How to become an NDT technician (with skills and duties)
Non-destructive testing (NDT) involves analysing an object's or structure's features to identify flaws without damaging the original structure. This career path enables people to work in the construction, aerospace, automobile, pipeline and power generation industries. Understanding how to become a non-destructive testing technician can help you take appropriate steps to begin your career. In this article, we define what an NDT specialist is, outline steps on how to become a non-destructive testing technician, explain their skills and highlight their job duties.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is an NDT technician?
An NDT technician is a specialist who uses non-destructive techniques to test products and structures for structural flaws. A company can hire an NDT technician to test its product's structural reliability throughout development. NDT technicians also review the functionalities of specific components or materials or assess entire structures.
How to become a non-destructive testing technician
Follow these steps to determine how to become a non-destructive testing technician:
1. Apply for training courses
You can get training through diploma courses, apprenticeships or direct work applications. If you want university experience, consider applying for diploma courses, such as a level two certificate in welding, a level three diploma in engineering, a level three extended certificate in applied science or a T level certification in engineering, manufacturing, processing and control. These may lead to you getting a trainee technician job. The level two course requires GCSE grades ranging from A* to D in at least two subjects.
Level three and T course entry requirements include four to five GCSE subjects, inclusive of English language and maths, with grades ranging from A* to C. If you want to learn and work simultaneously, consider applying for an intermediate or advanced NDT operator or technician apprenticeship. You need four to five GCSEs, including maths and English, with grades A* to C to qualify.
2. Search for technician jobs
Getting entry-level NDT operator or technician jobs can help you gain hands-on experience and skills and build your networks in the industry. Consider searching for jobs through recruitment agencies, job boards and career websites. You can also apply directly to companies by researching them and sending them job application letters. If you trained through an apprenticeship programme, consider speaking to your supervisors about a permanent position or asking them if they know of any job opportunities outside the company.
You can also ask them to write you a letter of recommendation to increase your chances of securing a job. Consider applying for registration with a licensing organisation, such as the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT). You may find job opportunities, networking events, seminars and workshops through this organisation, which can help you begin and advance your career.
3. Write an NDT operator CV and cover letter
If you find jobs that interest you, consider writing a CV and cover letter showcasing your relevant skills, experiences and qualifications to potential employers. They may require these documents to consider you for the job. On your CV, include your contact information and a professional summary or objective outlining a few skills, accomplishments and goals relevant to the career. Follow this with your educational qualifications, skills and relevant experiences in apprenticeship, volunteer work or secondary school work placement.
In your cover letter, state your interest in the NDT operator role and highlight your skills, experiences and achievements in a way that complements your CV. Consider submitting these documents alongside a letter of recommendation to strengthen your job application. After submitting them, prepare for job interviews by researching the hiring organisation and practising responses using NDT-relevant interview questions.
4. Gain NDT experience
Once you secure a job, consider creating goals for yourself on what you want to achieve from your new role. You can set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART) goals that allow you to progress your career. Try to make a positive impression on your superiors and colleagues by showing reliability, skill and interest. You can show reliability by arriving on time for your shift, submitting high-quality work by deadlines and taking responsibility for and correcting mistakes. Demonstrate your skill by observing colleagues and superiors, performing tasks similarly and following company guidelines and protocols.
Show interest by asking questions on how to perform tasks and improve your skills. You can also show interest by asking for additional tasks that challenge you. These factors may contribute to you impressing your superiors, which can lead to promotions. As you gain experience, consider what career path you want to pursue in NDT. You can become a senior non-destructive testing technician or specialise in a particular testing method. Alternatively, you can go into management, technical sales, purchasing, quality assurance or research and development. You can also apply for a degree apprenticeship and become a qualified NDT engineer.
Non-destructive testing technician skills and knowledge
Analyse the skills and knowledge a non-destructive testing technician needs for the job:
Attention to detail
An NDT role requires attention to detail when inspecting materials, following procedures and understanding manufacturing drawings. This skill enables these technicians to examine materials and structures to identify faults such as corrosion and cracks. They also use attention to detail to test structures and materials, which can lead to the production of high-quality products by following the correct protocols.
These technicians use analysis and drawing software to conduct tests and generate reports. They need tech skills to learn how to use this software and integrate upgrades when performing their tasks. Examples of technology NDT operators and technicians use include computer-aided design (CAD) software, finite element analysis (FEA) software and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. You can gain these skills through training, attending seminars and watching online videos.
Non-destructive testing involves identifying issues that affect the performance and safety of structures and materials and developing solutions for these problems. Technicians can also create new techniques and processes to test structures they previously had difficulty testing. Problem-solving skills also enable technicians to notice trends in issues and anticipate problems in existing and future products and structures, allowing them to solve problems in manufacturing processes, which can lead to faster delivery.
When these technicians conduct tests, they observe several variables, such as temperature changes and material thickness and texture. They need an understanding of how these variables contribute to the effectiveness and workability of a material or structure. Analytical thinking enables them to review these factors, identify inefficiencies and make recommendations in reports.
Technicians follow specific procedures and protocols when running tests on various materials. Some of these tests may involve using radiation to examine materials. These technicians require knowledge of safety practices to protect themselves and others from exposure to harmful substances. Companies may have safety protocols that all members receive training on during their first weeks on the job. You may also learn about safety during your course training.
Non-destructive testing technician job duties
Analyse the following job duties of a non-destructive testing technician:
Testing materials and structures
Review the various testing duties these technicians perform:
performing tests to determine a material's strength, stability and corrosion resistance in relation to temperature changes and stress
conducting tests to determine where corrosion may occur on a material or structure and predicting how the corrosion might spread
using magnifying glasses, X-ray machines and other devices to detect flaws such as metal fatigue and cracks and to examine a material's internal components
utilising ultrasonic testing techniques to measure a metal surface's thickness
finding evidence of separation of layers within an object
identifying and implementing innovative testing techniques and processes
Using equipment and machinery
Non-destructive testing involves using machinery and equipment to perform various tests on materials and structures. Technicians perform the following duties that involve using equipment:
assembling the equipment they use to test objects depending on the material
calibrating equipment before performing tests to ensure they derive accurate results
repairing machines and equipment or scheduling repairs and maintenance
identifying flaws in equipment and requesting upgrades
performing tests using devices to detect deficiencies in structures
Analysing and interpreting results
Analyse the following duties technicians perform when analysing and interpreting results from the tests they conduct:
identifying the root cause of problems within structures and materials
determining techniques to fixing issues they find within objects
making observations about which problems arise the most and using these findings to resolve issues in the manufacturing process
conducting further tests if the initial results are inconclusive
evaluating test results and comparing them to results from previous tests for similar structures
using results to make recommendations about the safety and efficacy of materials
Once technicians test objects and analyse results, they prepare reports for teams. The duties they perform concerning report writing include the following:
documenting the tests they perform and recording their results
developing plans for repairing structures and materials with damages
writing and sharing reports with clients and interested parties
outlining structure and product specifications
creating drawings containing the structural components of an object
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