Non-destructive Testing Technician/Specialist

Introduction

Non-destructive testing (NDT) technicians/specialists test the safety of structures, vehicles and vessels including aircraft, trains, bridges, dams and pipelines.

NDT technicians/specialists use a variety of techniques to search for signs of corrosion, structural damage or weakness, metal fatigue and other flaws.

Also known as

  • Industrial Radiographer
  • Radiographer, Industrial
  • NDT Specialist

Work Activities

There are many different methods of carrying out non-destructive testing (NDT). The original method is a visual examination.

With advances in technology, NDT technicians/specialists can now examine structures and parts by using lenses, closed-circuit television, computerised inspection equipment and fibre optic devices.

This technology enables specialists to examine structures on the seabed, or look at parts in a radioactive environment.

In liquid penetrant testing, the most common type of NDT, technicians/specialists coat an object with a visible or fluorescent dye. Any cracks in the surface will draw in the dye.

After cleaning away excess penetrant, NDT technicians/specialists use a developer (which acts like blotting paper) to draw the dye back up, therefore revealing the crack.

NDT technicians/specialists can use radiography to produce an image of an object on a film. For example, they may use X-ray or gamma radiation (similar to an X-ray, but much more powerful) to look for internal defects in metal castings.

They may also use ultrasonics to detect faults in solid materials. This follows a similar principle to that used in sonar equipment at sea. NDT technicians/specialists introduce sound into the test object. By looking at how the sound travels within the object, they can map the presence of imperfections (which might bounce the sound around).

They use ultrasound to examine welds in nuclear reactors, and in medical imaging studies.

NDT is a very fast-moving area. Technicians/specialists are developing and using new methods all the time, like acoustic emission (which 'listens' to the growth of a crack), leak testing and thermography (used to analyse temperature data).

Technicians/specialists often develop expertise in one or two methods of NDT, but they need to know how to interpret all methods. They also need to develop an understanding of the manufacturing processes they are involved in, to predict the type, position and effect of faults.

Some work might involve spending time away from home, for example, working on gas/oil rigs or generators.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

As a non-destructive testing (NDT) technician/specialist, you need:

  • Strong technical knowledge and skills, to understand and use the principles of non-destructive testing.
  • IT skills to use computerised inspection equipment.
  • To enjoy solving problems.
  • A logical and methodical approach to your work.
  • To be inquisitive and observant.
  • To pay attention to detail.
  • To be safety conscious - safety is an important aspect of this job.
  • A strong sense of responsibility, a calm approach and the ability to follow strict procedures.
  • To be self-reliant, because you may be working on your own.
  • Good communication skills.
  • To work well in teams with other non-destructive testing technicians/specialists, and to pass on your findings in a clear verbal or written report.

Your colour vision may be tested.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

Non-destructive testing (NDT) technicians/specialists earn in the range of £16,000 - £19,500 a year, rising to £24,500 - £29,500 a year, with experience. Higher salaries are possible for senior positions.

Hours of work

NDT technicians/specialists usually work a 39-hour week, which may include some Saturdays. Overtime may be available.

Where could I work?Employers include:

  • Manufacturing companies.
  • Companies that carry out NDT inspections for clients.
  • Firms that operate installations such as offshore gas and oil platforms.
  • Organisations such as airlines that employ an NDT team to check equipment performance.

Opportunities for NDT technicians/specialists occur with employers throughout the UK.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Universal Jobmatch website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is practised in many different organisations and people enter with a wide range of qualifications.

It's possible to receive on-the-job training with a company in a specific method of NDT. This may be combined with short courses.

Some people study at college for Edexcel (BTEC) National qualifications in Engineering, before seeking employment.

Some entrants have an HNC/HND, foundation degree, degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant science (eg, Physics) or engineering subject.

Some young people enter through a craft or technician apprenticeship in related areas such as engineering inspection and welding.

Training

You may be able to attend a part-time course on a day- or block-release basis while in employment.

In engineering construction, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) runs an apprenticeship scheme for technician-level occupations, including non-destructive testing.

The training is in two parts: initial training takes place at an approved centre. Apprentices then go to an engineering construction site to gain practical experience. Training can lead to work-based qualifications.

There is also a non-destructive testing pathway in the Engineering Technical Support NVQ at levels 2 and 3.

The University of Northampton offers a foundation degree and a degree in Non-Destructive Testing by distance learning. These courses are designed for people who are already working in NDT.

Certification in NDT demonstrates that you have appropriate training and experience in a particular use of NDT and have passed a practical test to show your competence.

The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) is the professional institute for those involved in NDT and is responsible for awarding certification. This is called PCN (Personal Certification for NDT) and is available at different levels.

You can gain certification through on-the-job training, and/or by taking short courses run by technical colleges, specialist training institutions and equipment manufacturers. The BINDT can provide a list of accredited training establishments.

Progression

Depending on their qualifications, NDT technicians/specialists may be able to gain Chartered (CEng), Incorporated (IEng) or Engineering Technician (EngTech) professional status.

Qualifications

There are no formal minimum academic requirements for entry into this career.

However, entry to training is likely to be with at least 4 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject. Of the sciences, physics is particularly important.

To enter a relevant degree course, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above
  • A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C or above
  • Maths and a science or technology subject are often required at A level
  • English, Maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C or above.

For entry to a relevant HND course, the usual requirement is at least 1 A level pass, normally in a maths or science subject.

For entry to a degree in mechanical engineering, the usual academic requirements are:

  • 2/3 A levels, usually in Maths and a science or technology subject, often Physics
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C or above
  • A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C or above
  • English, Maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C or above.

Other qualifications, such as a relevant Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 National or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted. Check prospectuses carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Skills/experience

A relevant industrial background, such as in metal fabrication and welding, can be helpful.

Courses

Most colleges will consider applications from older candidates who don't have the usual entry requirements. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000

Email: ecitb@ecitb.org.uk

Website: careers.ecitb.org.uk

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH

Tel: 028 9182 2377

Email: info@etcni.org.uk

Website: www.etcni.org.uk

TWI Training & Examination Services

Address: Granta Park, Great Abington, Cambridge CB21 6AL

Tel: 01223 899500

Email: trainexam@twi.co.uk

Website: www.twitraining.com

British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT)

Address: Newton Building, St George's Avenue, Northampton NN2 6JB

Tel: 01604 893811

Email: info@bindt.org

Website: www.bindt.org

Insight

Publisher: British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT)

Website: www.bindt.org/Publications/Insight_Journal

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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