Careers to Consider – Nondestructive Testing (NDT)

One of the most important things a counselor can do to help his or her students prepare for life after graduation is to help them develop a plan or strategy for post-secondary education and training. This is especially true for those 30% or more students nationwide whose post-secondary education plans will most likely NOT include attending a college or university.

According to Dr. Randall Hansen, Ph.D., post-secondary education and training are critical for success after high school but post-secondary education does not necessarily mean college. He said there are numerous other career opportunities and choices out there that do not require a college degree (Quintessential Careers, 2015).

For example, a career in Nondestructive Testing (a.k.a. NDT) involves technicians who are trained to use specialized equipment like x-ray cameras and ultrasound machines to inspect the infrastructure of our world. NDT inspectors are not required to have a college degree and according to a 2014 salary survey from Personnel Qualified for Nondestructive Testing—entry level NDT inspectors averaged $55,000 – $63,200 annually (, 2014).

What is NDT?

Everything we use in our daily lives is manufactured or manmade. Nothing manmade lasts forever. Daily news reports about bridge failures or pipeline explosions, or other tragedies are reminders that everything manufactured, MUST be inspected! This type of inspection is called nondestructive testing because the inspection methods used will not destroy or harm the objects being inspected.

NDT inspectors work in a variety of industries including aerospace, nuclear power, wind power, offshore, pipeline, automotive, manufacturing, defense and many more. There are also opportunities to use automated and robotic equipment or perform inspections using rope access equipment. Opportunities for both national & international travel are also available.

Hands-on Training

NDT inspectors are not required to have a two or four year college degree. They are required to have a high school diploma or GED and they will need to complete an NDT training program that includes both NDT theory and practical equipment use. NDT training is offered mainly at vocational schools like The Ocean Corporation in Houston, Texas, where students spend a little more than 30 weeks learning the six most common NDT methods and will receive job placement assistance upon graduation.

There are also a few community colleges around the country that offer the training. Accredited NDT schools may offer tuition assistance for those students who qualify and The American Society for Nondestructive Testing (the professional association for NDT inspectors) annually offers scholarships to high school graduates interested in studying Nondestructive Testing. The majority of NDT education and training required will be hands-on and in most cases the training can be completed in less than a year.

Great Alternative to College Degree

Most people working in the NDT business today will tell you, “It’s the best job around” and “I wish I would have known about it when I graduated high school”. NDT inspectors do not sit behind desks and work on computers. It is a hands-on career and the work is performed either outside or in industrial warehouses. NDT work is interesting. Inspectors examine bridges, buildings, airplanes, ski lifts, roller coasters, ships, rockets, and just about anything else you can think of that is manufactured.

The work NDT inspectors do is important. It is a source of great pride for those who do it because it deals with safety. Inspectors must pay close attention to the details and always take their job responsibilities seriously. After all, someone’s family will be flying in the jet plane after you have inspected it, maybe even your own! The majority of inspectors in the industry are men but the number of women has increased at least 6% since 2010 (, 2014). Women can be found on most every inspection job there is today. NDT is not a physically demanding job. Inspectors do not repair the flaws that their inspections reveal and rarely will they be required to lift or carry anything weighing more 20 – 30 pounds.

For many high school graduates, training for a career in NDT may be a great post-secondary alternative to college. It offers young men and women an exciting, hands-on career with opportunities for travel, high income potential and best of all—no degree is required.

Michael W. Oden, M.A. Ed., graduated from The Ocean Corporation School of Nondestructive Testing in Houston, Texas and has worked in the NDT industry for more than 15 years. For more information about careers Nondestructive Testing contact Michael at