to simply contact them. A basic first step is to think about what you want to do and what that will entail. For instance, if you’re a hobby welder, certification might not be important for you at all. If you’re wanting to pipe weld at a power plant, doing your 6G position test using TIG root and a hot pass is a much more commonly needed certification than a 1G welding certification using the MIG process.
So where do you get certified? Either at a vocational school or an accredited testing facility. Make sure it’s accredited, otherwise you’re just paying some yahoo for a piece of potential toilet paper. Accredited facilities’ pricing depends on the actual test. Generally they run from $150 to $300 dollars. If you’re not sure your welding capabilities are up to code, it’s usually best to go with a vocational school course. Signing up for the class cost anywhere from $150 to $300 with additional pipe coupons and test plates costing around $20 to $30. However, the benefit is you can take as many welding certifications as you want during the class duration (with the added price of test coupons).
Besides normal welding certification, there’s also Certified Welding Inspectors. Inspectors are the last line of defense to make sure every weld is done correctly. It’s an invaluable position in say, a power plant, where a bad weld can lead to a massive meltdown. With the higher responsibility comes a greater pay raise and job security. It’s no easy task to get certified. First, it requires documentation that you’ve had a combination of both education and work experience. With an associate’s degree, you’ll still need 3 years of work experience before you can become certified. If you were raised by wolves without any formal education, you’ll need at least 12 years of work experience. Besides that, you’ll also need to take a certification course and pass a certification test. It’s a good next step for anyone looking to make welding a lifelong career.
Certification can be a powerful tool or a semi-worthless piece of paper depending on what you need in your specific situation. If you’re looking to further expand your welding opportunities, here’s a couple other tips to really make your life easier: