Non-destructive testing (NDT) technicians/specialists test structures and components for flaws that could affect their safety or effectiveness. The testing processes do not damage the structure or object being tested.
By identifying problems at an early stage, NDT technicians and specialists play an important role in preventing accidents, as well as breakdowns and failures that could cause costly delays.
NDT is used in a wide range of industries. Some examples of NDT applications include:
NDT technicians and specialists use a range of techniques, depending on the object or material they are testing. These include:
Working in NDT also involves:
NDT technicians/specialists usually work between 35 and 40 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Additional hours and overtime may be required.
Depending on the area in which they specialise, NDT technicians/specialists may be based in offices, laboratories or manufacturing environments. Some travel in the UK and overseas may be involved in some jobs.
Some techniques used in NDT are potentially hazardous so it is essential that people working in this field follow health and safety procedures and wear appropriate protective clothing.
Starting salaries for NDT technicians may be around £16,000 a year. Working overtime and shifts can increase salaries significantly.
About 30,000 people work in NDT in the UK. They are employed in many different industries including construction, construction engineering, building services, electronics, shipbuilding, aerospace, power generation, petrochemicals, railways, electronics, and vehicle and consumer goods manufacture. They may also work with engineering consultancies, providing advice on materials technology.
Opportunities are more common in areas with engineering and construction activity. There is currently a shortage of trained NDT personnel in the UK and overseas, with more vacancies than applicants.
Vacancies are advertised on the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing website, www.bindt.org, and in its publications, Insight and NDT News. There are also adverts in NDT Cabin (www.ndtcabin.com).
NDT technicians and specialists can start at a number of different levels.
Many people begin at technician level through Apprenticeships. Employers usually look for apprentices with four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and science or technology.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is also possible to start work as a trainee technician after a full-time engineering course at college. Suitable courses include BTEC national certificates or diplomas, or SQA national certificate group awards.
A Diploma will help you make a more informed choice about the type of learning that best suits you and about what kind of work or further study you may want to do afterwards.
Many NDT specialists are graduates. Relevant degree subjects include materials engineering, materials science, materials technology, metallurgy, polymer science, aerospace engineering, biomaterials, and sports and materials science.
For a degree course, applicants usually need at least two or three A levels/three or four H grades, normally including maths and a science subject, and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. However, requirements vary, and candidates are advised to check with individual universities and colleges.
NDT is a very closely regulated activity and it is increasingly important for people working in the field to demonstrate their skills and competence. A number of certification schemes are available, including the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing's (BINDT) Personnel Certification in NDT (known as PCN). Candidates must successfully complete a PCN-approved course of structured training. This involves attending training sessions at a PCN-approved training establishment and achieving a satisfactory assessment. Trainees then go on to take the PCN level 1 or level 2 examination.
For PCN certificates to remain valid, candidates must meet certain conditions. They must have an annual eye test, continue to practise in their area of competence and keep to a code of ethics. Technicians/specialists involved in industrial radiography must also have valid PCN basic radiation safety certification (or an alternative acceptable to PCN).
Career options are wider for people who gain professional status. For technicians this involves applying for engineering technician registration with the Engineering Council UK. If successful, they gain the letters Eng Tech after their name. Specialists should aim to become either an incorporated engineer or a chartered engineer. For more information visit www.engc.org.uk or www.bindt.org.
Students on a Foundation degree follow a combined work-based, classroom and distance-learning programme. They can gain both academic and vocational qualifications while in paid employment.
After four years, successful students from the Foundation degree will also qualify to register as an engineering technician. They may then choose to progress to an honours degree in NDT (which can also be studied by distance learning), a Masters degree and registration as a chartered or incorporated engineer, and an engineering PhD.
Ideas and technologies change rapidly, so NDT technicians and specialists must commit to Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An NDT technician/specialist should:
An NDT technician may progress to senior technician, or move into purchasing, sales or management. With further experience and qualifications, it may be possible to become a specialist.
Many UK-trained technicians spend time on overseas projects. PCN-qualified technicians in particular are in high demand.
Specialists may be promoted to senior positions with more responsibility.
The British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT),
1 Spencer Parade, Northampton NN1 5AA
Tel: 01604 630124
Engineering Council UK (ECUK),
10 Maltravers Street, London WC2R 3ER
Tel: 020 7240 7891
Engineering and Technology Board (ETB)
Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3),
1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB
Tel: 020 7451 7300
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way,
Stevenage SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311
SEMTA (Science, Engineering and
Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford,
Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 282167
The Welding Institute (TWI),
Granta Park, Great Abington,
Cambridge CB21 6AL
Tel: 01223 899000
Women's Engineering Society (WES),
The IET, Michael Faraday House,
Six Hills Way, Stevenage,
Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 765506
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.