Career Profile

What Is A Radiographic Interpreter?

Radiographic Interpreters produce radiographs of welds and interpret the results to identify the presence of welding discontinuities. Then, they apply their knowledge of the AWS, API, ASME and other codes to determine which discontinuities are acceptable and which discontinuities must be rejected as a defect.

The process of identifying discontinuities within a radiograph is not as easy as it sounds. An ample amount of welding knowledge and training is a necessary prerequisite to properly interpret radiographic media. To the untrained eye, a radiographic image of a weld is just a host of blurry specks or lines on a black background. To the trained and experienced Radiographic Interpreter, however, these images give a detailed account of the quality of a weldment.  

Why Is This An Important Role?

Radiographic Interpreters are a company’s first line of defense against poor quality welds and potential lawsuits. According to Kenneth Coryell, longtime instructor of the AWS CRI instruction course, the inherent subjectivity of radiographic interpretation can be a major problem for employers. Companies that use qualified RIs to inspect welds are able to ensure the safety of their products and avoid major lawsuits because a more skilled eye inspected the weld’s image. Thus, RIs are invariably a critical part of an employer’s inspection team.

What Career Opportunities Are Available to Radiographic Interpreters?

Radiographic weld inspection is one of the most common methods of non-destructive testing. Because of this, the specialized skills of the radiographic interpreter are highly valued as long term employees and short term contractors in a wide variety of industries including aerospace, automotive construction, shipbuilding, pressure vessel, pipeline, and parts manufacturing. The knowledge and skill set of the Radiographic Interpreter also serves as a solid foundation from which to branch out into related specialized fields such as real time radiography, micro-focus radiography, computed tomography, and computer modeling. Radiographic inspection is also an ideal springboard for a more comprehensive career in non-destructive examination. Radiographic Interpreters that double as Welding Inspectors have more flexibility in a competitive job market.   

How Do I Get Started?

Pursuing a career as a Radiographic Interpreter can be difficult to do by yourself. Reading radiographic film is subjective and requires specific training. Candidates should actively seek to work with more than one radiographic interpreter and learn how the process works, including documentation requirements and the workings of radiographic equipment. While no formal degree is required to start a career as an RI, a satisfactory amount of training and development is preferred and varies by employer. Additional training and development can be gained through an advanced degree or by a combination of work experience and/or training programs.


Every structure has its own story, but few are as unique as Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth. Disney’s 18 story masterpiece was designed to symbolize the park’s theme of bringing the world together through technology – a feat accomplished in no small part due to the skilled proficiency of Radiographic Interpreters.

The complex configurations of the structure’s many welded connections required the use of different non-destructive testing methods, from visual inspection to ultrasonic, magnetic particle, and penetrant testing. Of course, radiography also played a prominent role. Throughout the construction process, radiographic testing was a vital part of the many shop and field erection inspections. In fact, about 4,000 radiographic exposures were made on Spaceship Earth!

Radiographic Interpreters assessed the radiographic images to make sure weldments were in line with quality standards and posed no risk of erosion. A task laden with great responsibility given the fact that thousands of Epcot’s daily visitors continue to board the 13-minute time travel ride housed within the giant structure more than 30 years after the theme park opened in 1982. So if you ever happen to be in Epcot admiring this geodesic wonder, you might want to silently tip your hat to the Radiographic Interpreters that helped make it possible. 


Radiographic interpreters assess radiographic images of welds to determine the existence, nature and classification of discontinuities. If a discontinuity is present, the radiographic interpreter applies the criteria specified by the code to which the weld must comply in order to ascertain if it is a defect or an acceptable condition.

This process can be summarized in three basic steps: (1) inspection (2) detection, and (3) interpretation

Inspection: The radiographic interpreter begins by inspecting the radiograph itself. It is checked for processing and handling artifacts, film density, sensitivity, and proper identification information. Once the interpreter ascertains that the quality of the radiograph is in accordance with the requirements of the applicable code and recorded all of his initial findings in the viewing report, he can go on to step 2, detection.

Detection: The radiographic interpreter carefully scans the radiograph, concentrating on different areas in turn. He may alter the source and intensity of lighting and employ magnification tools to examine areas of interest. The interpreter will often inspect the weld that has been radiographed and then combine this information with his knowledge of welding materials, processes, and discontinuities to determine if the weld contains a discontinuity. If it does, he will move on to step 3, interpretation.

Interpretation: Once the radiographic interpreter has detected a discontinuity he will rely on his past experience and reference materials to positively identify and document the type, size and shape of the discontinuity. Then, he will consult the applicable code or standard to determine if the discontinuity is acceptable, or classifies as a defect. A weld with a defect must be rejected.   

In addition to the inspection, detection and interpretation of welds, the job of a Radiographic Interpreter typically includes:

  • Verify the proper selection, handling, and storage of radiographic film
  • Verify all information required for radiographic traceability
  • Confirm the presence and readability of the image quality indicator on the radiographic media
  • Document the acceptance or rejection of welds
  • Produce clear and concise records of interpretations and radiographic media quality
  • Discuss findings in order to permit determination of the root cause and corrective action


General Attributes 

  • Detail oriented
  • Good hand-to-eye coordination and physical strength
  • High level of integrity and ethics
  • Analytical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Safety and quality awareness

General Knowledge and Skills

  • Ability to set up and calibrate non-destructive evaluation equipment
  • Ability to use of codes and standards
  • Ability to Interpret blueprints and drawings
  • Knowledge of welding processes and joint designs
  • Knowledge of welding metallurgy
  • Basic computer skills


Since there are multiple ways to pursue a career as a Radiographic Interpreter, candidates must be prepared to carve their own path with a combination of education, training, and experience. Education requirements for Radiographic Interpreters vary by employer. Some employers require RIs to have a high school diploma and successfully complete employer-based tests. Other employers look for a certificate or advanced degree from a welding association, technical school, vocational school, community college, or university.

The most common advanced areas of study for Radiographic Interpreters are:

  • Welding Inspection Technology
  • Welding Technology
  • General Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Materials Science
  • Applied Sciences


Candidates can attend a vocational school or college to acquire the knowledge required of a radiographic interpreter. This includes but may not be limited to welding processes, welding technology, radiographic theory and procedures, and radiographic processing, handling and storage. However, the nature of radiographic interpretation invariably requires that students work directly with an experienced, and preferably certified, Radiographic Interpreter to learn how to work with radiographic equipment, identify and interpret weld discontinuities on radiographic images, document the interpretation process, and use standards and codes. 

For professionals seeking to further enhance their credentials and become Certified Radiographic Interpreters (CRIs), the American Welding Society (AWS) provides onsite training for candidates to boost their skills and knowledge. Certification programs for radiographic interpretation allow welding professionals to expand their credentials in a related inspection skill.


The American Welding Society offers a specialized certification for radiographic interpreters. The AWS Certified Radiographic Interpreter program certifies the ability of individuals to properly assess welding-related indications produced on radiographic film and related media. Earning a certification in radiographic interpretation provides higher salary potential, stronger employment demand and better job stability.

Here are 8 necessary steps you must take on your journey to become a CRI:

STEP 1:  Download AWS B5.15:2010 Specification for the Qualification of Radiographic Interpreters and AWS QC15:2008 Specification for the Certification of Radiographic Interpreters. Both documents outline every aspect of the CRI program and exam. The B5.15 covers the skills and knowledge required of a CRI, while the QC15 gives an overview of the various sections of the CWI exam.

STEP 2: Review the CRI Body of Knowledge in Clause 9 of the B5.15 Specification and perform a self-assessment. Compare your skills and knowledge to those required of a Certified Radiographic Interpreter. This can be accomplished in one of two ways:

1)Complete your WeldLink Profile and add “Radiographic Interpreter” as a career path. This will automatically compare your current skills and knowledge to those of the typical radiographic interpreter, and provide you with a career roadmap with the additional education, training and experience required to become a CRI.

2) Review Clause 6 of the B5.15 Specification. Mark the areas where your level of competence compares to a working CRI. Any areas left unmarked will indicate where you will most likely need additional training.

STEP 3: Determine if you qualify to sit for the AWS CRI Exam. Candidates must have a minimum of one year experience as a company certified or nationally certified radiographic interpreter. These include Radiographic Level II or III Inspectors and NAVSEA Inspectors or Examiners. Candidates may also qualify with one year of experience under the direct supervision of such an individual. For a detailed summary of the education and experience requirements to qualify, review Clause 7 of the B5.15 Specification.

STEP 4: Get the experience you need. Shadow a CRI and practice. Use the opportunity to gain some practical experience reading radiographic images. While you must be supervised by the CRI at all times when performing interpretation, this is a great way to understand how interpretation works. Focus on getting as much experience as possible before the exam. The minimum training and experience requirements to sit for the CRI exam are listed in Clause 6 of the B5.15 Specification.

STEP 5: Register for the Certified Radiographic Interpreter Exam through the online AWS registration system.

STEP 6: (Optional): Once a candidate has fulfilled the requirements to take the exam, they simply have to pass it. Prior to doing so, some candidates realize they can benefit from taking a prep course to strengthen their knowledge and skills. The 5-day AWS Certified Radiographic Interpreter Seminar reviews the body of knowledge required of a CRI and prepares candidates for the CRI exam given at the end of each seminar week. The Seminar includes on-site books and a 3-year AWS membership.

STEP 7: Take the exam. The exam is split into three parts. Part A is a multiple-choice examination on the fundamentals radiographic inspection. Part B is a multiple choice practical examination that consists of interpreting a minimum of 10 radiographs to a code, specification, or other standard. Part C is a multiple choice, open-book examination covering the contents of specific codes that pertain to radiographic quality and film interpretation. Parts A & C are given at the same time in a single 3-hour session. Part B is given in a separate 3-hour session. Successful CRI candidates must attain a minimum of

70% correct answers per exam part and an 80% composite average of all parts. 

STEP 8: Once you complete the exam, your test results will be mailed to you within 2 -3 weeks. If you pass, a certificate and wallet card will be mailed along with your results.  If you find any discrepancy or have any questions, please contact AWS immediately.


Nuclear Energy
Oil and Gas
Parts manufacturing



Computer modeling
Computed tomography
Micro-focus radiography
Real time radiography
Welding Inspection