Thinking about becoming a certified welding inspector (CWI)? If you have an eye for perfection, are creative and enjoy working with your hands, this could be the career path for you.

Certified welding inspectors play an integral role in the welding industry. Their job is to ensure each and every weld they examine is high quality, effective and most importantly, up to standard with safety regulations. This career path comes with a lot of responsibility—but it can be incredibly satusfying for those who have a passion for the trade.

If you’re considering this career, you’re in luck. Keep reading to learn all about becoming a welding inspector, from day-to-day responsibilities to the specific steps to become certified.1

What Is a Certified Welding Inspector?

Welding inspectors examine the bonds and connections between metals. They rely on electrical instruments and visual tools to analyze welds and ensure they have been done correctly and safely.

Within this career, there are several different avenues you can take. There are many different types of welding inspectors, all of which perform various tasks. For example, structural inspectors will spend time on site watching welders create structures and digitally examining them.

Additionally, some welding inspectors decide they want to go into the pipeline industry. These inspectors, commonly referred to as CPWIs (certified pipeline welding inspectors), will inspect pipelines and oversee the entire process, from the surveying of the ground, to laying the pipes, digging up ditches, inspecting the coating that goes over the welds and finally, covering the pipes. This type of inspector wears many different hats, as they are on the job from start to finish.

Welding Inspector Job Description & Required Skills

While there are different types of welding inspectors, some common skills they must possess include:

  • Communication: Successful inspectors maintain constant communication with welders, supervisors and managers to ensure everyone is informed of the project’s status.
  • Paperwork: Inspectors must be well-versed in computers and able to use software such as Excel and PowerPoint to compile their reports.
  • Understanding of Welding Vocabulary: Inspectors have the ability to walk the walk and talk the talk. They must be knowledgeable of AWS (American Welding Society) verbiage to work with their team and avoid any miscommunications.
  • Detail-Oriented: In the welding world, detail is everything. Having the ability to look at a weld and spot discontinuities and defects is key for inspectors.
  • Organization: If it’s not on paper, it never happened. Inspectors are often working on multiple projects at a time, which means it’s crucial to keep their documentation and records organized for each job.

What’s the Work Environment of a Welding Inspector?

Certified welding inspectors are exposed to the elements just like welders are. On any given day, they will spend time on job sites physically inspecting their welds — looking at them and touching them to see the entire circumference of the weld. This career may involve occasional lifting of materials, which requires inspectors to be physically fit.

In addition to working in the field, inspectors spend time in an office setting compiling their reports. According to Chris Hershman, UTI Welding instructor and CWI, inspectors typically spend anywhere from 30-40% of their time behind a computer inputting numbers and making weld maps.

To create these maps, a crew will follow the inspector and as soon as a weld passes, they mark the location with a GPS locator and the numbers are given to the inspector to put on a map. If a site needs to be revisited for any reason, these weld maps can be referred to.

Benefits & Challenges of This Career Path

As with any career, becoming a certified welding inspector comes with both benefits and challenges.

For Chris, one of the best parts about being an inspector is being able to see the process of a job from start to finish. As a CPWI, he’s involved in every step of the process — from creating the path for the pipe, to laying it to being able to walk away and see very minimal damage to the environment. Seeing how efficient this process is really sparked his passion for the field.

When it comes to challenges, Chris shares that being a welding inspector requires a lot of traveling. For those who love to travel, this is considered a perk, but for Chris, being away from his family has been difficult at times. He also shares that working in welding requires you to have a thick skin and mental toughness. “You can’t expect to be handed a certification or a job. You have to work for it,” he says.

How to Train to Become a Certified Welding Inspector

At this point, you may be wondering how to become a welding inspector. Becoming a certified welding inspector doesn’t happen overnight — this career requires a combination of training and hands-on work experience.

According to Chris, there are three different levels you can advance to as an inspector:

  • Associate Welding Inspector: As an associate welding inspector, you are not yet certified. These inspectors typically possess a 2-year Associate’s degree and apprentice under a certified welding inspector until they can test to become certified themselves.
  • Certified Welding Inspector: CWIs most usually have 5-7 years of experience working in the field. To gain their certification, they will go to an American Welding Society (AWS) hall where they take a week-long seminar, at the end of which they must pass a three-part test, which includes a written portion, eye exam and practical test. They must renew their certification after one year of working as an inspector, after 2, 3-year spans, and then every 7-9 years.
  • Senior Welding Inspector: After 9 years of being an inspector, you may be able to advance to a senior welding inspector position. Senior inspectors often oversee other inspectors and can override their calls if necessary.

For those looking to break into the field, a program like the Welding Technology Training program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) may be the perfect place to start. This 36-week program teaches students the procedures and equipment required to weld using gas metal arc (GMAW), shielded metal arc (SMAW), flux-cored arc (FCAW) and gas tungsten arc (GTAW) welders. Students will also learn how to weld in the flat, horizontal, vertical and overhead positions used for plate or sheet metal, and the fixed, rolling and overhead positions used for pipe.

After completing UTI’s program, students can typically apply for jobs that require one to five years of experience. “This program is geared towards getting you in the door into the industry above the beginner level,” Chris says. You’ll be introduced to a variety of different concepts in your courses — including the basic principles of welding, pipe welding, VRTEX® virtual welders and more.

If becoming a certified welding inspector is a dream of yours, Chris recommends getting hands-on experience in the field and perfecting your craft in order to prepare for your certification. “Having this time under your belt has a lot of validation when you walk onto a job site,” he says. Being an experienced welder can help give you the background knowledge you need to succeed as an inspector.2

Growing Opportunities for Female Welders

One of the most exciting changes occurring in the welding industry is the increasing amount of opportunities for women. While this is currently a male-dominated field, more and more women are utilizing their skills for this career and moving up through the ranks.

“I’ve worked with a lot of female welders, and they have better attention to detail and dexterity, and it brings a lot of light to the industry,” Chris shares. “I’ve seen female welders weld circles around guys who have been welding for 20 years.”

Chris encourages his female students at UTI to capitalize on the advantages they already have. Many women have a natural dexterity, which is incredibly beneficial in this industry. While it can be intimidating at first, females across the country and around the world are blazing trails in welding, which is creating a more diverse, well-rounded workplace. “It’s not just a man’s world. A lot of times, girls can do it better than we do,” Chris says.

Tips for Success

When considering a specific career, it can be helpful to learn from someone who’s taken the path before you. According to Chris, one of the major keys to succeeding as a certified welding inspector is making studying and learning your craft a priority. Whether you’re looking to earn your certification for the first time or are going through the recertification process, it’s important to dedicate time to study and really dive into the material.

CWI tests are open book, however you have to be able to navigate through your materials in order to succeed. AWS classes aren’t offered all year long, so oftentimes, you have one shot to take the seminar and exam in your area each year. To learn more about qualifying as a certified welding inspector, including seminar and exam schedules, pricing, applicant instructions and online courses you can take to prepare, visit the American Welding Society website.

Additionally, Chris shares that safety is everything in the welding world. According to him, “To have a long and successful career, you have to be safety-conscious.” This includes wearing the right clothing, protective eyewear and footwear. Welding is dangerous work—the arc is often between 8,000 and 10,000 degrees! While minor cuts and burns are inevitable, it’s important to take the necessary steps to avoid major injuries that could keep you from working altogether.

Safety is a crucial component of UTI’s welding program, and Chris repeatedly emphasizes its importance to each one of his students. In the classroom, students are held to the same safety standards they will have to follow in the field. They must wear protective eyewear at all times, and Chris encourages them to start wearing leather and steel-toed safety boots to get used to them, as they are a requirement in the field.

Finally, to succeed as a certified welding inspector, you have to really want it. Welding takes time to master, so it’s important to be willing to put in the hard work it takes to get there. “Our goal is to put students in the right direction and give them the training they need so by the time they leave here, they know what they’re doing,” Chris says.

This profession isn’t easy, as you are constantly being re-tested throughout your career. While a technical school like UTI can provide you with the training, it’s ultimately up to you to stay motivated to keep your knowledge and skills sharp. “In the weld world, you can’t fake it until you make it,” Chris says. You have to really know this industry inside and out.

All in all, while the life of a welding inspector can be challenging, this in-demand career comes with great benefits. If this sounds like a career that fits your interests, now is a great time to start your training!

Interested in Pursuing a Career in Welding?

UTI’s Welding Technology Training program is designed to give you the hands-on training needed to prepare for a career in the industry. Learn four major arc welding processes and graduate in less than a year!

Find a Welding Campus Location Near You

If the welding program interests you, you’re likely wondering where you can get trained. UTI has campuses nationwide to explore and choose from:

You can choose a campus that works best for you and get the experience you need to prepare for an entry-level welding career. To learn more about the program or any specific location, you can request more information today.

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1 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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