The American Society for Nondestructive Testing, or ASNT, is the largest technical society for nondestructive testing professionals in the world. Founded in 1941, the organization offers informational resources, educational programs and events surrounding nondestructive testing (NDT). It also sets standards for the qualification of NDT personnel.
ASNT’s globally recognized certifications serve as an impartial way to verify the capabilities and expertise of NDT professionals. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into one such certification: ASNT NDT Level II.
ASNT certifications, explained
ASNT certifications were developed to provide a consistent way to gauge and qualify NDT personnel. No matter where in the world you take the test, the standards and qualification practices will be the same.
The organization currently offers four certification programs: ASNT NDT Level III, ASNT Central Certification Program (ACCP), ASNT NDT Level II, and Industrial Radiography and Radiation Safety Personnel (IRRSP).
For NDT personnel, ASNT certification offers a way to demonstrate your level of competence in your respective area of expertise. Many job openings will include certification as a requirement. For employers, it’s a reliable means to verify that a worker has the skills, knowledge and experience to do their job safely and effectively.
Level II certification means personnel are qualified to set up and calibrate equipment and interpret, evaluate and report test results. Level II technicians should be highly familiar with the applicable codes, standards and specifications of their area of testing and have a firm grasp on the limitations of their testing techniques.
What does level II certification entail?
ASNT NDT Level II certification consists of two pieces: a general exam and a specific exam.
The general exam focuses on nondestructive testing fundamentals, principles and theory. It’s two hours long and includes 50 multiple-choice questions.
The specific exam focuses on a particular testing method, with options for magnetic particle testing (MT), liquid penetrant testing (PT), radiographic testing (RT), ultrasonic testing (UT) and visual testing (VT). The specific exam is also two hours long and has 40 multiple choice questions that cover equipment, operating processes and techniques. The questions are developed by ASNT NDT Level III personnel based on the codes, standards and specifications that are commonly used in that specific industry sector.
To obtain your first ASNT NDT Level II credential, you’ll need to pass the general exam and at least one specific exam. If you want to add additional specific certifications down the road, you don’t have to retake the general exam each time.
To take the ASNT NDT Level II exams, you’ll need to meet a series of requirements and submit an application. The two biggest pieces of the requirements are the experience and training components.
The experience requirement is significant; for each method, you need both method-specific experience and general NDT experience. The number of hours required for each method are as follows:
- Liquid penetrant: 210 hours in method, 400 total hours in NDT
- Magnetic particle: 280 hours in method, 530 total hours in NDT
- Radiographic: 840 hours in method, 1600 total hours in NDT
- Ultrasonic: 840 hours in method, 1600 total hours in NDT
- Visual: 210 hours in method, 400 total hours in NDT
Your experience must be verified with written documentation like log books, HR records, or a signed statement from your employer.
The next component of the Level II exam application is training. Candidates must complete and document a set number of training hours in the method for which they intend to test. The training requirements are as follows:
- Liquid penetrant: 12 training hours
- Magnetic particle: 20 training hours
- Radiographic: 80 training hours
- Ultrasonic: 80 training hours
- Visual: 24 training hours
ASNT offers an extensive catalog of training courses held throughout the year that can help you fulfill the training requirement. Training from your employer or a formal education institution can also be counted, with signed documentation from either a company executive or the individual that conducted the training.
Formal education like a bachelor’s or associate’s degree is not a requirement for ASNT certification, though it can certainly serve as a helpful foundation. Students wishing to pursue a career in NDT can benefit from coursework in architectural engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, biomedical technology, welding or weld engineering.
Many vocational schools offer programs specifically for nondestructive testing. These can give you a faster path toward completion than a traditional college, which requires additional prerequisites in coursework that are often unrelated to your major. A vocational school is also a more cost-effective option.
You should have a high school diploma or equivalent.
To round out your ASNT exam application, you’ll need to include a headshot (to be used on your wallet card if you pass the exam), valid form of ID and several signed agreements.
Once you’ve met the above requirements, you’re eligible to take the Level II exam. You have 12 consecutive months from the time of your approval to take the exam; if you wait longer than 12 months, you’ll need to apply and get approved again. Likewise, if you don’t pass the exam the first time around, you’ll need to begin again with a fresh application.
ASNT has moved to a fully computer-based exam model, so you’ll take the exam at a Pearson Vue exam center or at one of the organization’s other testing partner sites. Learn more about the fees to take the exam and begin the application process here.
Finally, as your exam date approaches, you’ll want to prepare as much as possible. ASNT has a great library of self-study materials like study guides, sample questions and training books organized by testing method available here.
Career prospects for ASNT level II certification
For NDT professionals looking to advance their earning potential, obtaining Level II certification is a great step. Level II certification comes with more responsibility than Level I, which increases how much you can make.
In addition to conducting nondestructive tests and recording the results, Level II technicians can interpret, organize and report on those results. They may also provide guidance and supervision to Level I technicians or trainees. Whereas Level I technicians only perform specific evaluations under instruction from a higher level technician, Level II personnel can conduct testing according to codes and standards (rather than per specific instructions).
Level II technicians are needed in a wide array of industries. Some of the most common fields looking to hire Level II NDT personnel include oil and gas, power and energy, construction, transportation, aerospace and defense. NDT jobs are available all over North America and on almost every continent.
According to a 2019 industry report, Asia, Australia and the United States were the regions with the highest projected regional growth rates for NDT jobs. The report cites the rise in manufacturing automation as a driving factor for job market growth.
As it becomes faster and more efficient to produce materials, there’s a corresponding need for flaw detection related to cracks, porosity, manufacturing defects, and so on, which drives demand for qualified NDT personnel.
According to Salary.com, the income range for a Level II NDT technician in the U.S. is between $71,000 and $85,000, with the average salary being a healthy $79,000. The more years of experience you have under your belt, the more you’ll tend to earn.
The majority of Level II technicians also enjoy a 401(k), employer-sponsored health insurance, disability benefits and paid time off. The field also lends itself to working as an independent contractor, so if you’re looking for more flexibility and control over which projects you work on, this may be a route to consider.
Level II certification is a solid stepping stone to Level III, the tier with the highest earning potential. Level III technicians have the most responsibility and often go on to hold management roles, work in education, lead nondestructive testing research or own their own testing labs.
As you can see, a career in nondestructive testing can take you as far as you’re willing to follow it; there’s always a new skill to learn, certification to pursue or application to master.
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