The 5 W’s of a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)

By Joel Armstrong

 Often people will say to me, “I enjoy welding and the industry, but want to take that next step to further my career.  What should I do?”  Many times the answer is, “Have you thought about becoming a CWI?”  If this is a conversation you’ve had at some point, and needed more information about the who, what when, why, and where of becoming a CWI?  Then this article will answer all your questions!

Who Can Be a CWI?

Anyone can sit for the exam, as long as you meet the following educational and welding based work experience criteria:



Welding based work experience

Bachelor or higher degree in welding engineering or welding technology - (4) years maximum substitution

Minimum of 1 years

Associate or higher degree in welding or non-welding related engineering technology, engineering, or a physical science - (3) years maximum substitution

Minimum of 2 years

Engineering/Technical courses that can be applied to Bachelor or higher degree in Welding - (2) years maximum substitution

Minimum of 3 years

Trade/Vocational courses - (1) year maximum substitution for successfully completed courses

Minimum of 4 years

High school diploma or approved high school equivalency diploma

Minimum of 5 years

8th grade level of schooling

Minimum of 9 years

Less than 8th grade

Minimum of 12 years

As you can see, you don’t have to have to be a rocket scientist or a degreed welding engineer.

What Is a CWI, What Qualities Do They Have, and What Do They NOT Do

The American Welding Society defines a CWI as someone who will:

·        Supervise & train Associate Inspectors (CAWI)

·        Visually inspect procedures and processes

·        Conduct welding audits

·        Visually inspect finished welded products

·        Create and maintain welding records and documents

·        Communicate information and findings

To effectively perform these activities, CWI’s need to have the following level of knowledge, understanding, and traits:

·        Professional attitude

·        Ethical

·        Good Physical Condition

·        Understand and apply weld requirements

·        Inspection Experience

·        Basic Knowledge of Welding, Destructive & Non Destructive Testing (NDT)

·        Trainable

·        Safe Work Habits

·        Ability to complete and maintain accurate records

None of these items are less important than the others. An effective CWI will need to be all of these at all times.

People’s lives can be in the hands of a CWI for decisions they make.  For that reason, it is just as important to know what cannot be done as much as what can be done.  Being a CWI does have some limitations that need to be strictly followed.  CWIs cannot do the following:

·        Make design calculations or weld size calculations. Only a Registered Professional Engineer can make these

·        Interpret various NDT methods. CWIs can only make visual inspections

·        Issue public statements. Don’t volunteer information to the public. If a public statement is required, get legal advice.  Fully expect this question on the CWI exam!

Where Can a CWI Work

CWIs can work in a variety of places such as an inspection, fabrication, construction, engineering company, government agencies, education, or even for themselves as a consultant.  As long as there is welding and fabrication in the world, there will always be a need for CWIs.

Why Become a CWI

There are many reasons one would want to become a CWI, but one of the main reasons are the employment opportunities available.  Becoming a CWI will open up many door within and outside of your current organization.  A teacher once told me, “If you’re not trying to improve yourself, you’re only going to become expendable.”  Acquiring your CWI shows people you have passed a difficult certification process and you now have some basic understanding of welding and the associated codes.

When Can I Become a CWI

This has changed in recent years.  In the past, you had to go to one of many testing sites located across the US on a specific date during the year.  While this traditional method still exists, AWS now offers people the ability to take the tests at selected testing centers any day they have openings.  AWS is now partnering with the educational testing service Prometric to deliver computer based testing in more than 160 countries.  To learn more about this process visit

If you’re interested in the traditional method, you can go here to see the current schedule for testing dates and locations. 

Now that you know the who, what, where, why, and when your next question is going to be “How”.  We’ll cover that Part 2 coming soon!

Posted on 06-17-2019

Joel Armstrong

Sales Engineer at Red Ball Oxygen Co. Inc.

Joel Armstrong is a Senior Certified Welding Inspector and has been in the welding industry since 1998. He can be contacted on LinkedIn.