Are you thinking of a new career as a certified welder? It can be a little overwhelming trying to get started on your path towards certification, but we’ll break down for you the steps you need to take to get your welding certification. So, how do you become a certified welder?
- Decide what type of welding you want to do
- Enroll in a training program or apprenticeship
- Take a written exam
- Pass a hands-on welding test
- Check with your state about licensing
- Find a job!
Obviously, there is a lot more to each of these steps which is why we have this complete guide on how to become a certified welder. Read on to find out more about training programs, certifications, and costs involved to become a certified welder.
What Steps to Take First to Become a Certified Welder
Let’s start with a high-level breakdown of the first steps to take to gain your welding certification.
First of all, you’ve picked a good career field to enter. The welding trade can be a very steady and reliable income source.
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.”
Start with these steps:
- A lot of welding jobs require you to have at least a high school diploma or a GED. If you don’t have that, start with getting your GED. The good news is, becoming a certified welder won’t require you to get a four year college degree. A lot of times, you can earn your certification while you are already welding.
- You’ll need to enroll in a training program. These are available at many vocational schools and even some local community colleges. Here’s an example of two available programs:
- Find a copy of the welding procedures you’ll need to study. Each certification test is a little bit different, so make sure you find out what the written procedures are for the exam you wish to take. We’ll go through some of the different welding procedures in the next section.
- Get some practice in! Once you know the procedures you need to meet, start practicing welding. This will involve practicing for the written test, studying some textbook sections, and also practicing for the hands-on portion by getting out there and doing some welding.
- At this point, go ahead and schedule your test.
- Give it a shot! Take the test. In most cases, if you pass the test, you should receive your certification right then and there.
Welding Procedures for Your Certification
To start, here’s a fantastic video about what to expect from your CWI test (see below for more info about that specific test) and tips to help you pass.
It’s important to note that some employers will mandate that you pass a written test before you pass the hands-on exam. Most likely though, if you get your practice in and are able to pass the hands-on portion, the written test shouldn’t be that difficult. If you can successfully physically perform the welding, then just work backwards, and the written portion will come to you.
Hands-on Requirements for your Welding Certification
Here is what you’ll need to be able to do in order to pass the hands-on portion of your certification exam:
- A welding project will require you to be able to understand drawings, including various sketches and welding symbols. You’ll use these drawings to be able to know the best measurements and angles required for welding. You should familiarize yourself with interpreting drawings before you take your exam.
- The welding inspector is going to give you metal parts, and you’ll need to be able to cut them and fit them in accordance with regulations and procedures. The type of metal and the cuts required will be different based on what level of certification you are seeking. You’ll also receive written and verbal instructions guiding you on how to complete this step.
- This is when the fun begins – weld your metal! The inspector will ask you to weld to a specific position, and you’ll need to prove you can meet those requirements, as that’s what you are being certified to do.
- Next, you’ll need to prepare the metal for a bend test. To do this, you’ll need to cut out sections of the metal. The bend test is what ultimately decides the level of quality of the welding job you performed, so it’s very important.
- The ultimate goal is to pass your inspector’s bend test, x-ray test, and visual inspection test. He will have a list of procedures to inspect you against, and that’s what you must meet in order to earn certification.
Written Welding Procedures for your Certification
In addition to the hands-on portion, you will need to pass a written exam. During this test, you’ll really want to show that you understand the rudimentary concepts and procedures behind welding. What terminology have you learned? What protocols have you learned? What sets you above and beyond someone who isn’t certified?
You are going to get a lot of questions about things you can find in a textbook. Learn basic welding symbols and procedures. What are the safety procedures for welding? What eye protection do you need to wear? What are the different types of welds? You will need to spend some time memorizing some basic welding facts and protocols to pass this test.
The Tulsa Welding School offers you some great study tips for your exam. They propose the top 5 study tips to help get you started in preparing for your exam. Take the exam seriously both because the knowledge you gain through studying will help you on the job and because you need to pass to become a certified welder.
Organizations that Govern Welding Certifications
Who is in charge of deeming you a certified welder? Who gives you a certificate?
- The ASTM International
- The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
- The American Iron and Steel Institution (AISI)
- The American Welding Society (AWS)
- The ASME International
To get more information, you should go to the website of each of these organizations. Familiarize yourself with what each of these organizations requires from a certified welder. They also all have membership options, where you can join their organizations and expose yourself to more tools and resources that could help you earn your certification.
Different Types of Welding Certificates
There are many types of welding. Are you doing arc welding? Are you going to be using a gas flame to do your welding? Will you be welding on an easy, flat surface or jammed in a corner underwater trying to weld at a tight angle?
Since there are different types of welding, it would only make sense that there are different types of welding certificates. There is not one certificate that covers all of the different types of welding. Not only that, but you are going to be required to recertify frequently to keep any certification you do have up to date. You should look at a welding certification as an ongoing pursuit into furthering your education and your career.
Each certification test is going to test you on a specific welding process. You will find yourself applying for certifications in different code levels. You’ll need to learn different soldering methods as well as mechanical and cutting procedures for almost any type of certification. The last common element amongst all certifications: you’ll want to get familiar with the different surface materials that you are welding.
The American Welding Society lists eight different welding certification programs:
- Certified Welding Inspector Program (There is a study guide we recommend called Certification Manual for Welding Inspectors.
- Certified Welding Educator Program
- Certified Radiographic Interpreter
- Certified Welding Supervisor
- Certified Welding Sales Representative
- Certified Welding Engineer
- Certified Welder Program
- Certified Robotic Arc Welding
Any of the different welding certificates will certainly help advance your career as a welder! Do some research about what is the best fit for you, and remember, you can always go for more than one type of welding certification.
How much does a Welding Certificate Cost?
Now you see that you’ve got a variety of different welding certifications you could pursue. Are any of the certifications more expensive than others?
While it’s possible, your employer will be paying for your certification, and therefore the price isn’t really much of an issue, let’s look at the variances in prices for different certifications.
|Type of Certificate||Member Rate||Non-Member Rate||Renewal Rate Member||Renewal Rate Non-Member|
|Certified Welding Inspector Program||$1070||$1325||$835||$1090|
|Certified Welding Educator Program||$710||$965||$345||$600|
|Certified Radiographic Interpreter||$840||$1095||$500||$755|
|Certified Weld Supervisor||$570||$658||$345||$433|
|Certified Welding Sales Representative||$370||$458||$310||$310|
|Certified Welding Engineer||$900||$1076||$500||$755|
|Certified Welder Program||$50||$50||N/A||N/A|
|Certified Robotic Arc Welding||$395||$650||$225||$480|
All prices are per the American Welding Society, and the “Member Rate” is the cost for the exams if you are a member of the American Welding Society. An individual membership costs $88. If you are paying for your own certification (and your employer isn’t footing the bill), it might behoove you to become a member. Remember, membership will offer you more than just a cheaper rate for your certification. It will expose you to a wealth of resources that will help your career.
Where Can You Take Practice Tests for Your Welding Certificate?
While it would be hard to take a practice test for the hands-on portion of the welding certification, there are some online options where you can practice for the written portion of the exam. This will help prepare you for the types of questions you will see and the format of the exam.
The best cheap option for you for a practice test is probably through the Tests.com website. There you will find a free practice test that has 20 questions. You also have the option of purchasing a more elaborate practice test, the Welding Practice Exam Kit, which has 360 questions.
They also explain the correct answers to help you learn from what you got wrong.
Benefits of Becoming a Certified Welder
Do you really need a certification? Will it help advance your career, or can you do just fine learning how to weld from your uncle?
If you want to be a professional welder, you will need a certificate. If you’re welding for fun as a hobby, you can get away without a certificate.
Companies that are employing you professionally need to make sure you are qualified as a welder. It can be a dangerous profession, and they have liabilities to take care of, so they need to make sure that you are set up to work as safely as possible. The good news is, if you get your certificate, you’ll increase the salary you are qualified to earn.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “The average hourly wage for a welder is $17.61, which translates to an annual salary of $44,519. The average pay for welders, per hour, typically ranges from $12.74 to $25.66. The annual welder salary usually ranges from $25,000 to $88,000. Pay varies according to several factors, including geographic location, employer, experience and special skills.”
While you might have to pay out some money upfront to get your certification, it should pay off in the long run in the form of a higher salary.
Job Descriptions for Certified Welders
Earning a certificate also gives you more options for your career, as you’ll have access to different types of welding jobs. There are different levels of certifications available for welders, and typically when you are looking for jobs, the job descriptions should clarify what level of certification you need to have in order to qualify for the job.
Different Types of Welding Certification Levels
A variety of industries need welders, and each industry has unique requirements. You could be welding in the aerospace industry, which will have different requirements than if you weld in the oil drilling industry.
Each available certification would allow you to perform a single type of weld and in a single position. There’s a good chance in your career as a welder that you will end up needing several different types of certifications and levels.
Essentially, welding certificate levels get more difficult, depending on the type of weld. Typically, there are two different types of joints, Fillet or Groove Welds. When looking at the levels of certification, these are designated as “F” or “G.” Within “F” and “G,” there are different positions that range by level of difficulty. The levels are: Flat, Horizontal, Vertical, and Overhead, and they are ranked 1 thru 4 respectively.
You’ll end up getting a certificate in 1G, for example, for a Flat Groove Weld, which is considered the easiest level. Or, you could go all the way up as high as 6G, which is a difficult position of welding a pipe at a difficult angle.
Determine what industry you want to work in. Or, if you are already employed, talk to your employer about which level of which certification you should pursue. Don’t be afraid to get certified in more than one level, as that will only increase your skillset and make you a more attractive candidate to employers.
Different States Have Different Rules for Earning Your Welding Certification
In addition to the certificates discussed above, some cities and states also have additional requirements for welders.
For example, in New York, even if you have your certification, you must also apply for a license issued by the state of New York.
In Los Angeles, if you want to work for the local government, you’ll need to become certified by the city itself, which requires different testing than your regular certification.
If you’re going down the path of becoming certified, make sure you also check with your employer and your local city and state regulations to ensure that you’re getting all of the licenses and certifications required to be a welder in your location.
How Long Will it Take to Become a Certified Welder?
The good news is, it’s quicker than having to go to a 2-year or 4-year college and earning a degree that way. The bad news is, while you might be eager to get certified so you can land a great job, it’s going to probably take you at least 6 months to get through all the studying and pass your exams.
A lot of it will depend on which program you select, but that’s the average time frame. It depends on if you’re taking classes at night or full time. And, are you starting at this ice-cold, or have you been tinkering with welding for a while and know your way around the language?
Welding Apprenticeship Certification
A welding apprenticeship is another path you could take. If you have no prior welding experience, this might be a great way for you to get your foot in the door in this career path.
An apprenticeship isn’t going to pay as well as a job after you are certified, but the experience you would gain as an apprentice is invaluable. As an apprentice, you would be learning from the best experts in the welding field. When you are ready to be formally certified, it’s going to be a lot easier since you would have had hands-on training in your field.
Basically, apprenticeships are the best way for new laborers to learn the skills of the trade from more experienced workers. This holds true for all different types of apprenticeships from welding to plumbing. They are regulated formally by both state and federal governments in order to ensure that training is the same across the country. If you are an apprentice in Florida, you should get the same training as if you’re an apprentice in Oregon.
Typically, an apprenticeship is going to mandate at least 144 hours’ of classroom training in one year, as well as at least 2,000 hours’ training at work with your mentor. If you count that out over the course of a year, it amounts to the standard 40 hour work week. Usually, you should plan on being an apprentice for a few years, and take an exam at the end of your training to move up in your career.
To talk specifically about welding apprenticeships, they usually fall right in line with the above. Figure on three or four years at about 2,000 hours per year. During that time, you’ll be performing a variety of tasks to learn how to weld under supervision. You will spend time in the classroom as well, so you will be adequately prepared to take both the written exam and the hands-on exam to become a certified welder.
If you have no welding experience, consider getting into an apprenticeship program. It would really help to kick-start your career and help you get on the right track towards eventually becoming a certified welder.
What is the Highest Paying Welding Job?
Which certification should you get if you are looking to get the highest paying welding job?
CCNN has a list for you of the Top 6 highest paying welding jobs.
- Industrial Pipeline Welders – $36,414 – $106,348
- Underwater Welders – $54,750 – $300,000
- Military Support Welders – up to $160,000
- Nuclear Industry Welders – varies
- Aerospace Welders – $29,540 – $60,000
- Certified Welding Inspector – over $70,000
All of those welding jobs will require certification. Some certifications are higher levels than others. If any of those career paths appeal to you, read into which level of certification they would each require, and go for it!
Can You Get Certified in Welding Online?
Maybe you’re not employed yet, and you’re looking to get your welding certificate in order to increase the chances of getting a job. Can you get your certification from the comforts of your couch?
The short answer is, no, you can’t take your exam online. However, you can do a lot of prep work online.
There are video podcasts and someone other online seminars that are you going to do all the hard work for you online. You will ultimately have to take both the written exam and the hands-on welding exam in person.
Online Videos to Help you earn your Welding Certification
While you can’t earn your welding certification online, there are a lot of resources for you online to learn more about how to get your welding certification. Here are a few YouTube videos that would be worth watching:
This is just a small selection of available videos. Spend some time on YouTube – there are a lot of options out there. If you are a visual learner and want to watch welding be done by the experts, this is one way to do it!
Reading Material for your Welding Certification
If you’re like me and prefer reading to watching, Amazon also offers several books that will help you in your quest to earn your welding certification.
- Certification Manual for Welding Inspectors (see here for the latest price on Amazon) – This is a great place to start your studies. Gives insight into everything to expect on your welding exams.
- Welding Inspector Certification Flash Cards – These flashcards would be a great tool for the next step. After you’ve studied a bit, watched some videos, read some books, these flashcards are a good option for you to prepare as you get closer to test day.
- Welding License Exam Study Guide – This is in between the first two options. After you read the book and are ready to focus your studies, this guide will be helpful for you.
Whether you’re looking for a full textbook, a smaller study guide, or some last-minute flashcard prep, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from to help you prepare for your welding exam.
How to Find a Job Using your Welding Certification
Congratulations – you got your certificate! What’s next?
Welder’s Universe does a great job breaking down some great steps to take when looking for a welding job. There are a variety of job boards to search, and you can use the bigger job-sites like Indeed.com and LinkedIn. You can also join some of the bigger societies for welders like the American Welding Society or the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
How to Become a Certified Welder
Getting your welding certification can be a very exciting step for your career! You’ll find more doors opening for your career after you are certified. Decide which of the eight types of certifications are best for you, or decide if maybe you should get started out by doing a formal apprenticeship.
You’ll wind up taking both a written exam and a hands-on welding exam. There are many tools out there to help you prepare for both parts of the welding certification exam, and with a little practice, you should have your welding certificate in no time at all!