Training and certificates – interesting facts about welding
Welding, i.e. the permanent and non-detachable joining of metal components by means of heat and pressure, involves a number of highly individual work processes. They differ in the type of equipment used, the auxiliary means employed, but also the techniques and skills required for correct implementation. It is therefore hardly surprising that not everyone can simply weld “wildly”, but that work in the commercial sector in particular is subject to strict regulations and controls. How and where to learn how to weld and what conditions are associated with issued welding certificates are explained in the following in a simple and easily understandable way.
General information on welding training
It is generally stated that any weld seam that is subject to special requirements may only be made by qualified persons. In plain language, whenever a welded joint has to meet a special requirement, there is no getting around the welding certificate as a certificate of competence.
But what does that mean in practice? In general, today it is considered that each weld seam fulfils a special requirement. Because regardless of its field of application, it should always join the parts joined together by welding securely and permanently. Ultimately, this means that each welding process must be carried out by a competent person, i.e. one who holds a welding certificate.
NOTE: This requirement applies universally and regardless of whether commercial or private welding is performed. From a technical point of view, it is irrelevant in which legal framework the welding person is operating. The only practical difference is that welding work carried out privately is generally not known to the inspection bodies, so that an examination of the qualification certificates is normally not carried out.
Why training and examination at all?
But why is so much attention paid to the qualifications of the people carrying out the welding work? With many other tools and equipment, they can be used without additional qualification and testing.
The reason for this strong regulation and control of the welding operation is certainly that the various processes all serve to produce joints that are highly durable and in many cases actually highly stressed. Whether pressure vessels, pipelines, load-bearing components or car bodies – again and again the weld seam is of elementary importance for the functionality and ultimately also the operational safety of the welded components. Although welds can be inspected and, if necessary, reworked even after they have been produced, only the guarantee of a comprehensive minimum qualification of the welders ensures a low error rate and a high degree of certainty of professional implementation from the outset.
The legal bases
The examination of welders is regulated in several DIN standards. While until 2013 only DIN 287-1 “Qualification testing of welders – Fusion welding” was authoritative, DIN EN ISO 9606-1 of the same name has also existed since 2013. The new standard was actually intended to replace the proven DIN 287-1. However, since various other standards still refer to the old DIN without any time limit, there are now two sets of rules that define the testing of welders. As a result, the variety of different certificates of qualification and testing is very large and often hard to keep track of even for specialist metalworking companies. However, since the contents of the welding training to be provided are the same in both standards, the consequences for the interested “trainee” are manageable.
Differences in education and certificates
If you are not deterred by the complicated technical language of the standards and take a look at the list of possible welding certificates, you will initially be overwhelmed and perhaps even overwhelmed by the wealth of possibilities. Instead of internalizing all the listed certificates and qualification possibilities, it is better to know the basic functioning of standardization:
- One certificate per process: Unfortunately, there is not one welding certificate, just as there is not one welding process. DIN requires a separate welding certificate for each technical process. There is a very fine subdivision of the processes, so that there is not only metal active gas welding and tungsten inert gas welding, for example. Instead, metal active gas welding is divided into further sub-processes, such as with solid wire electrode, with welding powder-filled electrode or with metal powder-filled wire electrode. The situation is similar for all other processes. The individual training and examinations ensure that you have internalised all the peculiarities of the individual process and can also reproduce them. Downward compatibility of the processes: To simplify and reduce the abundance of required welding certificates, there is a recognition of higher-value certificates for certificates with lower requirements. So if you have a welding certificate for tungsten inert gas welding with filler wire or filler rod filler, you can also weld inert gas welding without filler wire. One certificate per seam type, material group and product form:Since not only the process used but also the working method and the processed component have an influence on the working method and result, it is not enough to have only one certificate per process. A distinction is made between:Welding with butt or fillet welds: A separate certificate is required for each type of weld.different materials: Depending on the material to be welded, a separate certificate is required. To simplify matters, materials with similar properties are grouped together in material groups, so that the certificate of qualification is only required for each material group, but not for each material. Product form: Depending on the form of the material to be welded as sheet, tube or special form, a separate certificate may be required. Although an examination for sheet metal also qualifies for certain pipes, a clear framework is defined for pipes of which size and quality may be welded with the certificate for sheet metal. As a pictorial example, it may be the case that you acquire a welding certificate that allows you to weld only sheets or pipes with an outside diameter of more than 500 mm with fillet welds in accordance with DIN 287-1 using the welding method 135 metal active gas welding with solid wire electrode, regardless of the welding position.
The training from a practical perspective
The exact contents of a welding training course are not defined in detail and can thus be determined freely to a certain extent by the institution that conducts the course. However, all relevant subject areas must be covered, so that the training contents are by and large very similar.
The comparison of different offers results in the following, always included topics:
- Welding equipment, welding gases and welding consumablesWorking techniques and weld seam preparationWork safety and accident prevention regulationsShrinkage, stress and distortion, as well as countermeasuresMaterials scienceManufacture of pipes and welded joints on pipesQuality assurance in welding technologyWeld defects and seam testing methods
As a rule, every training course in welding also concludes with a welding certificate, otherwise the acquired knowledge cannot be applied in practice. However, it is possible at any time that only one or several welding procedures are passed an examination with a certificate for applicability, while no examination with a welding certificate is taken for other sub-areas.
Provider and duration
Since the training content is not regulated, there is also no generally binding information on the length of the course. It depends strongly on the personal abilities and previous knowledge of the acquiring person, as well as on the chosen form of instruction. Training courses are available either as full-time block courses, evening courses or even in-house courses at companies requiring welding training. Numerous offers are based on a guideline of one to three days until the examination is taken, or alternatively on an evening course lasting one to two weeks. If intensive knowledge already exists, which is only to be extended to further certificates, the training with examination can also be completed in a single morning.
Well-known organisers of these further training courses are the relevant institutions in the field of vocational further training, such as TÜV or Dekra. In addition, private offerers make the learning of welding possible in different instruction form.
If, on the other hand, one does not want to obtain a single welding certificate, but rather the complete occupational profile of the welder, the scope of training is much greater. Courses for a trained pipe welder cover periods of 12 weeks and more, whereas a comprehensively trained vertical-down welder must reckon with about 20 weeks. The providers of these comprehensive training courses are also less widely spread, so that in fact the training institutions already listed are among the most frequently attended.
The aim of the examination is to check the theoretical knowledge, but also its practical applicability of this knowledge. The welding examination therefore consists of two parts:
- Theoretical examination – Here the general knowledge of welding technology, materials science and occupational safety is tested by means of questions. Similar to the driving test, error points are allowed. Practical examination – The examinee produces various workpieces according to the specifications of the examiner, for which the welds, welding techniques and materials to be tested are used. Whether the work created meets the requirements is compared by means of two test levels: First level – visual inspection. The inspector checks whether the requirements are apparently met.Second level – inspection by technical measurement: If no objections are found in the first level of inspection, the test piece is inspected by X-ray or other methods that allow a view of the inside of the weld. The test is only passed if no deviations from the target are detectable here either.
Examiners and testing institutions
As a rule, the examination takes place immediately at the end of the training on the respective welding topic. The examiners are either provided directly by the organizer or are added at the end of the course. There is no official body to which the examiners must belong. Any competent person who has an accreditation from the German Accreditation Body in Berlin (DakkS) may take an examination. If a large company trains its welders itself, an internal welding coordinator with appropriate accreditation may carry out the test for its own employees.
In addition to professional competence and accreditation, inspectors are required to perform at least five inspections per year in the respective inspection area. This is to ensure that they have the necessary routine and experience.
As already explained in the differences in training, each welding technique ultimately requires a single certificate with associated training. The costs for this can vary considerably, depending on whether you acquire a single certificate or combine several certificates in one training course. Current offers for a single certificate including previous training are around 150,- EUR. However, you should never forget that if you are qualified for a single type of welding, you are extremely specialised and can hardly be considered for universal use as a welder. Instead, almost every welder has at least a certain spectrum of different qualifications of the same technology or material family. The costs required for this training are then correspondingly higher.
Permanent welding may – the effects of the welding certificate
Now you have one or more welding certificates and enjoy your acquired skills. Maybe you are even thinking about changing your career based on these skills? Following a welding test you may experience some changes.
If you decide on a profession in the welding sector, the question of the salary that can be achieved with it will naturally also be interesting. Due to regional differences and the high variance in the range of skills, no generally valid, fixed number can be named. The rough framework, however, is similar everywhere in the national average:
- Average monthly salary: approx. 2.350,-EUR GrossAverage annual salary: approx. 28.200,-EUR GrossAverage hourly wage: from approx. 20,-EUR Gross
Period of validity and extensions
If you have obtained a welding certificate and perhaps even earn your living, you should not forget that this certificate of competence is not valid indefinitely. Each welding certificate is valid for two years from the time of acquisition. But even this is only the case if the employer or welding supervisor confirms every 6 months that you are actually welding in the area covered by this certificate and your work does not give any reason to doubt your abilities. A licence can be extended for a further two years on expiry, provided that reports are submitted to the inspection body to prove the quality of your work. For this purpose, the work you have created can be tested technically, i.e. by means of ultrasound or radiographic or fracture tests.
Conclusion – A sound education with a clear focus
As you can see, welding is not only the joining of metal. The training and examinations required to acquire and use your welding skills are as varied as the techniques. This makes the world of welding certificates very confusing and complicated for beginners and professionals alike. On the other hand, however, the legislator also takes into account the fact that correct welding in many areas of technology and daily life determines whether and how safe machines, vehicles, buildings and many other things are.