Inspectioneering Journal

Certified vs. Qualified: What It Takes to Become a Capable FEMI Inspector

By John Reynolds, Principal Consultant at Intertek. This article appears in the July/August 2018 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


There’s an old saying -“certified does not necessarily mean qualified or capable.”  Of course that does not mean that there are not capable and qualified inspectors who have certifications.  However, one should consider that studying for a certification exam and passing the test does not necessarily equate to competence as a process or contract inspector for hire.  I recently posed a question on Inspectioneering’s LinkedIn group asking members what they thought it takes to make an inspector qualified after they pass the certification exam.  This article is a summary of my thoughts on the issue as well as a response to some of the comments from that discussion.

Obtaining an API Basic Certification

Some inspectors confuse the experience requirements listed in the API Inspection Codes/Standards that are necessary to sit for the exam with the experience requirements that are needed to become a qualified stand-alone inspector.  They are very different levels of experience and practical knowledge. The three basic Codes/Standards (510, 570, & 653) indicate four levels of experience and education as a basis to qualify for taking the exam. Those levels were never intended to be four levels of education and experience to qualify for being a capable, competent inspector.  Those experience levels for the exams were devised by the API Subcommittee on Inspection and Mechanical Integrity (SCIMI) many years ago when the certification program first began. Those experience levels are only intended to show that a candidate for certification has at least had some minimal amount of education, experience and exposure to fixed equipment mechanical integrity (FEMI) in our industry – not to show that that anyone has had a lot of FEMI inspection experience.  Most of that “real” experience as an inspector comes after an inspector has passed the exam and has become “certified.” Passing the basic certification exams for inspection of pressure vessels, piping systems and/or storage tanks only shows that the newly certified inspector has some book learning on these subjects that is available by studying the Codes/Standards that are included in each of the API Individual Certification Programs’ (ICP) Body of Knowledge (BOK).

The passing rate would indicate that these basic API ICP exams are not easy to pass without some study. The passing rate over the last five years or so shows: for the 510 a range of 60-70%; for 570 a passing rate in the 55-60% range; and for 653 a range 45-55%.  Candidates should study the applicable BOK documents in order to pass the basic exam; but the questions are all oriented toward what we call the “minimally qualified” candidate (i.e., those that meet the minimal qualifications to sit for the exam). As part of that process, each question that is approved for a basic exam goes through a vetting and verification process which includes reviewing whether or not a “minimally qualified” candidate should be expected to know the topic as part of their entry into the field after obtaining certification.  But those with book learning skills and little inspection experience can study the specified BOK and pass the exams. That means that some newly certified candidates (aka ‘newbies’) go to work with little practical, on-the-job experience. API certification is just the first step. Hence the second phase of becoming a qualified, capable inspector is just as important, if not more so, than becoming certified by passing an exam based on book learning. Please excuse the repetition in the foregoing, but I find that there is a lot of confusion in the industry between being certified and being a qualified, capable inspector, and that’s what I am trying to address in this article.

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by Dana Baham on August 30, 2018
I ,on the other hand, have read many articles... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by John Reynolds on August 30, 2018
Right you are, Dana and thanks for the comments.... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by James Creech on August 30, 2018
I have historically been critical of the... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Saeed Bafail on September 17, 2018
Do you think this proposed 10-rung ladder is... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by John Reynolds on September 17, 2018
Yes, Saeed, I believe the same concept applies to... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Paul Guettler on September 24, 2018
Hello, Mr. Reynolds There were (are?) many... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Nicholas Girdham on September 24, 2018
Hi Mr Reynolds I do believe in what you are... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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