Welding certification can be very confusing to people that are new to or are researching the welding career field. People often confuse “certification” and “certificate” and some welders claim to be a “certified welder” which in all reality is not possible. In the below article I will give you an in depth information about welding certifications.
The Complete Guide: Welding Certification Information
Welding certifications are very important for many reasons and it is important that you have a complete understanding of how the welding certification process works for numerous reasons.
What is a welding certification?
The definition of a welding certification.
A welding certification is a strictly regulated welding test that most often adheres to standards set forth by the AWS, ASME and API organizations. The welding test is performed on a specified thickness of metal, in a specified position(s) with a specified welding process on plate or pipe of any type of metal that is graded as pass or fail. The test will be overseen in its entirety by a certified welding inspector.
As you can see a welder is not simply certified to weld anything, he or she can only be certified to weld with a specific welding process on that type of metal and thickness range that he or she tests on. The position of the plate or pipe that you are welding is also a determining factor in your certification. Welders often have several, if not many different welding certifications. It is also important to note that certifications can expire.
Purpose of welding certifications
There is not one reason why having welding certifications exist.
- Standards and codes are very important when constructing anything, particularly when people’s lives rely on that product. Engineers need to know that a weld will perform in exactly the same manner every single time a welder makes a weld. A welding certification allows standards to be set and proved for safety reasons.
- Certifications also allow a welder to communicate on paper that they have the ability to make quality welds. This helps employers find good welders and having certifications will help you get a better job than welders with no certifications.
What a welding certification looks like
Here is an example of a welding certification test report that I took in 2001 when I was attending welding school. This welding test was for the (SMAW) AWS D1.1 welding code. You can click on the certification test report to expand the veiw.
Welding certifiaction structure and determining factors
There are many aspects to a welding certification as you can see in the above example. Let’s take explore each part of what makes up a welding certification.
This is the type of welding that is used during the test. Most commonly it will be stick (SMAW), MIG (GMAW) or TIG (GTAW). You are only qualified/certified on that particular welding process.
You are only qualified to weld on the same metal that you tested on. Certifications never carry over to different base metals. Example: If you certify on stainless steel your certification is only valid to weld stainless steel.
Types of welds and welding positions
This can be a little confusing, I actually have an entire page dedicated to just welding positions. Here is a quick overview though.
There are two types of welds; fillet welds and groove welds. There are actually a lot more than two like plug welds and spot welds but you will not run into these types very often unless you are in the manufacturing sector.
- Fillet weld – This a weld that joins two pieces of metal together that are perpendicular or at an angle in relation to each other.
- Groove weld – This weld is made in a opening between two metal plates.
Welding positions are indicated by numbers, and then followed by the letter “F” or “G” indicating fillet weld or groove weld.
Welding Positions are as follows:
- 1 – Flat position
- 2 – Horizontal position
- 3 – Vertical position
- 4 – Overhead position
Example: A 2G weld would mean a horizontal groove weld and 4F weld would be an overhead fillet weld.
Pipe welding is almost always a groove weld and has four different positions as follows.
- 1G – Flat, the pipe is not in a fixed position and can be rolled.
- 2G – The pipe is in a fixed vertical position.
- 5G – The pipe is in a fixed horizontal position.
- 6G – The pipe is in a fixed 45 degree angle.
Each welding certification requires a specific position but there are exceptions.
Here is a example under AWS D1.1 welding code. If you test on a 1G weld and pass you are only certified to weld in the (1) flat position BUT if you test in the 3G and 6G positions you are automatically certified to weld in ALL POSITIONS.
Testing under ASME Section IX pipe welding is similar to the above example. If you take and pass the welding test in the 6G position you are certified to weld in ALL POSITIONS.
Certifications are only good for ranges of material thicknesses.
Example: If you pass the AWS D1.1 welding certification test welding on 3/8″ thick plate you are only certified to weld 1/8″ to 3/4″ thicknesses.
Welding certification test process and what to expect
The process of obtaining a welding certification is pretty straight forward. I have broken down the exact steps that will happen when you take a welding certification tests. Please keep in mind that each inspector is a little different and the process may change slightly depending on how he likes things done.
You will be under the watchful eye of a certified welding inspector during the entire length of the welding certification test. The inspector will bring the plate or pipe with him that you are testing on. Make sure that you visually check the plate or pipe you will be welding for any defects. It should be clean and perfectly machined.
Next you will prepare your joint for welding. If it is a groove weld on plate you will have to most likely have to tack a backer plate to it. Make sure that the plate is spaced perfectly to code! If you are welding pipe make sure the joint is perfectly straight and has the proper gap needed.
After you have tacked together your plate or pipe you will have to tack it into the proper position. Once the sample is tacked into position is can NOT ever be moved or adjusted until the completion of the test. I highly suggest that you tack the sample into position very well, you do not want it moving or falling off or you will immediately fail on the spot!!!
At this point the inspector will most likely inspect your set up. He will be looking for the following things.
- That the sample is in the correct position. If you are taking a 6G pipe welding certification test that means it must be at 45 degrees, not 39 or 50 degrees. Same goes for any position, vertical is vertical and horizontal is horizontal!
- He will also check that you have fitted and tacked together the sample properly. Make sure you have done everything to code!
After the welding inspector has told you to proceed you are now officially testing and can not adjust or move the sample in anyway. The inspector will either check in on you periodically, watch you the entire time or completely ignore you. I have seen all three happen, you just never know.
After you complete the weld the inspector will do a visual check on your sample. He will be looking for the following thing.
- The sample is in the original position and has not been moved.
- He will also visually inspect the weld looking for defects like porosity and undercut.
After he inspects the weld he will tell you that you are clear to remove the weld sample and he will take take it with him for testing. At this point you are finished with your welding certification test. The sample will be taken to a lab and tested.
How a weld sample is tested
There are several ways that a weld sample can be tested but the most common is destructive testing. Some certifications or employers may also utilize NDT (non-destructive testing) like an x-ray. When the inspector returns to his lab your test sample will be machined and/or ground flat.
Destructive testing procedure for welding certification
After the weld is ground flat they will select sections of the sample to be tested, these sections are often called coupons. Most certifications require two root bends and two face bends.
The below diagram shows where the weld test coupons will be taken from, they avoid areas where the sample was tacked together. The coupons will be cut from the weld sample, polished and the corners/edges will be slightly rounded to reduce stress during the bending process.
Sharp corners and edges carry stress and will crack under intense pressure. This is why most structural steel have slightly rounded edges.
After the coupons are cut and prepared they will be bent with a hydraulic press to a 180 degree “U” shape.
This process will be repeated until all of the weld coupons are are bent. They will then visually be inspected for any type of defects. Defects may include the following.
Every welding code has allowable defect tolerances. If the test coupon meets or is below the maximum defects allowed then you will pass the welding certification test. If any of the weld coupons exceed the maximum number of defects then you will fail the certification test.
Non destructive testing for welding certification
Non destructive testing is much simpler but is more thorough and the slightest imperfection will show up like a sore thumb. There are four common non destructive testing methods.
- Radiographic weld Inspection – This method is also known as a x-ray and is very versatile but not viable to use on fillet welds. Defects show up on the film just like a broken bone would.
- Magnetic Particle Inspection – Not as thorough as radiographic weld testing but excels at detecting minor undercut and surface defects that can not be seen by the naked eye.
- Liquid Penetrant Inspection – This test uses a dye that is applied to the weld surface and highlights any defects.
- Ultrasonic Inspection – I believe that this is the most thorough non destructive testing method. It shows subsurface and surface defects that can not be seen with the naked eye.
As you can see welding certifications vary greatly depending on the specific welding code. If you are new to the welding field I highly suggest getting every certification that you can. Welding is not just about welding, it is an art that requires skill, knowledge and dedication.
Other helpful resources
- National Welding School Directory – Find a quality welding school near you.
- Top Welding Schools – Find out which welding schools offer the best welder training.
- Tips for Choosing a Welding – Things to look for in a good welding school. Free printable welding school checklist included!
- How Much Do Welders Make – A real world look at welding wages and how to make good money.
- Types of Welding Jobs – Find out which welding career path you might be interested in.
- Welding Equipment Reviews – Take a look at recommended welding gear.