Expanding career paths

Thanks to an abundant number of AWS certifications, learning to lay down a weld is just the first step in the welding career journey


For many individuals, learning to weld has offered a chance at a stable, lucrative career – a career to be proud of. However, many welders are unsure of how to take their careers to the next level despite the numerous options the trade affords. When welders are unaware of career development opportunities, they miss out on the chance for higher salaries and better positions by enhancing their skill sets in an industry they already know they love.

One of the key missions of the American Welding Society (AWS) is to shed light on those opportunities and offer the tools welders need to advance in their field. A visit to the AWS website quickly reveals the organization’s overriding goals.

The AWS can help members gain certification in a variety of programs, including welding educator, radiographic interpreter, welding supervisor, welding sales representative, welding inspector, welding engineer and robotic arc welding as well as its certified welder program.

“Advancing the science, technology, and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes worldwide: that’s our mission and it’s why we exist. Whether you’re here to explore membership, certification, advanced training, updated standards, conferences, professional collaborations or the many exciting career opportunities in welding today – we are here to support you. Count on AWS for the leading-edge industry knowledge, resources and tools you need to achieve even greater business and career success.”

As the AWS mission suggests, certification provides so many advantages, particularly for welders. According to the AWS, earning specialized welding certification can lead to higher salaries and greater job stability. Also, by taking the steps to become certified, it proves to employers that a welder is proactive about his or her career and that they could be leadership material.

Advanced certifications aren’t just advantageous to welders; employers can benefit, too. When an employer provides its welders the financial and/or scheduling support they need to attain specialized certification, it frequently leads to long-term employee retention, which produces more consistent, high-quality work and results in improved business opportunities.

Pick your career path

AWS highlights eight certification programs that employers seeking to secure their workforce and welders looking to enhance their skills or advance their careers should consider. They include certified welder (CW), certified welding supervisor (CWS) and certified welding inspector (CWI). More specialized certifications offered include certified welding educator (CWE), certified welding engineer (CWEng), certified welding sales representative (CWSR), certified radiographic interpreter (CRI) and certified robotic arc welding (CRAW).

By pursuing a specialized welding certification, welders can aim for higher salaries and better job stability. Employers benefit from the confidence that comes from giving their welders more complex work.

The following list highlights each certification and gives a brief description, showing how it can serve as a career path for welders as well as a unique method for employers to increase the welding knowledge base on their shop floors.

Certified welder (CW): Once a welder earns a CW, they are awarded “transferrable” credentials that they take with them to any job, proving that they have been tested – and passed – on procedures used in industries such as chemical refinery, sheet metal, structural steel and petroleum pipelines.

Certified welding supervisor (CWS): The CWS enables managers, lead welders, foremen, procurement managers and inspectors to ensure productivity is maximized and that a higher level of work is achieved on the shop floor and out in the field, thereby improving company profits. To accomplish that end goal, CWS focuses four important metrics: safety, cost, quality and productivity.

Certified welding inspector (CWI): From associate certification to senior-level credentials, the CWI offers welders the chance to expand their careers. As is true with the other certifications, earning the title of CWI can lead to a lucrative and rewarding future.

Certified welding education (CWE): Gaining the CWE from the AWS proves you have the talent, ability and knowledge to direct and perform welder training and classroom instruction duties. It’s especially well-suited for individuals that have interest in being an educator or a knack for teaching and guiding others.

Certified welding engineer (CWEng): For those with an interest in directing operations associated with weldments and other types of joints, the CWEng is a great fit. In fact, it is the only professional certification for welding engineers issued in the United States. Employers, therefore, often consider it as a prerequisite before hiring welding engineers.

Certified welding sales representative (CWSR): As exemplified in the CWSR program, a career in welding doesn’t always require one to weld day in and day out. Welders who have achieved the CWSR use the extensive knowledge they gained out in the field to provide valued sales advice on a variety of products.

AWS certification helps welders take their careers to the next level.

Certified radiographic interpreter (CRI): The CRI program is designed to teach welders how to identify proper film exposure, correctly select image quality indicators, characterize indications and use acceptance criteria according to AWS, API and ASME codes. By earning this certification, welders have shown the ability to assess welding-related indications on radiographic film and related media.

Certified robotic arc welding (CRAW): Staying current with the welding industry means understanding the value of welding automation and understanding how to operate the associated equipment, which is why the CRAW certification is so valuable in today’s day and age. This program allows welders to measure themselves against standards for their occupation, but also shows that they have demonstrated the capability to work within specifications, standards and codes related to robotic arc welding.

The more you know

AWS estimates that by 2020, there will be a job deficit of 290,000, which means employers are aggressively pursuing new hires. So, for those currently working as welders, now is the time to jump on a certification that looks appealing to get into a better position and not only earn a higher salary but long-term job stability, as well.

When welders are scarce, employers must ensure that their crew is top notch. And just because a welder has years of experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee they can pass a certification exam. Therefore, it’s recommended that employers help their welders improve their skills through certification.

To get the ball rolling, AWS offers guidelines for who can be certified based on their level of education. For example, with the CWI certification, welders with a bachelor’s or higher degree in welding engineering or welding technology must also have a year of welding-based work experience before they can become certified. However, for welders with less than an 8th grade education, they must have 12 years of welding-based work experience before they can register for CWI certification.

The certified welding sales representative program is ideal for sales-oriented individuals that also have experience welding in the field. The certification gives customers piece of mind that they are receiving the best purchasing advice available.

To get advanced understanding as to how these certification programs can work and for what types of applications they’re beneficial, stay tuned to Welding Productivity throughout 2019. We’ll be partnering with AWS to highlight the ways that the field of welding continues to offer lucrative opportunities to both employees and employers.

American Welding Society

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