Careers in Non-Destructive Testing

Structures like bridges and rollercoasters need inspecting and NDT techs do the job

Careers in Non-Destructive Testing

Try to picture every structure in the world—everything from bridges to airplanes to railroads and oil rigs.

Have you ever wondered who makes sure they are safe?

Non-Destructive Testing technicians, often called NDT inspectors, are the people who make sure they are structurally sound, said Mike Oden, an NDT placement coordinator and an alumnus of The Ocean Corporation ( in Houston, Texas.

“From computers to pipelines, everything man made is going to fail at some point,” Oden said. “We’re literally inspecting the infrastructure of the world. We have to make sure they are safe and profitable for what they are used for.”

Non-destructive Testing (NDT), which is also known as industrial inspection, is a type of quality control inspection that does not harm the part being tested. 

One example would be performing an x-ray on a pipe weld to look for cracks that might cause a leak, said Brian P. Staley, director of admissions for The Ocean Corporation.

“When the infrastructure begins to deteriorate, people hire inspectors who come out and find flaws so they can do maintenance,” Staley said.

To inspect those structures, NDT inspectors use many different types of tools. X-rays and ultrasound equipment, similar to what doctor’s use, help inspect the metal and components of the structure.


Interested in the job?

Students at The Ocean Corporation graduate as trained NDT inspectors after less than eight months. Other schools offer two-year programs and you can even pursue a graduate degree in this type of work.Oden says there’s also room for advancement. You can start off as an NDT technician and then become a specialist for an industry or a third-party inspector. However, additional testing and certification may be necessary to move up the NDT career ladder. 


How does it pay?

The career, which can be held by men and women of all ages, has a starting salary of $49,000 to $52,000 a year, according to PQNDT, a recruiting agency that specializes in finding personnel for the inspection industry.

And even in one of the toughest economies, NDT inspectors are still in demand. “They’ve shown year-to-year that there are just aren’t enough people to go around,” Oden said, referencing statistics from the American Society for Non-Destructive Testing.


Who hires NDT inspectors?

Fortune 500 companies such as GE, BP and Exxon employ thousands of inspectors worldwide to support the oil and gas industry. Many other inspectors work for less familiar companies inspecting nuclear power plants, bridges, amusement parks, buildings, chemical plants and much more.

NDT inspectors can work out in the field and actually visit the structures they are inspecting, or they can work in labs where the structures, or parts of the structure, that need testing are brought to them.

To get some more insight on the job, we talked to Rick Morgan, president elect for The American Society of Non-Destructive Testing and an NDT inspector for Smith Emery and Company in Los Angeles.

Morgan said the job offers the opportunity to travel and so much more. “What I like about the career is that it’s very diverse,” Morgan said. “Every train you take every car you drive, every bridge you cross, every plane you fly in…(NDT inspectors) are making people safe every day.”


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