The American Welding Society (AWS) has many different types of certifications for welding professionals. While all AWS certifications carry the organizations endorsement, the Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) certification is arguably their most popular and desired credential. I recently received my CWI certification, and I would like to use my experience in attaining this certification to layout in a simple manner what it takes to become a Certified Welding Inspector. The three main components to becoming an AWS CWI are satisfying the prerequisites, studying for the exam, and passing the exam.
As with most credentials in life, there are several prerequisites that need to be satisfied before you can obtain your CWI. The first worth noting is the required combination of work experience and education. There are several different combinations that meet the demands of the American Welding Society. You must also be able to pass a vision acuity test.
Studying for the Exam
The amount of studying that I recommend for the CWI exam really varies from person to person. Coming from a 4 year formal college education in welding engineering technology, my studying was pretty relaxed. However, if you have a limited knowledge of welding, particularly welding symbols, weld examination, and weld qualification, you may want to put in more effort. For self-study, there are a variety of books that the AWS recommends.
If you aren’t feeling so sure of yourself, the AWS also provides a seminar the week before you take your exam. This covers all parts of the exam and includes all of the study materials you need. This seminar week is quite popular, and I hear it substantially improves the test taker’s chances of passing. Be aware, though, that it comes with a hefty price tag.
The CWI Exam
I have heard of some pretty high fail rates for this exam. I won’t pretend that I know the exact numbers, but I will say that roughly half of the people I took the exam with were there to retake a section. There are three sections, all multiple choice, and you are allowed two hours for each one. They are:
- Part A: Fundamentals Examination
- Part B: Practical Examination
- Part C: Code Book Examination
Overall, with breaks, I was at the exam site for just about 10 hours. You do not take the test in any set order. You could, for instance, start with Part C. Once the exam is finished, you walk out without knowing your results. My results were back to me in a little less than two weeks time.
If you receive a 72% or above for each section, congratulations! You passed! If received an average of 72% or above, but received below a 72% on an individual section, you have to retake that section. If you averaged below a 72%, you have to take the exam again.
The AWS provides a variety of testing sites and times to take your CWI exam, so get studying! Good luck!