Even if you’ve only been working in the welding trade for a short time, chances are you’ve encountered
a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI). According to the American Welding Society (AWS), the welding industry’s premier trade association, the CWI credential is a nationally and internationally recognized certification, designating a high level of expertise in the welding field—a CWI credential is universally respected.
Acquiring a CWI credential requires education, several years of on the job welding experience, and passing the CWI certification exam. But the rewards are well worth the additional time and effort, as a CWI’s earning potential is significantly higher than an average welder, and you don’t actually have to weld, making the job safer and less stressful than your typical welding job. Becoming a CWI is also a great stepping stone to even more lucrative career fields, a Radiographic Interpreter being one example.
You will, however, have to jump through a few hoops to earn your CWI - the following is a list of the four basic hurdles you’ll need to clear in order to earn your CWI credential:
- A Bachelors or Associates degree in a related field will definitely speed the process along, but those degrees are not definitive requirements. A high school education, however, is a basic necessity, as anything less than an 8th grade education requires 9-12 years of on the job welding experience—which is certainly possible, but finishing high school or acquiring your GED is in your best interest if you really want to become a CWI. The AWS also recommends several specific courses that you should complete prior to applying for your CWI certification.
- You only need three years of on the job experience to qualify for the CWI exam if you already have a Bachelors or Associates degree in a related field. If you only have a high school diploma or a GED, a minimum of five years on the job experience is generally required to qualify for the CWI exam.
- AWS suggest that you complete several courses, including a welding codes course, prior to applying for the CWI exam. They also recommend that you enroll in a CWI exam preparatory course prior to taking the CWI exam. You can download the CWI exam form here, fill it out and mail it to AWS. The exam is offered on a regular basis, but keep in mind, AWS must be in receipt of your application form at least six weeks prior to your intended exam date.
- The CWI exam is divided into sections A, B and C. Section A covers fundamentals, and consists of 150 questions on the basics of welding practice. Section B covers applied methods, and consists of 46 questions on practical, real-world welding situations. Section C covers welding codes, and is open book, allowing you to consult a welding codes book—so don’t forget to bring your codes book! 72% is the minimum passing grade.
After you complete the CWI exam and earn a passing grade, you will receive your American Welding Society CWI credential, and be well on your way to fame and fortune in the welding trade as a Certified Welding Inspector.