The topic of "certification" is one that still comes up regularly in our courses and in discussions among thermographers. The primary question, as it has been in the 27+ years I've been in this profession, is "Who certifies and what does it mean?" We've discussed these issues in detail here and in our Think Thermally newsletter, however, certification is still a source of confusion to many despite the simplicity of the definition from the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT): "Written testimony of qualification."

Unfortunately we are seeing a recent, and somewhat disturbing, trend in our classes regarding the confusion over what is Level III certification. The Level III is responsible for the results of a program; they are the administrator. A failure to be fully qualified to shoulder that responsibility can have serious consequences. In fact all ASNT Level IIIs must also swear to a Code of Conduct that attests to that fact.

What concerns me is that these professional certifications are compared in the public eye with the "certification" of someone who has attended a week long Level III course. Don't get me wrong, taking Level III IR training is by no means a trivial matter. Anyone who does should certainly promote that fact. But when that accomplishment suddenly morphs into the student saying "I'm Level III certified," I have to question that statement.

Earning an ASNT Level III certificate is a very different, and significant, professional achievement. The same is true for certification issued under ISO standards. To reach this professional level one needs to devote months of additional study as well as considerable funds to the process. Many also do not pass both the required exams the first time. Of course the fact that anyone holds an ASNT Level III certificate does not preclude problems but it is part of a system and paper trail that goes a long way to minimizing issues that are rampant in many other professions that lack standards.

If you ever have any question about the credentials someone purports to have, especially if there is confusion about whether or not they actually hold a Level III certificate from ASNT, it is very simple to check the facts. Go to and enter their name or certificate number and ASNT will quickly verify the information.

Whether or not you are a Level III, I ask that all of us do what we can to ensure that we are "speaking the same language" when it comes to certification and be clear about what our credentials are and what they are not. Thanks for listening!

Tip submitted by:  John Snell, The Snell Group

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