How to Become a CWI: Tips for Success


In our last few blog posts we discussed the duties of a Certified Welding Inspector and enumerated several good reasons for choosing this career. Today we’ll look at the steps you need to take to actually become a CWI. We will also provide some tips and links to help you navigate the waters of certification.

Not surprisingly, the first step to becoming a CWI is to fill out an application. You can find the application and application requirements on the AWS CWI Certification web page. In order for you to qualify to become a CWI, you’ll need a certain amount of practical welding experience. The amount of experience varies depending on your education level. For example, if you have a high school diploma with no technical school courses, you’ll need 5 years minimum work experience. However, if you have an associate degree in engineering, engineering technology, or physical sciences, you’ll only need 3 years minimum work experience.

When you complete your application, you’ll select a testing location for a CWI examination.  You must pass this exam to be certified, so once you’ve submitted your application, start studying! Many CWI candidates make the mistake of thinking that just taking the CWI Training Seminar is enough to prepare them for the exam. It’s usually not. The CWI exam covers a considerable body of knowledge and therefore requires a corresponding degree of preparation both in the classroom and on your own time.

Here are some tips to help you prepare:

Tip 1:
Make sure you read the AWS B5.1:2003 Specification for the Qualification of Welding Inspector and the QC1:2007 Standard for AWS Certification of Welding Inspectors. Both documents outline every aspect of the CWI program and exam. The B5.1 covers the skills and knowledge required of a CWI, while the QC1 gives a detailed overview of the various sections of the CWI exam. Read our blog post, How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam Part 1: The CWI Exam Playbooks, to learn how to get the most out of these resources.

Tip 2:
Don’t just read: study. Reading a document isn’t the same thing as absorbing its content. When you study for exams, don’t just skim for basic points. Try to really understand the material. Ask yourself why these rules and procedures exist in the first place. Then, try teaching the material to a friend. Sometimes the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else.

Tip 3:
Take the AWS CWI Seminar. This week-long series of sessions is designed to help you review information that will appear on the test. Note, however, that the seminar covers a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time. Therefore, you should already have a basic understanding of the course material when you begin. The CWI certification exam is offered upon conclusion of the seminar.

Tip 4:
Consider taking the AWS online CWI Pre-Seminar. The AWS CWI seminar is designed to review—not teach—the CWI body of knowledge. The CWI Pre-Seminar is designed to help you learn or relearn the basics. The courses that make up the CWI Pre-Seminar offer a comprehensive treatment of the essentials, from welding fundamentals and safety to welding symbols and non-destructive testing. It’s an intense course of study that you can work through at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.

Tip 5:
Identify what you’re being tested on and where to find it. The AWS Body of Knowledge web page provides an approximate breakdown of the examination categories and the number of questions drawn from each subject area. It also lists the publications recommended for self-study.

Tip 6:
Create a study plan. There is no single, fool proof way to prepare for the CWI exam. Your study methods should be tailored to how you learn best. We recommend a 3-part plan to help you evaluate what you already know so you can design your study schedule.

Tip 7:
Check out the How to Prepare for the Certified Welding Inspector Exam blog series on American Welding Online. It outlines what you’ll be expected to know for the test, where to find the information, how best to use the reference materials, and strategies to prepare for the CWI exam.

Once all your preparations are complete, it’s time to take the exam. The exam is split into three parts: A, B and C. Part A tests your fundamental welding knowledge and is 150 questions long. Part B tests a range of inspection topics, including welding examination and nondestructive testing. This part contains at least 46 questions that must be finished in two hours. For Part B you’ll be provided with visual inspection tools, plastic replicas of welds and a sample codebook. Part C of the CWI exam is open-book and tests how well you can locate and understand information in a code book. Part C of the CWI exam contains a minimum of 46 questions. All parts of the exam require you to get at least 72% of the questions correct.

Time is of the essence so take the test strategically. For Part A of the exam you have 45 seconds per question. For Parts B and C, you’ll have about 2.5 minutes per question. Since you only need to get a 72%, if you’re struggling with a question move on until you finish the test, then return to the questions you skipped. The exam can be intimidating, but with the right preparation you can succeed.

I would wish you good luck, but if you follow these suggestions you probably won’t need it!

29 thoughts on “How to Become a CWI: Tips for Success”

      1. I’m a first timer. I have over 10 years of stick welding and want to get my CWI. Do they have classes where I can interact with the instructor in Houston?

        1. Yes. The CWI Seminar (as opposed to the online CWI Pre-Semianar) is a one week review course led by an experienced instructor. Note however that the seminar is meant to REVIEW the large body of knowledge on which the CWI exam is based. Before attending the CWI Seminar, participants should first identify which subjects are covered on the exam and learn or study those subjects, beginning with the ones that they are least familiar with. To see which subjects are covered on the CWI exam visit: http://www.aws.org/certification/endorsebok/index.html

  1. I am one college course short of my bachelor’s degree and I have over two years experience working NDE. Will this be enough to apply for the course and take the exam? Also, I heard that you can take the course and the exam before you have reached all of your educational/ work experience and if you pass you will be considered an assistant CWI until you reach full requirements at which time your full certification will be sent to you. Is this true?

    1. The minimum work experience is 3 years. Yes, candidates that take the seminar and pass the CWI exam before they have met their work experience requirements will be Certified Associate Welding Inspectors. Note that when you attain the minimum work experience requirements, you will then have to submit an application to attain full CWI status.

  2. I have 10 years experience as a pipeline project manager and also plants and compressor stations is this enough to qualify

  3. So l’ve been welding for about ten years consecutively, mostly in miscellaneous and custom shops, but I’ve also done structural steel work ( full penetration with flux core, etc). None of my employers gave out this “qualifying work experience documentation” that I apparently need to qualify to take the exam. Am I supposed to contact my previous employers and ask then to provide some sort of affidavit as proof of my welding experience? What if the first seven years of my welding career was spent in the U.S. Army? I have the experience but I would really hate to be turned away just because I didn’t have the foresight to get proper documentation. Here in SC, we don’t get that sort of thing handed to us with our pay stub or anything….

  4. I’v been certifed 6-g mig,stick,tig ,for stainless, smaw, aluminum, for allmost 30 yrs now.still holding current cert for all of they above. do,i quailify?

  5. I am a level l & ll mag particle inspectors
    Level l & ll ultrasonics
    Level l & ll penetrant testing
    Level l & ll ultrasonics thickness
    Level l rope access technician

    With my experience for the last 9 years inspecting all different types of equipment including welds do I have shot at get a CWI

  6. im a 22 year old boy ive took welding at my votec school btec in high school for 3 years welding 1 2 and 3 i had to pass a nocti test and a skills usa written welding test and then i went to otc in cleveland ohio for welding everyone told me paperwork paper work so i went to a tech school ive now been in the field welding for 3 years i hold a 3g stick and 3g flux unlimited thickness i know i still have to wait to be qualified to become a cwi but i want to hit the books now so ill have no problem passing it when the time comes i need help on where to begin and get all the information i need i will need hard copy stuff i cant stare at my phone for hours reading

  7. I am a welder with 5years experience.I would like to know what level could i start to get exam? CAWI or CWI? And how many level in CWI course? Please help me to know clearly Sir. Thank you.

  8. Hello,
    I have over 40 years of wedding and fabrication experience.
    I have been certified, stainless steel, carbon steel , and stainless carbob (309 SS filler) sheet material. Company certs 2003 and 2004
    I have been TIG welding since 1982.
    Started stick SMAW sometime around 1971? 6011,6013,7014,7018, and 7024..
    Have welded. 052 co2 backed flux core , cert received about 1998 .
    Experance in aluminum welding and repairs using both MIG and TIG ,
    Mostly using 4043 fillers somen5056 wire
    Verylittle Experance with aluminum stick….
    Overn14 years of structure steel fabrication.
    Many years of matiance welding, , walk in repair work.
    I would like to know how to get a CWI in northern Illinois?
    Were can I go for testing ?
    And!,,, How much will this cost?
    Thanks

  9. I have been in the non destructive testing field for almost 30 yrs trained in navy worked in power plants aviation manufacturing inspecting welds also certification of welders by weld X-ray inspection have been inspecting welds using UT PT X-ray MT and ET how do I get qualified to take test if I have no hands on welding experience really would like to have CWI very as jobs I would like often require it

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