Become a Commercial Diver: Education and Career Roadmap

Commercial divers work with teams of engineers to perform mechanical repairs and construction underwater. Divers work in all types of water, including rivers, bays and the ocean.

Should I Become A Commercial Diver?

Commercial divers work in numerous industries performing tasks that require below the surface work. Using scuba or other diving gear, they perform a variety of functions including inspection, installation, removal or repair of underwater structures or equipment. This profession requires great physical fitness and competence with specialized tools as well as diving know-how.

Commercial divers often work with little visibility, sometimes in debris-filled water. They may spend long periods of time away from home on a boat. Seasoned divers perform deeper dives requiring more complicated mechanical work.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree and postsecondary certificate available
Experience On the job training
Licensure and Certification Certifications required including Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) among others
Training Programs available through a variety of schools include dive training, safety and specialized underwater work
Key Skills Diving proficiency, dexterity; electrical, communications, welding, technical use of professional equipment
Salary (2014) $45,890 per year (Median salary for Commercial Divers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Complete High School

High school students can prepare for a commercial diving career by taking courses involving problem-solving and mechanics. Students should also maintain their physical fitness and participate on the swim team. Attending swimming and diving camps during the summer can also help someone learn basic diving fundamentals.

Step 2: Prepare for Commercial Diver Training

Commercial diver training programs are available through a variety of schools in the U.S. Select programs that are accredited through the Association of Commercial Diving Educators. It's not necessary that students attend one of these accredited programs to gain employment, but accredited programs may offer more comprehensive instruction and include benefits such as hands-on experience and job placement services. These programs provide varying levels of training in different aspects of diving, such as technical tasks or off-shore work.

Step 3: Complete Diver Training Program

Commercial diver training courses include underwater welding, rigging, hydraulics and diving equipment maintenance. Some programs provide realistic training in open water facilities. Graduates can earn the certifications that are required by most employers. Students might be able to combine their diving certification with another postsecondary certificate or associate's degree.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

Commercial divers inspect and repair bridges, dams, oil rigs and other underwater structures. Specific tasks include welding, laying pipes and cables and using underwater video and photographic equipment. Many commercial divers are employed by the oil and gas industry. Divers working on oil rigs might inspect, repair or plug wells.

Step 5: Complete Certification to Pursue Professional Advancement

Commercial divers can earn further certifications based on their career interests. Examples include international diving certification, specific hazards training, supervisor training and certifications in specific types of diving, such as mixed gas. Commercial divers can advance to become diving supervisors or consultants.


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