What Is Welder Qualification Test

What Is Welder Qualification Test?

Have you ever wondered how industries ensure the quality and reliability of welded structures? Welding is a crucial process in various sectors, including construction, manufacturing, and oil and gas. To guarantee the competency of welders and the integrity of their work, a comprehensive evaluation known as the welder qualification test, or welder performance qualification, is conducted. 

This article will delve into the various aspects of this test, including destructive and non-destructive testing methods, as well as the specifications involved.

What is a Welder Qualification Test?

The welder qualification test is a standardized assessment designed to evaluate a welder’s skills and abilities in meeting specified welding requirements. It is a crucial step in ensuring that welders possess the necessary expertise to perform their tasks effectively. By conducting this test, industries can minimize the risk of weld failures, improve overall quality control, and enhance the safety of structures that rely on welded joints.

The test typically involves performing welding procedures on specific materials, following defined codes and standards. These materials often represent the types of metals and alloys commonly used in a particular industry. The test evaluates both the welder’s technique and their understanding of welding processes, ensuring they can consistently produce high-quality welds. 

Specifications in Welder Qualification

To ensure consistency and standardization, welder qualification tests adhere to specific codes, standards, and specifications. These may vary depending on the industry, application, and geographical location. The most commonly used standards are developed by organizations such as the American Welding Society (AWS), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and national regulatory bodies.

The specifications for a welder qualification test typically include:

  1. Base Metal and Filler Material: The specific metals and alloys to be used in the test, which corresponds to the materials commonly encountered in the industry.
  2. Welding Procedure Specification (WPS): The detailed instructions for the welding process, including welding techniques, parameters, and pre-and post-weld heat treatment, if required.
  3. Test Positions: The positions in which the welds are to be performed, such as flat, horizontal, vertical, or overhead.
  4. Test Joints: The types of joints to be welded, such as butt joints, fillet joints, or groove welds. This ensures that the welder is qualified for the specific joint configurations required in real-world applications.
  5. Test Thickness: The thickness of the base metal, determines the welder’s qualification range in terms of material thickness.
  6. Acceptance Criteria: The criteria that define whether a weld passes or fails the qualification test. These criteria include visual inspection requirements and limitations on the size and quantity of defects allowed.

The procedure of the Welder Qualification Test

The welder qualification test follows a specific procedure to ensure consistency and fairness in the assessment. The general steps involved in the test are as follows:

Preparing the Test Specimen

A representative test specimen is prepared, which simulates the welding conditions and joint configuration relevant to the intended application. The specimen may be in the form of a plate, pipe, or other geometries depending on the test requirements.

Performing the Test

The welder performs the welding operation on the test specimen according to the prescribed welding procedure and parameters. The test may involve multiple passes, positions, or welding processes, depending on the qualification requirements.

Evaluating the Test Results

Once the welding is completed, the test specimen undergoes inspection and testing. Various non-destructive and destructive testing methods, such as visual inspection, radiographic examination, bend testing, or tensile testing, are conducted to assess the quality and integrity of the weld.

Qualification Criteria

To achieve welder qualification, certain criteria must be met by the welder. These criteria may vary depending on the industry, project specifications, or applicable standards. Some common qualification criteria include:

Welding Positions

Welders may be required to qualify for specific welding positions, such as flat, horizontal, vertical, or overhead. Each position may have different welding challenges and requirements, and the welder must demonstrate competence in each position they are seeking qualification.

Welding Processes

Different welding processes, such as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), or flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), may require separate qualifications. Each welding process has its unique characteristics, and the welder must demonstrate proficiency in the specific process they intend to use.

Welding Materials

Welders may need to qualify for specific materials, such as carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, or other alloys. Each material may have different welding properties, and the welder must demonstrate their ability to produce sound welds in the specified material.

Test Thickness and Diameter

The qualification test may have specific requirements regarding the thickness or diameter of the test specimen. Welders must demonstrate their ability to weld within the specified range, as different thicknesses or diameters may affect the welding process and resulting weld quality.

Certification and Documentation

Upon successful completion of the welder qualification test, the welder receives a certification or qualification that validates their skills and abilities. The certification typically includes details such as the welder’s name, date of qualification, welding process, materials, positions, and any additional restrictions or limitations.

Proper documentation of the qualification is essential for employers, regulatory bodies, or clients to verify the welder’s qualifications and ensure compliance with industry standards and project requirements.

Importance of Renewing Qualification

Welder qualifications are not lifelong certifications. They have an expiration period, and welders are required to renew their qualifications periodically. The renewal process ensures that welders remain updated with the latest techniques, technology, and standards in the welding industry.

Renewing qualification also provides an opportunity for welders to undergo any necessary retraining or reevaluation, enhancing their skills and maintaining the quality of their work. It also ensures that welders adapt to any changes in welding codes, procedures, or materials that may have occurred since their initial qualification.

Common Challenges in Welder Qualification Test

The welder qualification test can pose several challenges for both experienced and novice welders. Some common challenges include:

  • Meeting specific code requirements: Welder qualification tests often adhere to specific codes and standards, which may have stringent criteria that must be met. Welders need to be familiar with these requirements and ensure their welding techniques comply with the specified standards.
  • Overcoming test anxiety: Welder qualification tests can be nerve-wracking, especially for welders who are not accustomed to formal evaluations. Managing test anxiety and performing under pressure is crucial to achieving successful qualifications.
  • Adapting to different welding positions: Welding in different positions, such as overhead or vertical, requires adjustments in welding techniques and positions. Welders need to practice and gain experience in various positions to qualify for a wide range of welding applications.
  • Welding unfamiliar materials: Qualification tests may involve welding materials that welders have limited experience with. Adapting to new materials and understanding their unique welding characteristics can be challenging but essential for successful qualification.

Benefits of the Welder Qualification Test

Undergoing a welder qualification test offers several benefits for both welders and employers. Some key benefits include:

  • Assurance of quality: Qualification tests ensure that welders possess the necessary skills and knowledge to produce high-quality welds. This helps maintain the integrity and safety of welded structures or components.
  • Compliance with industry standards: Welder qualification tests often align with industry standards and codes. By qualifying welders, employers can demonstrate compliance with these standards, improving their reputation and credibility.
  • Enhanced employability: Welders who have completed qualification tests have an advantage in the job market. Certification provides evidence of their competence and can lead to better job opportunities and career growth.
  • Cost savings: Qualified welders are less likely to produce faulty welds, reducing the chances of rework or repairs. This can result in significant cost savings for employers by minimizing material waste and project delays.

Welder Qualification Test vs. Welding Procedure Qualification Test

It’s important to distinguish between the welder qualification test and the welding procedure qualification test (WPQT). While both tests assess welding-related aspects, they serve different purposes:

  • Welder Qualification Test: This test evaluates the skills and competence of individual welders. It focuses on their ability to perform specific welding tasks and demonstrates their proficiency in various welding positions, processes, materials, and test thicknesses.
  • Welding Procedure Qualification Test: The WPQT, on the other hand, evaluates the suitability and effectiveness of a welding procedure. It verifies that a particular welding procedure is capable of producing sound welds that meet specified requirements, such as strength, integrity, and mechanical properties.

Welding Procedure Qualification Test

There are  two types  of welding procedure tests:

  • Destructive Testing in Welder Qualification
  • Non-Destructive Testing in Welder Qualification

Destructive Testing in Welder Qualification

Bend Test

One of the primary methods used in the destructive testing of welded joints is the bend test. This test assesses the ductility and soundness of the weld. A test specimen, usually a section of the welded joint, is subjected to bending forces until it reaches a specified degree of deformation. The weld must withstand this deformation without cracking or exhibiting other signs of failure.

Tensile Test

In the tensile test, a welded sample is subjected to a gradually increasing tensile force until it fractures. This test measures the ultimate strength and elongation characteristics of the weld. The results provide valuable insights into the weld’s structural integrity and its ability to withstand applied forces.

Impact Test

The impact test evaluates the weld’s resistance to sudden loading or impact. A notched sample is subjected to a single, high-velocity impact force, and the amount of energy absorbed by the weld is measured. This test helps determine the weld’s toughness and its ability to resist brittle fracture under dynamic loading conditions.

Non-Destructive Testing in Welder Qualification

Visual Inspection

Visual inspection is the most fundamental form of non-destructive testing (NDT) and involves a thorough examination of the weld with the naked eye or using magnification tools. Inspectors check for surface irregularities, such as cracks, porosity, incomplete fusion, or other defects that may compromise the weld’s integrity.

Radiographic Testing (RT)

Radiographic testing, commonly known as X-ray testing, uses high-energy radiation to penetrate the weld and produce an image on a radiographic film or digital sensor. This method allows inspectors to identify internal defects such as cracks, inclusions, or lack of fusion, which may not be visible during visual inspection.

Ultrasonic Testing (UT)

Ultrasonic testing utilizes high-frequency sound waves to detect internal flaws in welds. An ultrasonic transducer emits sound waves into the weld, and the reflected waves are analyzed to identify any indications of defects, such as voids, porosity, or lack of fusion. UT provides accurate information about the size, shape, and location of potential defects.

Magnetic Particle Testing (MT)

Magnetic particle testing is used to detect surface and near-surface defects in ferromagnetic materials. The test involves applying a magnetic field to the weld and then sprinkling iron particles on the surface. Any defects in the weld disrupt the magnetic field and attract the particles, making them visible and indicating the presence of a flaw.

Liquid Penetrant Testing (PT)

Liquid penetrant testing involves applying a liquid dye or fluorescent penetrant to the surface of the weld. The penetrant seeps into any surface-breaking defects, and after a specified dwell time, the excess penetrant is removed. A developer is then applied, which draws out the penetrant from the defects, making them visible under suitable lighting conditions.

Industry Standards and Codes

Welder qualification tests often align with industry standards and codes to ensure consistency and quality control. Some common standards and codes related to welder qualification include:

  • American Welding Society (AWS) D1.1: Structural Welding Code – Steel
  • AWS D1.6: Structural Welding Code – Stainless Steel
  • AWS D1.2: Structural Welding Code – Aluminum
  • ASME Section IX: Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code – Welding and Brazing Qualifications
  • API 1104: Welding of Pipelines and Related Facilities

Welders and employers need to be familiar with the relevant standards and codes applicable to their specific welding applications.


Welder qualification tests play a vital role in ensuring the competence and reliability of welders in various industries. By subjecting welders to rigorous assessments, both destructive and non-destructive, these tests help maintain high standards of welding quality, minimize the risk of structural failures, and enhance the safety of welded structures.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. What is the purpose of a welder qualification test?

The purpose of a welder qualification test is to assess a welder’s skills and abilities in meeting specific welding requirements, ensuring they possess the necessary expertise to perform their tasks effectively.

Q. What are destructive tests in welder qualification?

Destructive tests in welder qualification involve subjecting welded samples to forces or conditions that may cause failure, such as bend tests, tensile tests, and impact tests.

Q. What are non-destructive tests in welder qualification?

Non-destructive tests in welder qualification are methods that detect defects in welds without damaging the samples. These include visual inspection, radiographic testing, ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle testing, and liquid penetrant testing.

Q. Which organizations develop standards for welder qualification tests?

Organizations such as the American Welding Society (AWS), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and national regulatory bodies develop standards for welder qualification tests.

Q.  What do welder qualification test specifications include?

Welder qualification test specifications include base metal and filler material, welding procedure specifications, test positions, test joints, test thickness, and acceptance criteria. These specifications ensure consistency and standardization in the qualification process.


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