Welder Performance Qualification and Welder Certification
Misconceptions about welder certification terms and definitions are discussed.
As a quality professional going on 35 years and a Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI) who has certified more than 1000 welders qualification tests, I frequently encounter welding professionals who strongly object to the use of the word certification in relation to qualified welders. Certified Welding Inspectors (CWIs) generally believe welders can be certified or cannot. Typically, those who believe welders cannot be certified are steadfast in that belief and are not shy about expressing that belief, frequently correcting others when the term welder certification or certified welder is expressed.
Are Welders Qualified or Certified?
Let's start with the definitions from several AWS standards, codes, reference books, and textbooks. A detailed reference list can be found at the end of this article.
1. AWS A3.0, Standard Welding Terms and Definitions
AWS A3.0 defines these terms as follows:
Welder Performance Qualification (Performance Qualification). The demonstration of an individual's ability to produce a weld meeting prescribed standards.
Welder Certification. Written verification that a welder has produced welds meeting a prescribed standard of welder performance.
Notice that in both definitions, the welder is required to meet a prescribed standard, such as AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code - Steel.
2. AWS Welding Handbook
The AWS Welding Handbook, which can be considered the unparalleled authority and most valuable resource on welding on the market today, states:
Personnel Qualifications and Certification. The responsibility for the qualification of welding personnel and procedures lies with the employer who is responsible for production welding. After the successful qualification of a welder or welding operator, the employer is required to prepare a welder performance qualification record. This record documents the qualification details, including the essential variables that were followed during the welding of the test coupon, the test results, and a statement of certification that the testing was performed in accordance with the applicable code. Because qualification records are certified by the employer, it is common practice to refer to a welder who has passed a qualification test as a certified welder rather than a qualified welder.
These references make a compelling case for welder certification (i.e., certified welder). But what does AWS D1.1 say on this matter?
3. AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code — Steel
AWS D1.1:2020 Clause 3, Terms and Definitions, states:
Welder certification. Written certification that a welder has produced welds meeting a prescribed standard of welder performance.
Welder performance qualification. The demonstration of a welder's ability to produce welds meeting prescribed standards.
As we proceed to Clause 6, Part C, Performance Qualification, Clause 6.19, Preparation of Performance Qualification Forms, the D1.1:2020 code tells us the welders shall follow a Welding Procedure Specification (WPS) applicable for qualification that includes all of the essential variables and limitations. It then states, The Welding Performance Qualification Record (WPQR) shall serve as written verification and shall list all the applicable essential variables of Table 6.12. Suggested forms are found in Annex J.
This clause of AWS D1.1:2020 clearly defines the WPQR as written verification, which we know from AWS A3.0 is the definition of welder certification; therefore, the WPQR is the welder certification.
At this point, we should take note that in all cases where welder certification is defined, the welder has produced welds meeting a prescribed standard, therefore has demonstrated their ability to meet those standards, which is the exact definition of Welder Performance Qualification, and that demonstration is verified and certified. The language used relates to the welder, not the form used for verification. Based on the definitions, we can see that a certified welder is, by definition, qualified; however, a qualified welder is not certified until a WPQR is generated, verified, and certified.
For the CWIs who are strict on verbiage, one could argue that when an inspector asks to see a welder's qualification(s), by definition, they are asking to see the welder demonstrate their ability to meet the prescribed standard. This does happen frequently. Many welders must qualify at nearly every job they travel to. On the other hand, if the inspector asks to see the welder's certification(s), by definition, they are asking to review the WPQR(s).
Why the Confusion?
We may be asking, how is it that so many inspectors insist there is no such thing as welder certification or certified welders? In researching this topic, it appears the WIT-T:2020, Welding Inspection Technology textbook has a sentence that seems to contradict the D1.1 and A3.0. The WIT-T is the premier study guide for the AWS Certified Welder program.
In the WIT-T:2020, the following paragraph is on page 232: At this point, it is appropriate to differentiate between the terms qualify and certify, as applied to these welder tests. If we say that a welder is qualified, we mean that they have demonstrated sufficient skill to perform a certain weld. Certification, however, applies to the document(s) which support this qualification. A welder who successfully passes a qualification test would then be rightfully referred to as a qualified welder as opposed to a certified welder.
That paragraph, while somewhat factually accurate, is misleading. The certification is documented on the WPQR; however, the certification is unique to the welder and the essential variables as well as the resulting ranges of qualification for that welder.
Secondly, as shown above, once the performance qualification has been appropriately verified and certified, we have welder certification. Also, like many AWS publications, the WIT-T:2020 contains the following disclaimer: The American Welding Society (AWS) assumes no responsibility for the information contained in this publication. An independent, substantiating investigation should be made prior to the reliance on the use of such information.
Welder certification is documented on a WPQR. This welder certification contains the essential variables that were in place when the welder was tested and contains the ranges of qualification allowed by the prescribed standard. While this certification is documented on the WPQR, the WPQR doesn't produce welds for the contractor, the welder does. The welder is the subject of the certification. The notion it is the document that is certified is no different from saying my SCWI document is certified, not me. My SCWI is signed (certified) and indicates that I have demonstrated the ability to perform welding inspection in accordance with the requirements of the prescribed standard (QC1, Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors).
This article was written by Daryl Peterson for the American Welding Society. Peterson is the quality manager at Central Maintenance and Welding. He's an AWS SCWI, ASNT Level III, API 653, and SSPC PCI Level II inspector.