AWS SENSE or AWS Certified Welder

Information from the “Source”!

Before I go into my opinions and observations about the differences, I strongly suggest you take a look at some of the information from the organization that writes the “standard” for the programs.  It is not my intent to suggest that one is “better” than the other. 

AWS SENSE information.

The primary document that addresses the SENSE program for “Entry Level” welders is AWS QC10. The current version of AWS QC10 can be obtained from https://pubs.aws.org/p/1843/qc102017-specification-for-qualification-and-certification-of-level-ientry-welders.

Below is some text from the “SCOPE” section of QC10 but understand that the standard itself is longer and refers to other standards with much more content.  

  1. Scope
    1.1 This specification establishes the minimum requirements for trainees to receive AWS SENSE training certificate for full or partial completion of the Level I—Entry Welder program. SENSE training organizations are free to exceed these minimum requirements.
    1.2 This specification defines practical knowledge examinations, as well as the workmanship and performance qualification tests that require a minimum level of reading, computational and manipulative skills to successfully complete.
    1.3 All individuals that meet the specified training certificate criteria will be listed in the AWS SENSE Certificate Database provided that:
    (1) the training facility is a SENSE Accredited Training Program (ATP) per the requirements of AWS QC21, Specification for AWS Accreditation of SENSE Welder Training Programs
    (2) the required proof(s) of completion are submitted to AWS along with applicable fees.
    1.4 Organizations that are not a SENSE Accredited Training Program may use this specification, but individuals they instruct will not be eligible for SENSE training certificates, nor will they be listed in the AWS SENSE Certificate Database.

For a “summary” of the program, you can see the information at this link

One of the biggest changes that caught my eye is the reference to the facility being accredited. The reference is made within the new standard to 
AWS QC21, Specification for AWS Accreditation of SENSE Welder Training Programs.

If the link no longer works a search at AWS will help or contacting them. They sometimes change things and have old documents linked and some pages such as the main SENSE page at https://www.aws.org/education/sense have little info.

AWS “CERTIFIED WELDER” Information.

The primary document that governs the welders requirements for the AWS Certified Welder Program is AWS QC7-93 and associated supplements. This standard has been recently re-written as QC47 but that standard was only released for a very short time and withdrawn. QC47 has requirements that refer to programs that AWS does not have released yet. 

The Scope Section of the 25+ year old document for Certified Welders says this.

1.1 Program. The rules for the American Welding Society (AWS) Certified Welder Program and the requirements for maintenance of certification are provided in this standard. This standard requires the use of accredited test facilities for qualification testing.
1.2 Exclusion. This standard does not prevent a manufacturer, fabricator, or contractor from continuing to qualify welders according to other standards. Employers may impose requirements in addition to this standard, as deemed necessary.
1.3 Limitation. Certification under the American Welding Society Certified Welder Program shall be limited to those welding performance variables provided in the applicable supplements to this standard.

To read more about the program, see the AWS page at https://www.aws.org/certification/page/certified-welder-program 

My opinion and observations

I have been involved as a consultant or employee with the setup, demonstration, and accreditation of four AWS ATF’s. I have served as test supervisor for three of those and am currently the Technical Manager at one. This doesn’t elevate me to expert status, only somewhat experienced.

I am also an AWS Certified Welder #1805901W and have a few basic tests because of a teaching position requirement. That does not mean I am a good welder, I am just “Certified” . AWS Certified welder numbers can be verified online like the CWI program at  (If anyone does look mine up and notices the anomaly related to the pipe test qualified thickness ranges, I have explained it to AWS multiple times and finally gave up on them correcting it. Some kind of super duper IT stuff that either nobody can understand or it isn’t important enough to correct) 

Three of the facilities above were also SENSE facilities. I am also an AWS SENSE “ENTRY LEVEL” welder for SMAW #17021105661. 

Below is a table with some general observations about the program differences. This is by no means everything and I strongly suggest you read the standards.  Again, this does not mean one is “better” than the other. As with many “programs” the quality is not in what is written but in what is done and the results.

AttributesAWS
SENSE
AWS
Certified
Welder
Training RequiredYesNo
Training Quality
Referenced
NoNo
Welding Processes
Knowledge
YesNo
Welding Terminology
Knowledge
YesNo
Weld Quality 
Knowledge
YesNo
Welding Symbol 
Knowledge
YesNo
Welding skills 
demonstrated
YesYes
Cutting Skills
Demonstrated
YesSometimes
Performed by
AWS Employees
NoNo
Administering Facilty 
Required to be audited
No (at this time)Yes
Qualifications
Required for 
Supervision
NoYes
Recognized by 
Industry
SeldomSometimes
Fee Paid to AWS
for institution
YesYes
Fee Paid to AWS for
Individual
YesYes

I could go on and on but suggest you take a look at the applicable standards, talk to industry around you, and maybe give AWS a call and try to communicate with them about the two programs. 

My general opinion is this.

An organization can become a SENSE  by paying money to AWS and agreeing to do what they say. There is now an “Accredidation Process” referred to in QC10 but for those to date, no audit was required.

I have gone to SENSE High Schools and verified by observation and questioning that the supervision of the computer-based testing is supervised at various levels and that students are sometimes trained for the test. But they have at least been exposed to some knowledge about welding!

An organization can become an ATF by paying money to AWS but also going through an audit by AWS before actual testing can begin. Additionally, there are requirements for the test supervisors that do not exist for SENSE facilities at this writing.  A person can come take a test of any type referenced in any standard provided the WPS, materials, and equipment is on hand.  There is no experience or knowledge requirement at all. 

Another variable that has a very wide range is the actual welder qualification test. For SMAW as an example, the SENSE program requires a typical groove weld test with requirements essentially identical to AWS D1.1  However, for an “AWS Certified Welder” title, the test could range from a very basic flat sheet metal test Per D1.3 or a very much more difficult test in accordance with QC7-93 Supplement F that actually exceeds the requirements of codes such as ASME Sec. IX. The Supplement F has tests with space restrictions around the coupon and the need for the welder to prepare the coupons. by torch cutting IN POSITION! (See the document at https://pubs.aws.org/content/free_downloads/AWS_QC7-93_-_Supplement_F,_Chemical_Plant_and_Petroleum_Refinery_Piping.pdf)

As a test supervisor at various ATF’s, I have tested welders that met the requirements for AWS Certified Welder that I would NOT let loose on the job without close scrutiny.  I have also met students who have completed the SENSE requirements that have no understanding of current, polarity, CTWD etc…

 The bad part about both programs,in my opinion, is this. The industry as a whole does not take the time to review the programs, facilities, or personnel involved in these programs to become familiar with their requirements and capabilities. On paper, they are really both pretty good when properly applied but in reality, they can become a “credential” that can be added to a resume or become a “feather” in the hat of an institution with no real meat! 

As far as being a welder goes in my world/opinion, showing up with a hood and gloves ready to weld is better than a stack of “papers”. 

2 thoughts on “AWS SENSE or AWS Certified Welder”

  1. Very well said. Your are absolutely right. There should be more training and in the field. When I started welding. The company I work for trained on the job. After getting deeper into welding. I noticed a lot of no no’s. I figured going to a community college will give me more training. But it was the same thing. The school only was training the basics. So after welding over a year. I decided to go to a aws certified school that would really teach me about welding. To make the long story short I truly also believe that programs that you are writing about should be aws accredited. Great column.

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