As a general rule, certification is to welders as tax laws are to accountants: Extremely beneficial to understand, but complicated enough to scare many away. For every welding technique, it seems we have five certification tests to match it.
Since welding coded certification comes in thousands of varieties, I cannot do justice to the process in a single blog post. I can, however, give you five major misconceptions across the welding industry that need to be exposed.
1. I can be certified to weld anything
Pretend for a second that you have more skill than any welder that ever lived. You can perform a solid weld upside down – on a submerged pipe – with zero visibility – without batting an eye. Plus, MIG, TIG and SMAW types all have a picture of one of your welds beside them in the welding handbooks.
Even in this ridiculous scenario, you still wouldn’t obtain certification for every type of weld. There is no “one” certification that covers everything. Or five. Or even 100.
Beyond the many certifications issued by coded welding organizations across the world, you’d also have to earn certification through individual industrial companies. The combinations for certification expand as new businesses, technologies and techniques are developed. In addition, you must recertify many of your welding certifications annually.
To sum up the sheer number of certifications available, this welder said it perfectly:
How many stars are in the sky? There are as many certs as there are metals, processes, and metal thicknesses.
2. Welding certification is extremely difficult
Don’t make broad statements until you’ve tried it yourself. What comes as painstakingly hard to one welder may come completely natural to another. However, the American coding systems do provide numerical systems that correspond to your welding position. This, in turn, applies to the level of difficulty.
Welders are in agreement on the difficulty of some certifications – so much in fact, that earning certification in 6G pipe coded welding covers pipe and plate welding in all positions under ASME and AWS. Once again though, this only covers certification for that specific pipe thickness and metal type.
As welders are fond of saying, there’s no substitute for practice. No matter how many Youtube “How-To’s” you watch, equipment you purchase or topics you research, nothing replaces using that electrode yourself.
3. It’s too expensive to become certified
Only if you continue to fail the same tests multiple times (in which case, you need to invest in training through a school or an apprenticeship). Tests are expensive, I know; if you’re applying for exam and package deals, you can spend thousands of dollars. Still, I would argue that it’s too expensive not to earn certification once you have the skill to test for it. Your job security may depend on it down the road.
Companies want you to have the best training available to you, and many pay to make sure that happens. If possible, find a job at a fabrication shop where certification comes at the employer’s expense. They’ll happily pay if you can qualify, and more qualifications mean better salary and more opportunities to move up the career ladder.
4. If my Certified Weld Inspector (CWI) says it “looks” good, than I’ve passed
A visual inspection is comes in different forms. Many certification tests require the weld to be cut in multiple ways so the CWI’s can see inspect it from all angles. But passing visual inspection is just the first indication of a good weld. Your weld may go through a variety of non-destructive tests to see the various layers for quality purposes. Here’s a few other inspections your fusion of metal might undergo:
- Magnetic Particle Inspection
- Liquid Penetrant Inspection
- Ultrasonic Inspection
No weld is perfect, but don’t let that deter you. If you don’t pass your inspection, learn from the critiques of your CWI and more experienced welders. Then, practice again.
5. I use this certification at one company, now I can use it elsewhere
The welding world would run much simpler certifications carried over. Unfortunately, most companies want more than a piece of paper displaying your AWS approved welding certification (though earning welding certifications through well-known organizations puts you a step above welders who don’t have any). Before you start hatin’, put yourself in the position of your employer:
Each company has specific techniques they use to repair and manufacture products. Additionally, they must follow strict guidelines to avoid lawsuits if a product they sold was to break and cause damages. Therefore, most companies deem it necessary to certify you themselves to uphold these standards. Simply put, they don’t trust you until they see what your capabilities.
6. If I’m certified for the weld above water, I can perform it below water
Imagine driving your car on a sunny, spring day at rush hour. That’s topside welding – challenging, but in a relatively simplistic working environment. Now fast forward to the dead of winter with three inches of snow, black ice patches and yes, still rush hour. That’s underwater welding – all the challenges of topside plus changes in pressure, water temperature and visibility.
This is somewhat of a generalization, as there are certain forms of topside welding that are extremely difficult, and not all types can be compared to wet welding since it specifically uses stick welding. But remember this: If you want to become an underwater welder, practice driving in the springtime so you’ll be ready for the winter blizzards.
Which welding misconception did I miss? Tell me in the comments below!