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One of the more confusing topics in the welding profession for new students concerns welding certifications. How do I become a certified welder? Will I be a certified welder when I finish the training program? Who offers certifications?
To begin, certifications are numerous, and there is no clear cut path a student has to take in order to become a certified welder. One thing we can say with certainty, in order to be certified by the American Welding Society (AWS) in a weld process, a welder must pass a performance test in the process. This welding test must be performed at an AWS Accredited Test Facility in order to become a certified welder.
When a school states that they prepare students to sit for an AWS performance test in a specific welding process, what does that mean? It means; 1) The school offers welding training, and 2) The student is eligible to sit through the AWS certification performance exam. It also implies that the training received at the school prepares them to TAKE the exam…not necessarily PASS the exam. I would ask any school that makes this statement for the following:
- Number of graduates from the training program
- Number of graduates who took the Certification Exam
- Number of graduates who passed the Certification Exam and became a Certified Welder in the specific process.
Do I have to go to school to become a certified welder?
In order to become a certified welder you must take the AWS Certification Exam at an AWS Accredited Test Facility (ATF). I find no requirements from AWS that state a welder must be trained (see http://www.aws.org/certification/detail/certified-welder-program). They must schedule the test at an AWS-ATF. They must pay the fee required for the test. Finally, they must pass the test and pay a fee to AWS to process the ATF’s results.
How about AWS SENSE Certification? AWS has two levels of SENSE Training Certification (http://www.aws.org/education/Sense). The certification relates to the training program offered by the training facility or school. SENSE Level I is called an Entry Level Welder and SENSE Level II is called an Advanced Welder. Realize these titles refer to the welder training curriculum. The Acronym “SENSE” stands for Schools Excelling through National Skills Education. The training program is recognized by AWS based on curriculum and equipment used in the laboratory activities. Students who successfully complete the training and pass the rigorous exams in the training program, are eligible to submit their results to AWS and receive a certification that they completed that level of SENSE training. Career College of Northern Nevada obtained certification from AWS as a SENSE Level II training program and agrees to abide by the provision of AWS QC11 Specifications for Qualification of Level II and AWS EG3.0 Guide for the Training of Welding Personnel, Level II. The Certification a CCNN Graduate receives upon successful completion of the training program and passing the rigorous exams, both written and performance based, states that the graduate was trained to those specifications.
Many employers have seen benefits from becoming an ATF or certifying their own facility in the manufacturing processes to assure their customers that they meet the standards of AWS. An employer may have a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) on staff. The CWI may be able to qualify a weld process completed by a welder that works for the facility. The employer may have their own processes of verifying a welder’s welding ability. Additionally, an employer may rely on an ATF to certify a welder in a process the employer needs. It is important to speak with employers about their requirements for hiring welders to find out which path to certification is important to you.
Becoming a master welder requires hard work on the student’s part. A school or training facility can only offer training in welding. It is up to the student to master any of the skills taught by the school. A new student who has several years of experience in welding will most likely excel more quickly through the skills training than a new student with no welding experience.
CCNN’s program is designed to walk a person with no experience through the welding training program to teach them to weld. Any experience the student has prior to the training is only going to make them a better welder, if they put in the effort to become better. This means that you must be prepared to put in more than the required 20 hours per week of class time. CCNN’s training facility provides the opportunity for extra practice throughout the week day and during the weekend. Employers have told us that they want welders who can weld and we developed the training program with employment in mind.
It is also important to understand that like any other form of learning, learning takes place in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom. Learning is a life-long process. Certifications are a proxy for your ability to learn and to master a welding process. While this can be accomplished in the 12 month training offered by CCNN or any other training facility, it cannot be guaranteed since it is up to the student to master the welding skills required to pass the certification exams and become a certified welder.
The more you practice the more likely you will pass. Let’s burn some metal!