How to Become an NDT Inspector

You quit your dead-end job. You feel relief. You finally want to pursue your true passion. You’re passionate about engineering and technology. However, you’re not sure which career path is right for you. 

You come across an online ad about NDT certification courses. After reading about NDT inspector training, you want to enroll. But where do you start?

First, you’ll have to find a vocational or trade school that specializes in NDT inspector certification. Or, you can work for a company that provides training.

Regardless of the institution, you must become level 1 certified. From there, you can pursue higher levels 2 and 3.

NDT specialties include ultrasonic testing (UT), eddy current testing (ECT), and radiographic testing (RT). This article will show you how to become an NDT inspector from beginning to end. Read on if you wish to know more. 

Basic Qualifications

To train as an NDT analyst, you must have a high school diploma or GED. You don’t need a college degree to enter the NDT field. However, a college degree in science or engineering will be an immense asset throughout your career.

Choose a School

Regardless of the training location, ensure that the school adheres to central NDT codes and standards. However, there is no single body that establishes the guidelines. Rather, several organizations and/or governing agencies create the proper protocols.

Organizations such as the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) and the America Petroleum Institute (API) are two organizations that establish vital NDT guidelines. 

Know Your Options

You have two options when it comes to the NDT inspection field. First, you can train as a company NDT inspector. In this area, a company provides the training regimen.

The courses you learn may depend on where the company needs you the most. If you’re working for an aerospace company, for example, the company may teach you about aerospace materials alone.

Additionally, the company will provide you with the necessary equipment and software to begin testing once you’re certified. One major drawback of company-training is the limited scope in which you’ll learn NDT strategies.

Your company may only train you in a specific set of procedures that benefit the company alone. You wouldn’t get the all-encompassing training that comes along with a third-party training agency. This could place you at a disadvantage compared to your fellow NDT colleagues with a wider skillset. 

With general and specialized knowledge, you could excel in the following industries:

  • Manufacturing 
  • Oil and Gas
  • Aerospace
  • Military

With a third-party agency, you would learn specialized skills, in addition to general NDT knowledge that applies to many material types.  

Choose Your Specialty

The course material will depend on your chosen field. For instance, ultrasonic NDT has a different set of procedures than radiographic testing.

Some of the most common NDT methods in the industry include RT, ECT, and UT. Or, you can take CWI Training courses to become a certified welding inspector. 

Regardless of your chosen field, you must also pass an eye exam. Your vision must distinguish between contrasting colors and shades of grey. And, you must have an eye for detail as you look for defects that can cause safety issues.  

Coursework Breakdown

Your training will consist of the following steps:

  • Training hours
  • On-the-job training or experience hours
  • Practical Exam
  • General Exam
  • Specialty Exam

However, the hours will depend on your specialty. For instance, a level 1 UT inspector must have at least 40 hours of training before taking the exam. And, they must have at least three months of work experience.

Level 1 Position

After passing the exams, you will become level 1 certified. During the level one phase, you will learn various calibration techniques. As an entry-level analyst, you will conduct most of your tests under the supervision of your manager. And, your manager will oversee how you calibrate and set up the equipment. 

In most cases, you will receive directives via written instructions. You will also learn how to record the results and interpret the data that the instruments present.

Level 2 Position

If you want to excel beyond level 1, you must take a two-hour exam that grants you level 2 status. The exam itself consists of a two-hour multiple-choice questionnaire that pertains to the core concepts of level 2 clearance. And, you must take a specialty exam that tests your knowledge of your specialty. 

The level 2 category allows you to test items with little to no supervision. And, you will oversee the work of level 1 and 2 inspectors.

Overall, you’ll have the following duties:

  • Set up equipment
  • Conduct tests
  • Know the limitations and parameters of testing procedures
  • Apply codes and standards within workplace settings
  • Supervise field tests 
  • Interpret data and results
  • Draft written instructions

With that, your duties will depend on the discretion of your employer.

Level 3 Position

A level 3 analyst performs all of the same duties as level 2 personnel but has more responsibilities. Level 3 analysts typically teach courses and manage a crew of NDT inspectors.

To take the level 3 test, you must meet several qualifications. First, you must have a certain number of hours while training. For instance, UT calls for 120 hours of training. Or, ECT personnel must have 80 hours of training. 

Regardless of the specialty, you must have at least four years of NDT experience in level 2 workmanship. Or, students can qualify for the exam if they have a four-year college degree in science or engineering. And, students must have at least a year of level 2 workmanship.

Or, a student can pass through two years of coursework from a technical school or college. Also, the student must have at least two years of NDT level 2 experience. 

From there, you can take general and specialty examinations that demonstrate your knowledge and experience in the field. 

How Long Does NDT Certification Courses Take?

The length of NDT certification courses varies with the discipline, but you can obtain certification within a year. Regardless of your discipline, you will begin as a level 1 analyst.

From there, you can graduate to levels 2 and 3 to get more responsibilities and career advancement opportunities. On average, an NDT analyst’s salary is around $50,000. However, you can earn more as you advance your career. 

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