For an unexpected way to see the world, train to be an NDT inspector
In his own words, Mike Oden shares what it's like to be a nondestructive testing inspector, one of the most fascinating career opportunities. It's the chance to get a very close-up look at the bridges, pipelines and much more that make up the world's infrastructure. Mike graduated from the Ocean Corporation's School of Nondestructive Testing in Houston and is a Level 2 NDT inspector in Magnetic Particle, Dye Penetrant, Visual & Automated Ultrasonics.,
If you stop and think about it, everything we use in our daily lives is manufactured or manmade -- and nothing manmade lasts forever. Evidence of this can be seen every time you turn on the daily news and see reports of a bridge collapsing, an oil refinery exploding or an airplane crashing to the ground. This is why everything manufactured must be inspected!
The men and women who perform these inspections are trained to use Nondestructive Testing (NDT) equipment and they are called NDT Inspectors. They use specialized equipment like x-ray cameras and ultrasound machines to inspect the infrastructure of our modern world.
I have been an NDT Inspector for over 17 years and have traveled around the U.S. inspecting nuclear power plants, pipelines, oil refineries, ships, buildings, cranes, automobile parts, missile guidance systems and many other things. The structures, parts and facilities I inspected are what make up the world’s infrastructure.
NDT Inspectors are not required to have a degree but they are required to have a high school diploma or GED and must complete a minimum amount of formal classroom training covering NDT theory and equipment use. NDT training is offered mainly at vocational schools but there are a few community colleges around the country offering the training also. In most cases, the required training will be mostly hands-on and can be completed in less than a year.
Unique Industry with Unique Opportunities
Like most people entering the NDT industry, when I first started my career, I quickly discovered that it was very different from any other job I had ever had. The work was interesting and I actually enjoyed it!
There are several things that make the career of an NDT Inspector unique. First, NDT Inspectors can work in a variety of industries including aerospace, nuclear power, wind power, offshore, pipeline, automotive, manufacturing, defense and many more. Some NDT Inspectors choose to work in one specific industry like petrochemical or aerospace while others may like the variety of working in several industries at the same time (I chose to work in multiple industries).
NDT Inspectors can also choose to specialize in a specific NDT method they like, or they may perform all the methods. There are also opportunities to use automated and robotic equipment, perform inspections using rope access equipment, and take advantage of opportunities for travel, both across the U.S. and internationally. Very few careers can offer all the choices that are available to an NDT Inspector.
Is NDT for You?
Most NDT Inspectors I know will tell you, “It’s the best job around!” I agree, but for anyone considering entering this career, there are a few things to consider:
1. This is not an office job. You will not sit behind a desk and work on a computer. NDT inspection is a hands-on career and you will either be working outside or in an industrial warehouse.
2. You should also take into consideration that NDT Inspectors must pay close attention to the details and always take their job responsibilities seriously. After all, someone’s family will be flying in the jet plane after you have inspected it, maybe even your own!
3. The final consideration is for women who are interested in becoming NDT Inspectors. The majority of inspectors are men. I believe this is for no reason other than the fact that the inspection industry is an industrial trade and more men than women typically choose the industrial trades as a career option. With that said, there have been women inspectors on most every job I have worked on. NDT is not a physically demanding job. Inspectors do not repair the flaws that their inspections reveal and rarely will they be required to lift or carry anything weighing more 20 to 30 pounds.
NDT inspection is a great career choice for men and women looking for an exciting job that offers opportunities for travel. There's nothing like it.