If you're a welder looking to advance your career, you're smart to consider the job of Certified Welding Inspector (CWI). You've learned the skills of a welder in school, on the job, or both. You know the safety regulations, and you've had your work inspected by a CWI many times, so you have a good idea of what you'll be looking for as a CWI. With some additional study, either online or in person, you'll be in a strong position to take the test and become a CWI. It will take some work on your part, but once you earn the CWI, the welding inspector salary can add many thousands of dollars to what you make as a welder.
As of October 2018, the median CWI salary was $61,222.
A CWI does much more than inspect finished welds. In fact, if the first time you see a particular weld is when it's finished, you're too late to do the job effectively. When you put your stamp of approval on a welding job, you're stating that it's structurally sound and safe for the public to use, not only right now but also for years to come. Since welds are used in every kind of structure imaginable, from bridges to elevators to sewer pipes, that is a huge responsibility.
Start with the pre-weld. It’s important to check the materials that will be used in the weld, as well as checking the area where the welding will be done. Is the area safe for the welder? Is standard safety equipment in use, such as helmets and gloves? Is there enough room to complete the weld accurately? Are the materials chosen for the weld appropriate for the job? Has the right welding technique been chosen, and is the equipment in good working order?
Watch the welding in progress. Of course, you can’t be present for the entirety of every welding job. But to know that the welding is being done accurately from the inside out, you need to see the inside. In other words, you need to see that proper techniques are being used from the beginning to ensure that a strong, durable seal is made.
Check the final weld. When the weld is complete, you’ll look for any potential problem areas and direct where any repairs need to be done. You’ll supervise the repair and then you'll check the repaired weld to ensure that it meets the standards for safety and durability.
Education Requirements and CWI Salary
To be a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI), you must pass the four-part test of knowledge given by the American Welding Society. First, you'll need to meet the education and work requirements to qualify to take the test. The requirements are adjusted on a sliding scale, so that the more experience you have as a welder, the less education you'll need, and vice versa. For example:
- Bachelor's degree in welding. engineering/technology: 1+ years of welding experience.
- Associate's degree in welding or non-welding engineering, engineering technology or physical science: 2+ years of welding experience.
- High school diploma or approved equivalent: 5+ years of welding experience.
- Completed 8th grade: 9+ years of welding experience.
- Completed less than 8th grade: 12+ years of welding experience.
You must be able to document both your education level and your work experience. Some engineering, technical and trade courses may be substituted for or applied to the required education, and this may possibly reduce the work experience needed.
CAWI and SCWI levels. If you don’t have the required number of years of experience, you may be able to become a Certified Associate Welding Inspector (CAWI). For example, if you have a high school diploma or its equivalent and two to five years of experience, you can become a CAWI, if you pass the test. With two more years of coursework, you only need six months of welding experience to become a CAWI. Once you gain the necessary work experience, you can convert your CAWI designation to CWI. After more experience, you can upgrade your certification to Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI).
Registering for the test costs $850 for AWS members and $1,060 for non-members, as of October 2018, but your employer may pay for it. AWS offers CWI seminars and an online CWI course that can help you prepare for the CWI test, and combination seminar/test packages that can save you money. Requirements and prices can change at any time, so check with the AWS for specifics.
As of October 2018, the median CWI salary was $61,222. In comparison, the median welder salary, as of May 2017, was $40,240. A median salary is the midpoint in a list of salaries for one occupation, where half earned more and half earned less.
About the Industry
CWIs work under the same conditions as welders. You could work indoors in tight spaces; outdoors in all kinds of weather; underground or up on high scaffolding. Although there are strict safety regulations, welders have high injury rates. Most CWIs work full-time and often work overtime, as well. If your company operates two or three shifts, you could work nights and weekends, too.
Years of Experience
It takes a combination of education and work experience to become a CWI. This is to give you the knowledge and confidence you need to go for your CWI credential.
Job Growth Trend
The need for welders is expected to grow 6 percent between 2016 and 2026. New construction, aging infrastructures and repairs all call for the skills of welders. As more welders are needed, the demand for CWIs will grow, too.