Beyond the Arc: Welding Engineering Explained
“I have never heard of a welding engineer. What is a welding engineer?” That is a common response I have heard throughout my career.
The reason for the question may originate from this job title not being as recognizable in industry as a mechanical, manufacturing, or industrial engineer. But this potential lack of recognition does not make welding engineers any less essential â€” quite the contrary.
To inform readers about the welding engineering profession, this article answers the following questions: What is a welding engineer, what does a welding engineer do, and how does someone become a welding engineer?
What Is a Welding Engineer?
Let’s start off by discussing what a welding engineer is. According to AWS, a welding engineer is someone who employs “their extensive knowledge of physics, engineering, metallurgy, materials, welding, and standards to design, examine, and evaluate welds as well as to plan, supervise, and document welding operations in accordance with relevant codes, contracts, or drawings” (Ref. 1). In other words, the person is a well-trained and experienced individual capable of determining welding requirements for the successful completion of welded joints.
What Does a Welding Engineer Do?
COMMON TASKS. The duties of a welding engineer may be broad. A welding engineer may be engaged in the front-end engineering design stage (FEED), ensuring all of the technical clarifications are taken into account before the tendering stage. Additionally, they may be charged with the training and qualification of welders. They may also work to develop and qualify welding procedures. During fabrication, the welding engineer may be involved in monitoring weld-ing to ensure a quality outcome. When welding problems are encountered, the welding engineer may be responsible for troubleshooting equipment problems and/or modifying welding parameters to restore successful welding operations. When welds are nondestructively examined, a welding engineer may be tasked with reviewing the report for rejectable indications and formulating a weld repair plan. After fabrication is complete and during a customer's audit, they may even have to defend that the weld deposit meets the applicable requirements. These are just some of the typical tasks that a welding engineer may be assigned.
INDUSTRY SECTORS. A welding engineer may be performing these tasks in a multitude of different industry sectors. For instance, welding engineers work in the aerospace, automotive, bioprocessing, construction, defense, heavy-equipment, medical, nuclear, petrochemical, fossil power generation, and shipbuilding industries â€” just to name a few. Each industry sector has its own unique challenges and specific requirements. A good welding engineer should be able to apply their learned knowledge and work across industry sectors but only after fully understanding the challenges and requirements within a specific industry. The work environments may differ drastically as well. A welding engineer may work in a manufacturing facility, shipyard, or construction site. They may work in a clean environment to produce bioprocessing equipment or climb into pressure equipment to perform inspections and formulate repair plans while covered in sludge.
ADDITIONAL DUTIES. As a welding engineer progresses with added education and job experience, additional duties may be assigned, such as managerial and quality-assurance functions. In some cases, a welding engineer may be primarily focused on research. Those in the research field may work in a laboratory setting evaluating failed welds and writing reports with corrective action recommendations to mitigate future failures. They may also work on developing new welding techniques or designing new customized equipment to meet the specific needs of industry.
CODES AND STANDARDS. A key responsibility of a welding engineer is to be thoroughly familiar with applicable codes and standards. They must also be capable of applying them correctly. This can be accomplished in several ways. One way is to mentor under a seasoned welding engineer to learn how to use applicable codes and standards. Another way is to attend focused training, such as those offered by AWS (aws.org/conferences), on how to use a code or standard. Yet another route involves joining an AWS technical committee and actively attending/participating in codes and standards committee meetings, also known as technical committee meetings.
Participating in codes and standards development meetings offers many benefits to the welding engineer. Over time, participating may allow them to gain a deeper understanding of what the current requirements mean and how to correctly implement them, providing added assurance that the welded joints produced comply with the intent of the code or standard. Improper implementation could lead to nonconformances and rejectable welds during an audit. Participating in these meetings can also provide the welding engineer and their employer an opportunity to directly discuss and potentially influence changes to current codes and standards. Another advantage is early knowledge of upcoming changes, allowing companies to react and plan accordingly in order to be ready to implement any changes when the new edition of the code or standard is released.
To facilitate participation, AWS now conducts all its meetings in a hybrid setting. The calendar on AWS's events page (aws.org/events) makes it easy to locate upcoming meetings and register.
How Does Someone Become a Welding Engineer?
Historically, people have obtained welding engineering positions by earning an engineering/engineering technology degree in welding engineering or an engineering degree with a concentration in welding. This still holds true today as a clear pathway to obtaining a position after graduation. Another pathway is through experience. Individuals with technical backgrounds who have learned the skills necessary to perform the duties of a welding engineer through formalized training, self-study, and/or years of experience have successfully obtained welding engineering positions. A third pathway involves obtaining the AWS Certified Welding Engineer (CWEng) credential, which shows prospective employers that the individual with the certification has demonstrated, through examination and experience, the skills necessary to perform the duties of a welding engineering professional. Additional information on qualification requirements for the CWEng credential can be found at aws.org/cweng.
Welding engineers have a diverse skillset with the ultimate responsibility of ensuring complete welds meet the applicable requirements. Welding engineers work in a multitude of industries and environments. If someone is interested in becoming a welding engineer, seeking an education in a program with a welding engineering curriculum remains a straightforward way to obtain the background knowledge needed to adequately perform the duties of this profession. In addition, obtaining an AWS CWEng credential, either directly or to complement a welding engineering degree, may be an added asset.
American Welding Society. Career profiles. careersinwelding.com/career profiles/welding-engineer
This article was written by Nathan Carter (staff welding engineer) for the American Welding Society.