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How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Welder? An Estimated Timeline

Mar 05, 2024

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Welder? An Estimated Timeline

Welding combines technical skill with steady hands, and achieving certification is a concrete goal for many in the field. The timeline to become a certified welder is not set in stone—it stretches and contracts to fit your pace of learning and the depth of expertise you seek. This blog lays out the key steps and an estimated timeframe for those ready to embark on this journey.

From selecting a training program to acquiring hands-on experience and passing certification exams, we map out what to expect on the road to becoming a certified welder. Read on for a concise overview that prepares you to chart your course through the world of professional welding.

Understanding Welding Certification

If you are interested in becoming a certified welder, it is important to understand the process of obtaining certification. Welding certification is a process of testing and verifying a welder's skills to ensure that they meet certain industry standards. Here are some key things to know about welding certification:

Types of Welding Certifications

There are different types of welding certifications available, depending on the type of welding you want to specialize in. Some common types of welding certifications and the time it takes to complete them are:

  • Structural Welding: This certification is required for welders who work on building structures, such as bridges, buildings, and pipelines. Typically, structural welding certification can take anywhere from several weeks to several months of training.
  • Pipe Welding: This certification is required for welders who work on pipelines or other types of piping systems. It may take several months to a year or more to become proficient enough to pass a certification exam, such as the American Welding Society’s (AWS) Certified Welder program, which includes pipe welding positions.
  • Aerospace Welding: This certification is required for welders who work on aircraft or other aerospace-related projects. Obtaining certification through an organization such as the AWS, including the D17.1 specification for aerospace welders, could take several months to over a year, including both training and work experience.
  • Underwater Welding: This certification is required for welders who work underwater, such as on offshore oil rigs. This typically involves becoming a certified commercial diver in addition to being a skilled welder, which may take up to two years or more. The diving certification portion alone can take 6 to 12 months, followed by welding training and underwater welding specialization.

Certifying Organizations

Several organizations offer welding certification, including the American Welding Society (AWS), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Each organization has its own set of standards and testing procedures, so it is important to research the organization that is best suited for your needs.

To obtain certification, you will need to pass a welding test that is administered by the certifying organization. The test typically involves welding a sample piece of metal according to specific criteria, such as welding position, type of joint, and welding technique. Once you pass the test, you will receive a certificate that verifies your welding skills and knowledge.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a certified welder, you will need to complete a combination of education and hands-on training. Here are the requirements you need to fulfill:

Welding Courses and Programs

Many welding schools and community colleges offer welding courses and programs that teach the fundamentals of welding. These programs typically last from six months to two years and cover topics such as welding safety, welding techniques, and welding theory.

In addition to the fundamentals, these programs may also cover specialized welding techniques such as TIG welding, MIG welding, and stick welding. Completing a welding program can give you a solid foundation in welding and help you prepare for a career in welding.

Hands-On Training and Apprenticeships

Hands-on training and apprenticeships are an essential part of becoming a certified welder. Many welding programs include hands-on training as part of their curriculum, but it's also important to gain experience in a real-world welding environment.

One way to do this is through an apprenticeship program. Apprenticeships typically last for two to four years and allow you to work alongside experienced welders while you learn the trade. Apprenticeships can be a great way to gain hands-on experience and learn from experienced professionals.

Certification Process

To become a certified welder, you must complete a certification process that includes examination and testing, as well as application and documentation. Here is an overview of what you can expect during the certification process.

Examination and Testing

The first step in the certification process is to complete an approved welding training program. Once you have completed your training, you must pass a welding certification test. This test is designed to assess your ability to produce sound welds that meet industry standards. The test is typically administered by a certified welding inspector, who will evaluate your work based on specific criteria.

The welding certification test consists of two parts: a written exam and a practical exam. The written exam covers topics such as welding safety, welding processes, and welding symbols. The practical exam requires you to demonstrate your welding skills by producing a series of welds on various types of materials. You must pass both parts of the exam to become a certified welder.

Application and Documentation

Once you have passed the welding certification test, you must complete an application for certification. This application will require you to provide documentation of your training and work experience, as well as your test scores and other relevant information. You may also be required to provide references from employers or other professionals in the welding industry.

After you have submitted your application and supporting documentation, your application will be reviewed by a certification board. If your application is approved, you will receive your certification as a welder. You may also be required to renew your certification periodically, depending on the requirements of your certifying organization.

Maintaining and Advancing Certification

As a certified welder, it is important to maintain your certification and keep up with advancements in the field. This section will cover two important aspects of maintaining and advancing your certification: continuing education and additional certifications.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is an important part of staying up-to-date with the latest welding techniques and technologies. By taking courses and attending workshops, you can expand your knowledge and skills, and stay current with changes in the industry. Many welders choose to take courses in areas such as blueprint reading, metallurgy, and welding safety.

There are many options available for continuing education, including online courses, community college programs, and industry-specific training programs. Some welding certification programs require a certain number of hours of continuing education to maintain certification, so it is important to check the requirements for your specific certification.

Additional Certifications

Obtaining additional certifications can also help you advance your career as a welder. Some common certifications include those for welding inspection, welding supervision, and welding engineering. These certifications can help you specialize in a particular area of welding, and may qualify you for higher-paying positions.

To obtain additional certifications, you will need to complete the required coursework and pass a certification exam. Many certification programs have specific requirements, such as a certain amount of work experience or a certain level of education, so it is important to research the requirements for the certification you are interested in.


The journey to becoming a certified welder is unique for every individual, blending personal ambition with the rigor of professional training. As we've unfolded in this blog, the estimated timeline can range from several months to a few years, shaped by factors such as the type of certification sought, prior experience, and training program duration.

Remember that while the path to certification is measurable in time, the value of becoming a certified welder is immeasurable in terms of career potential and personal satisfaction. So forge ahead with determination, keep the flame of learning alive, and know that every hour invested brings you closer to your goal. 

Lastly, while understanding the timelines for acquiring various certifications is crucial, it's equally important to consider the gear that will accompany you through your training and into your professional career. Don’t forget to explore our collection of welding gear, including helmets and welding caps that address the safety needs of all aspiring and professional welders alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to get a welder's certificate?

The fastest way to get a welder's certificate is to enroll in a welding program that offers a fast-track option. These programs typically last between 6-12 weeks and provide intensive training in welding techniques. However, keep in mind that the duration of the program may vary depending on the type of welding certification you are pursuing.

What is the difference between a certified welder and a qualified welder?

A certified welder is someone who has passed a welding certification test that is recognized by a specific organization or industry. A qualified welder, on the other hand, is someone who has the necessary skills and experience to perform welding tasks but may not have taken a certification test. In some cases, certification may be required by employers or government regulations.

Can you get a welding certification online?

Yes, it is possible to get a welding certification online. However, make sure that the online program is accredited and recognized by the welding industry. Online programs typically offer a combination of theoretical instruction and practical training, but may require in-person testing or hands-on experience.

How long are most welding programs?

Most welding programs range from 6 months to 2 years in duration, depending on the level of certification and the type of welding being taught. Some programs may be shorter or longer, depending on the curriculum and the pace of instruction.

What is the first welding certification?

The first welding certification was introduced by the American Welding Society (AWS) in 1976. The certification, known as Certified Welder (CW), is still recognized today and is designed to test a welder's knowledge and skill in a variety of welding techniques.

How fast can I learn welding?

The time it takes to learn welding depends on your dedication and the intensity of the program you choose. Some programs offer fast-track options that can take as little as 6-12 weeks, while others may take several months or years to complete. With consistent practice and dedication, you can become a proficient welder in a relatively short amount of time.

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