I am often asked by student to explain the difference between ASNT and ISO certification systems.

Proper certification is pure written proof of qualification. So while I agree very much that you can be competent without certification, this is not to say that certification has no value.

There are various types of certification;

1 Training company certification
2 Certification by the employer
3 Third party certification

1. While training company certification has its value, its effectiveness does come down to the trainer and the training company. In some cases the certification is little more than a certification of attendance, and this has no real value. This does not mean that the training has no value. Other training companies, like ITC in Eurasia will issue a certificate that fully complies with ISO.
2. Certification by the employer is what is described by ASNT SNT-TC-1A. In this document ASNT clearly describe how this is supposed to work. Anybody that is certified under this standard is supposed to be certified by their employer, and the employer is supposed to meet certain requirements. Most people that think they are certified under this standard DO NOT comply. The certificate they have says that they have been trained by a training company and that the training complies with SNT-TC-1A, this is NOT the same as being certified in accordance with SNT-TC-1A. That being said those that do comply fully do have certification that is meaningful.
3. 3rd party certification is where certification is provided by a certification body. The certification body should be properly accredited, and do not deliver any training. The only scheme I am familiar with is the PCN scheme run by BINDT (I know there are others, but I am only familiar with this one). Under this scheme, it is required that you meet basic educational requirements, minimum training requirements, and have the required level of experience. Your training must be delivered by a company that have been approved and have had their course accredited. There are various other requirements also.

All this being said, I am currently certified by ITC, and by BINDT. If I let my certification expire, it does not mean that I suddenly become bad at thermographer. The certificate itself is just a piece of paper, but certification should be a system, backed up by a proper organisation that complies with or is accredited against some standard.

The main drawbacks of the ASNT system;

An ASNT certificate is issued by the employer, this means for self-employed people they have to certify themselves, and this is not a desirable method as it can be abused. For people hiring thermographer’s in Europe, it is probably best to avoid people certified to ASNT standards, unless they are from very big companies, as it is unlikely that they will comply.

As an ASNT certificate is issued by the employer, your certification is no longer valid if you move job. It is up to your new employer to accept or reject it, and they must have this in their written practice.

Under the ASNT system employers are required to have a written practice in place. This is supposed to clearly state the conditions for certification, their training requirement, supervision of trainees etc. etc. Most companies, and certianly the vast majority of self-employed thermographers do not comply with this.

To be fair, companies that do properly comply with ASNT SNT-TC-1A, have a quality certification system, and the certification that ASNT offer themselves is of a high calibre. Currently ASNT only certify directly at Level 3, this requires students to sit the ASNT Level 3 IR exams, and they have a reputation for being difficult exams. People that have been certified directly as Level 3 by ASNT are usually some of the top industry professionals. There are two certification tracks, NDT and PDM. To be certified at Level 3 by ASNT requires passing the IR exam and either the NDT or PDM exam. These are the tough exams for most people, as the NDT exam covers many other NDT methods, and the PDM covers other PDM methods.

Be careful, not all certification is the same. Understand the certification system and how it applies to the training you are about to undertake.