Whether we realize it or not, nondestructive testing (NDT) is a big part of our everyday lives. A lot of times–and I’m guilty too–we take this measure for granted. When I’m driving in my car on the way to work, I don’t necessarily think about how all the components have been checked for reliability. I just assume it’s built to last. This is a testament to the NDT industry overall and how its testing evaluations have kept us safe as the demand has grown significantly across industries, most notably automotive and electronics.

With that said, this area of expertise doesn’t happen overnight. The need for quality training is critical in the world of NDT where visual inspections no longer make the grade. After all, these technicians are essentially in charge of keeping us safe as they make key decisions that could potentially have safety ramifications.

However, before those tests are performed, there are steps that need to be taken to ensure proficiency.

When it comes to the terms “qualification” and “certification” there tends to be some confusion in the industry as to which means what since both terms sound like they are describing the same thing.

The American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) clearly defines these terms in their recommended practice, SNT-TC-1A, Certification and Qualification of NDT Personnel:

  • “Qualification is comprised of three things: the organized education, the required examinations proving an individual has proper training and sufficient work experience in a particular inspection method.”
  • “Certification is a written testimony by an employer affirming that an individual has met the requirements of training and experience regarding a particular inspection method as stated in the company’s written practice.”

    Depending on the test method, the hours fluctuate. For instance, eddy current, ultrasonic and radiography testing all require 40 hours of training–and that’s only for Level I. The certification levels range from Level I Limited, Level I, Level II to Level III and are ranked by how skilled a technician is.

    To find out more about the process, turn to pg. 10 where author Justin Lehmann gives an overview of the steps required to properly establish a qualification and certification program in your company. While there are a variety of standards that NDT professionals adhere to, Lehmann discusses qualification and certification schemes used in the United States.

    Also, if you are looking for more information on where to receive an education in NDT, visit the NDT Resource Center’s Web site at www.ndt-ed.org for a list of established programs where certification can be earned. Or, if you don’t see a location nearby, training courses are now conveniently being offered online and are administered by an ASNT Certified Level III. This also is a great way for those of you Level IIIs who are certified and are looking to dust off your skills.

    Like I said in a previous column, you’re never too old to stop learning. Mastering your fundamentals will help you to stay on top of evolving test methods and increase your competence in the field.

    Some other tools that might useful on your path to certification are social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Just by searching “NDT training,” several tweets come up with training schedules and job opportunities.

    If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/QualityMagazine, join the discussion with other members of the Quality community at the Quality Magazine LinkedIn Group page or friend us on Facebook.

    Coming up on May 4, we’re co-hosting our first virtual tradeshow Tech ManufactureXPO. This is a free opportunity for manufacturing professionals to attend educational sessions all at the simplicity of logging onto a home or work computer. Visit www.techmanufacturexpo.com for more conference details and to register today.