How to Become a Certified Welder

Thinking about how to become a certified welder? Read this article to discover all steps that you need to know about.

According to the Advanced Career Institute, employment for welders is expected to grow at a rate of 6% between 2016 and 2026. This is at par with the average for other jobs.

But keep in mind that job growth and earning prospects will be best for those who update themselves with the latest technology and knowledge according to the same source. Of course, skill level also matters. Hence, if you are interested in welding, you should focus on certification and continued training to make your career prospects brighter.

The right level of certification may take you to the top 10 percent of welders who are earning over $63,000 annually. The median earning is more than $41,000. These are very good figures considering that welding does not require a college degree.

One of the great perks for welders is that their jobs are resilient to economic recessions. Since similar welding skills are required for different industries, welders can switch industries if they so desire. So if your industry is not doing so well, you can easily apply for a job with confidence in another industry. Welding is a versatile occupation.

After completing training at your local welding school, you can become a certified welder not just to find a great welding job but also to enhance your career prospects.

But before delving further into how you can become a welder, you must first consider the demands of this field to know what it takes to become a successful welder.

What It Takes to Become a Certified Welder

At the very outset you must understand that you will have to be physically and mentally fit if you want to pursue a career as a commercial welder. You need a great deal of manual dexterity. Even if you are not particularly skilled with your hands, you need to have the motivation to practice long hours so that you can become manually adroit.

You also need to have a great sense of focus. When it comes to welding there is no room for distraction, since a little carelessness can lead to a serious accident or catastrophic failure in the equipment that you are welding. You should have the mental strength to remain focused on repetitive tasks for extended time periods.

You need to have a serious interest in this trade. Professional welders are very proud of what they do and are very meticulous about following the required standards and procedures in order to do the job successfully.

You will need to have great initiative and high motivation since you may have to be proactive about finding an apprenticeship in a competitive job market. There certainly is a high demand for highly skilled welders, but early on you will not have an in-depth welding skill set.

You should play smart and first try your hand at easier low paying jobs to get started. As you begin to acquire skills, dexterity and practical knowledge, you can work your way up for better pay and job prospects.

As a welder, you must be a resilient person who is capable of thriving in a tough and hazardous environment. Commercial welders have to work in the midst of toxic fumes, sparks, spattering and molten metal. If you are motivated enough to face this daunting environment then you can go ahead with welding.

But if you are hesitant then you really should consider changing to a different career track. There is no point in working in conditions that you will resent for the rest of your life.

You must have a fascination for heavy machinery and equipment since this is what you will be dealing with while welding for maintenance and repair.

You should also do your own research to find out about the hazards of welding and what you can do to mitigate these risks.

Who Are Certified Welders?

Welding is a highly skilled profession that requires a depth of proficiency, knowledge and hand-eye coordination. Welding is the key to manufacturing, oil and gas, construction and other key industries. Welders operate on structures ranging from bridges to aircraft. The stability and strength of these structures is critical for public safety. Hence, employers demand welders who can demonstrate high level of adroitness that comes with certification and training.

After you enter the welding field, you can seek two kinds of certifications.

  1. American Welding Society certification
  2. Employer certification

Here are the details on both of these certifications:

Employer Certification

Traditionally, employment testing has served as the basis for this kind of welding certification. Employers carry out testing to verify that the candidate is competent enough to handle the welding processes that the job entails.

But it is necessary to keep in mind that employer certifications are very specific and have limited scope. This kind of certification confirms that you are good at a particular welding process within a limited range of positions, processes, thickness and metals.

This certification says nothing about welding aspects that lie beyond its narrow scope. So if you want to work beyond the aspects proven by the employer certificate – a new welding process, for instance – you will need a new certification to prove it.

All employer certifications are unique. Hence, you must scrutinize these certifications in detail to understand the value they hold. You will also be aware of the areas where you will be examined when you undertake the test.

Employment testing provides certifications for these categories:

Welding Processes

Some of the most common welding processes that are tested include Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding (GTAW), Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) and Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). You will need a different certificate for each process.


You can receive certification for a welding process done for specific metals like aluminum, steel, titanium, copper, stainless steel and more. For instance, you may be certified for the GTAW process on aluminum. If you want to be certified for the same process on a different metal then you will have to take another test specifically designed for this.

Thickness Range

The metal section thickness that you worked on during the test will give the base metal thickness range for which you are qualified. For instance, suppose you are examined for 3/8 inch carbon steel. Then you may also be qualified to work on a thickness range from 3/16 in to ¾ in.

Filler Metal

If you pass the test for a particular size and type of filler metal, then you must take another test to be certified for other kinds of filler metals.

Shielding Gas

If you are certified for passing the test that uses a particular shielding gas, it does not mean that you are qualified for all other shielding gases. You will have to demonstrate your abilities for other gases separately.

Welding Positions

During the test, you will be welding pipe, structural or plate material. For each kind mentioned, there are also different positions such as overhead, vertical, horizontal and flat. There may also be further categories. For instance, pipe welding can be done in a 45 degree fixed position and also in a fixed horizontal position.

Joint Design

Certification may also be specific for one weld type such as fillet or groove.


The test may certify just one kind of power supply such as high frequency, pulsed power, DC or AC.

Now that you know the specifics of employer certifications, it is time to understand what you can gain from American Welding Society or AWS certification.

AWS Certification

AWS certification is now well recognized in the welding profession since it has a standardized testing format. As such, it gaining wider acceptance and assuming greater importance.

After you pass welding school, you may be interested in completing the Certified Welder course. This certification will test you on all kinds of specifications such as industry standard specifications, non-code company-issued specifications and of course, AWS Standard Welding Procedures.

There are many employers who now favor AWS certification rather than their own test.

If you can include this certification in your resume then you can demonstrate your impressive all-round welding skills to your future employers.

Practical Knowledge and Safety Test

You are probably aware by now that the AWS certification is more comprehensive than employer certifications. In the AWS test, you will have to answer a written section to demonstrate your understanding of safety and practical knowledge. You must score at least 90 percent in the safety section and at least 75 percent in the practical knowledge part.

Hands-On Practical Testing

During this test, you must select the right materials and prepare the joints and welding machine according to QC7 standards and safety protocols that you are being certified for.

How Many Welding Certifications Can I Add to My Resume?

As you would know by now, there are several different kinds of employer certifications. However, they are non-standard. That is, each employer test has its own procedure and is therefore different. Therefore, judging certificates from different employers for the same categories is difficult.

AWS certifications offer the advantages of standard testing and widespread recognition which can add value to your qualification. You can gain several different kinds of AWS certifications to bolster your resume. You can select from 7 specialized AWS certifications to augment your skill set and become a highly sought after welder for industry.

Other Certifications

You should know that there are also other societies which offer valuable welding certificates which can enhance your prestige such as those from the American Petroleum Institute and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Most of these certificates require a certain level of experience. Hence they are most suitable for those welders who have worked in industry for a few years at least.

What Steps Should I Take to Get Welding Certification?

Here are the steps that you must take to become a certified welder with a bright future ahead of you.

Welding Training

Before thinking about training as a welder, you should keep in mind that you need a high school diploma since tradesmen are expected to be well-educated. You will benefit from your knowledge of geometry and basic mathematics. This learning will become the foundation that will serve you well throughout your continued education and training including advanced certifications.

After you complete your high school diploma, you can consider joining a welding school to gain a certificate in a short time frame. This will allow you to quickly enter the workforce and start gaining valuable experience. Not only will this experience equip you with the necessary expertise and skills, it will also help you to meet work experience requirements of the AWS welding certifications.

Prior to joining any welding school, you should research the best welding schools around you. Getting vocational training is one of the best ways to get started. You can then augment your resume with further certificates and education to advance in your career.

Moreover, vocational schools can help you to find apprenticeships and jobs that will jumpstart your welding career.

To find out more about which welding school programs suit your needs best, you can visit this link to search the exhaustive database of the American Welding Society.

You may want to know about the most renowned welding schools in the country. The Lincoln Welding School, the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology and the Tulsa Welding School are at the most well known and prestigious institutes.

You should search your area for trade schools and vocational training centers. These almost always have a comprehensive welding program. You can also check out community colleges since they frequently offer welding courses.

The AWS also provides scholarships through their website. Several unions and companies also offer scholarships since there is a high demand for welders. You should be resourceful and learn more about scholarship opportunities in your area to pay for your education and also to earn distinction that will impress future employers.

You need to demonstrate a high level of skill to attain a welding certification. You should therefore focus on acquiring practical skills during your time in welding school.

In most schools, the training program duration is for 6 to 18 months. There are many vocational schools which allow you to complete their program well under a year. For instance, the Tulsa Welding School offers a 7 month training program with an emphasis on practical skills and career preparation.

During this training program you will have to attend classes as well as undergo practical training to become proficient in welding.

These welding programs can vary greatly in terms of cost. Their cost can be a minimum of $3,500 or as high as $20,000.

In order to understand which welding program is most relevant for you, contact welding schools to know what they are offering and to get more information.

If you are interested in building a sound foundation for your welding career then you can opt for an associate degree. An associate degree for welding technology is usually for 2 years. You will get to complete several comprehensive courses. The cost of these associate degrees can range between $6,000 and $55,000.

There is also the bachelor degree for welding engineering which is a 4 year program.

You can aim for the associate or even the bachelor degree on account of their numerous benefits. With the bachelor degree you are demonstrating that you have in-depth knowledge of welding which makes you suitable for a supervisory or leadership roles. As a result you will be able to quickly reach managerial position and advance rapidly in your welding career. With a bachelor degree, you will be able to earn highest income and progress rapidly.


You can learn a lot of valuable skills, gain practical knowledge and experience through an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship can prepare you to enter the welding industry for a rewarding career.

While working as an apprentice, you will be able to understand about the best welding practices as well as standards. An apprenticeship is a great way of seeing these standards and practices in action to understand them better and to incorporate them into your own work.

What’s more, you will also earn money while you are learning and gain valuable work experience which can vastly improve your employment opportunities. You will acquire plenty of insights as to what to expect when you join a company as a full-time welding professional.

Your time as an apprentice will teach you many valuable skills that will be of immense throughout your welding career including specialized certifications.

Enroll in a Welding Certification Program

With a comprehensive welding certificate you can validate your skill set and experience in front of your potential employer.

Certificates offered by the American Welding Society are the gold standard in the welding profession.

Several exciting certifications are available for different specializations in welding. Here they are:

  • Certified Welder
  • Certified Associate Welding Inspector
  • Certified Welding Inspectors
  • Senior Certified Welding Inspector
  • Certified Robotic Arc Welding
  • Certified Welding Engineer
  • Certified Welding Sales Representative
  • Certified Welding Supervisor
  • Certified Radiographic Interpreter

Here are the details of what you need to do for some of the most highly demanded AWS certificates:

Certified Welder (CW)

You can undertake this examination easily since it has no requirements. The cost is just $35. You must take the test at a center that is accredited by the AWS.

Along with the certificate, you will also get credentials which are transferable.

During this program, you will be given practical knowledge and training for completing welding projects involving plant machinery, sheet metal, petroleum pipelines, structural steel and other aspects.

You will be given a thorough understanding of the QC7 standard and related supplements. You can take this QC7 standard with you for the test.

To pass the test, you must have complete knowledge of all supplements as well as the standard. Here is what you will be studying.

QC7Standard for AWS Certified Welders
QC7Supplement CWelder Performance Qualification Sheet Metal Test Requirements
QC7Supplement FChemical Plant and Petroleum Refinery Piping
QC7Supplement GAWS Performance Qualification Test (generic supplement)

To keep your certification valid, you must submit the certification maintenance form every 6 months in accordance with the Code of Acceptance. In short, you have to verify on the form that you are performing the welding procedures for which you were certified.

This course will cover all the basics of welding to equip you with necessary skills and knowledge to advance your career. You will understand how to complete work orders, configure equipment correctly, use the correct welding techniques for different positions, use welding gear safely and read welding diagrams and blueprints.

Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)

You can meet the requirements for enrolling in this certificate program in a number of different ways.

You can apply for this distinguished program by means of 3 to 4 years of documented work experience. You will also need to have a degree, diploma or postsecondary certificate.

During this course, you will cover 3 main areas: welding code application, practical applications and welding basics.

This program runs for the duration of 3 years. If you are a member of the AWS, then the cost of this course will be $850. For non-members, the cost will be $1,065.

To obtain the certificate, you have to pass the practical and written test. In the practical test, you will be demonstrating your knowledge of the codebook, inspection tools, weld joints and other aspects of welding inspection.

The first written test comprises of 150 questions while the second test has up to 60 questions depending on the specialization that you selected.

This certificate must be renewed every 3 years.

As a certified welding inspector, you will have to do field work and examine all details of welding projects under your responsibility. You will also have to office work by compiling reports of your findings. Inspectors usually work on a full-time basis and have to adopt standard welding safety practices to avoid the dangers associated with welding.

Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI)

To enroll in the Senior Certified Welding Inspector program you should have a minimum of 6 years CWI work experience. You must also have at least 15 years of weld associated professional experience. In addition to giving a written test, you must also clear the eye examination. For the certification to remain valid, you need to renew it after every 3 years.

You must also complete the requirements of the 9 year recertification cycle for SCWI and CWI certificates through examination or continued education.

This certificate costs $850 for members and $1,065 for non-members.

Certified Welding Educator (CWE)

You will need to meet certain requirements to be eligible for this program.

First, you have to complete the application process for the Certified Welding Educator. You also need to have a full-time job as a classroom teacher. A valid welding certificate is also necessary.

A letter of recommendation is needed to support your teaching abilities.

For members, this certification will cost $635 while for non-members, the cost is $850.

Highest Paying Welding Job

While pursuing a career in welding, you would be interested to know about the highest paying welding job.

The pipe welder is the most well paid welding professional. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, pipe welding itself is quite a challenging task. You will have to be adroit at welding in different positions and orientations to manage the circular cross sections of pipes efficiently.

Second, pipe welding is a critical task because pipes are literally the lifeline of industries. Pipes require strong and robust welds to serve reliably. Any leakage or breakdown means that production will cease while expensive repairs are underway which could last several hours.

Pipe welding accounts for around 4 percent of all welding jobs. The average salary is above $58,000 while the most experienced and skillful welders are earning over $70,000 per annum.

Pipe welders can expect to work in several industries including oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical and energy industries. In fact, there is hardly any industry which does not have a need for an efficient piping network.

Another tip to increase your pay is to relocate. If you are willing to relocate, you can increase your earnings considerably since there is a significant difference in average salaries across the states.

Texas not only has the most welding jobs, the average pay there is also above the national average.