For more than 100 years, the American Welding Society (AWS) has been committed to advancing the science, technology and application of welding in the United States and, subsequently, around the world. Based on this critical mission, the organization is an important topic of coverage in FAB Shop Magazine’s sister publication, Welding Productivity. Whether it’s a new program focused on our nation’s veterans or outreach and mentorship to the next generation of welders, AWS is a major source for news that’s important to our readers.
AWS certification might perhaps be the largest contribution the organization makes to the industry, however. With these professional credentials, current and aspiring welders can achieve lucrative and rewarding careers while producing the safest and most structurally sound products possible.
The AWS certification program began in 1976 with the introduction of the Certified Welding Inspector credential. Since then, AWS has certified more than 100,000 welding inspectors plus thousands more across the organization’s additional certification programs. Those certifications include:
Certified Welder (CW)
Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)
Certified Welding Educator (CWE)
Certified Welding Supervisor (CWS)
Certified Welding Engineer (CWEng)
Certified Radiographic Interpreter (CRI)
Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT)
Certified Welding Sales Representative (CWSR)
Certified Robotic Arc Welding – Operators and Technicians (CRAW)
Other than the CW credential, which is performance based and does not require prerequisite courses, the CWI is probably the most widely held certification. The work of a CWI is incredibly important as they are responsible for examining the bonds and connections between metals to ensure they were performed correctly and safely. The structural integrity of bridges, buildings and other major aspects of our country’s infrastructure are in their hands – and are laid out in the 500-plus-page D1.1 code book, which CWIs must learn inside and out.
Because of the critical nature of the job and the vast amount of knowledge required to perform the work, the CWI exam requires extensive preparation. One year of studying is recommended prior to taking the exam, which demands a deep understanding of what’s in the code book.
Fortunately, AWS has developed various seminars, resources and materials to help welders get ready for the three-part CWI exam. Areas of focus include welding processes, welding metallurgy, welding symbols, welding qualifications, quality control, fabrication and inspection methods. A host of study materials are available through the AWS online bookstore, including the code books, practice guides, manuals and specification documents.
Knowing that everyone absorbs material in different ways, AWS offers various methods for welders to prepare for the CWI exam, including in-person prep courses as well as an online self-paced pre-seminar that features 10 multi-media courses over 80 hours of instruction. Each course is divided into short, easy-to-understand modules that can be accessed online at a welder’s convenience.
If testing, specifically non-destructive testing, is of interest to a welder the AWS also offers its CRI credential. The exam is multiple-choice consisting of two, three-hour parts: a general knowledge and code book portion, and a practical film interpretation portion. AWS offers an in-person seminar for the certification with the exam being held the day after the seminar at the same location.
For welders that are interested in earning CWE certification, the CWI and CWE credentials can be earned simultaneously. This means that no additional training or seminars are required as long as the individual meets the following criteria: Teaches at least part time (this can include training welders at a place of business), has a valid welder’s certificate and has a written recommendation from a supervisor that validates their ability to not only teach but also weld to certain qualifications.
Among the AWS certifications, the CWS is also a popular choice among welders. The CWS isn’t just about becoming a welding supervisor or manager, though. It’s geared for anyone interested in production optimization and overall welding profitability. When a CWS is able to pinpoint the best process to optimize product flow or the best equipment to accomplish the task at hand, company profits follow.
The CWS is also often recommended for anyone interested in pursuing positions in purchasing, engineering and sales. As is true with the CWI, AWS offers a full range of study materials and courses for welders to take advantage of prior to taking the CWS exam.
For those interested in securing a position in sales, the CWSR is also a good route to take. An AWS online seminar is required before taking the exam, which can also be completed over the internet.
Creating a career
Many of the AWS certifications don’t require a degree, which is an attractive aspect of the field of welding in general; new welders can start making money right away as opposed to paying off large student debts. For those that have earned a higher education in engineering, however, they can increase their salary potential through AWS’s CWEng.
According to the AWS website, a “CWEng often prepares and produces reports, which accurately reflect professional judgment and is able to work with management representatives, inspection personnel, welders and support crafts, understanding the integrated role of each in the development of weldments.”
The remaining two AWS certifications, which don’t require a college degree, include the CRWT credential and the CRAW credential for operators and technicians. Considering the vast use of resistance welding equipment in the automotive industry and beyond, the CRWT opens up an even larger cache of career opportunities. Ray Michelena, service engineer and chief pilot at T.J. Snow Co. Inc., is a big proponent of the CRWT credential, as he explained in the May issue of Welding Productivity “When you boil it down,” he says in the article, “the CRWT certification is, quite simply, a scale of knowledge that you can expect a certified person to have.”
Michelena began his career at T.J. Snow in the service department, regularly witnessing the effects that a lack of proper training can have on the final quality of a weld. Based on those experiences, he urges anyone involved in resistance welding to get certified and take advantage of the prep courses offered by AWS.
To apply for the prep course and exam, three years of on-the-job experience in resistance welding is required. Michelena felt it important to point out, however, that “the seminar isn’t one of those courses where you study the test to get all the answers. It goes over the areas that are covered in the test to make sure you have an understanding of resistance welding, but it gets much deeper than that. It’s not only about taking the test; it’s about taking someone to the next level to help them become more advanced and knowledgeable about resistance welding.”
The final AWS credential, the CRAW, is particularly exciting for young welders that are looking to explore the futuristic world of welding. Considering the increased adoption of robotic welding technologies, however, robotic welding isn’t necessarily the future of the industry; it’s here now and requires more and more individuals to oversee the operation. Like every other AWS certification, the organization offers a host of resources to make studying and testing easier. Head to the AWS website to learn more. A rewarding future awaits.