For those who consider scuba diving more than just a hobby, becoming a professional scuba diver may be an exciting career option. They can combine their passion for diving with architecture, construction, research or photography, and their income is often determined by the industry in which they work.
A professional scuba diver may work in a variety of commercial fields, such as underwater repair, research, photography, instruction or exploration. Certification is mandatory for divers, and some fields may require additional credentials as proof of proficiency. Although there isn't a standard education required for this career, certificate and degree programs in topics like diving sciences and underwater photography are available.
|Required Education||None, though relevant postsecondary programs are available|
|Other Requirements||Diving certification|
|Projected Job Growth*||5% between 2019 and 2029 (for all commercial divers)|
|Median Salary (2021)**||$60,000 (for all commercial divers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
Professional Scuba Diver Salary Information
In 2021, PayScale.com disclosed that annual wages for commercial scuba divers ranged from $36,000 to $145,000, including bonuses. Individuals with zero to five years of experience earned approximately $45,000, while professional divers with more than 10 years of experience earned median wages of $33 per hour. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the highest incomes were earned by commercial divers working in other support services (www.bls.gov).
Career Information for Professional Scuba Divers
Professional scuba divers work for companies providing underwater repair, research, photography, and exploration services. Commercial divers may be responsible for installing or removing equipment, or performing inspections and various construction operations on submerged structures, such as oil rigs, tunnels, or salvage sites. Some jobs may require advanced knowledge and experience with specialized equipment, such as welding tools or explosive materials.
Professional scuba divers may also offer photography or instruction services for scientific exploration companies, tourist shops, and diving schools. In addition to construction ventures, state and federal agencies employ divers for search and rescue operations. Some examples of other industries that employ scuba divers include:
- U.S. military
- Petroleum refineries
- Research organizations
Professional scuba divers must first become certified through a recognized organization, such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors or the National Association of Underwater Instructors. Basic certifications may be sufficient for some positions; however, most professional divers are required to earn advanced master or instructor credentials. Many schools and independent dive shops in the U.S. are authorized to provide instruction and certification, and each certification level may take 2-14 days to complete.
Once a scuba diver has earned the necessary designation for a specific occupation, complementary instruction may be necessary. Colleges and universities offer certificate and degree programs for underwater diving sciences, welding, photography, and inspection services. Students may become certified through an academic program, though most require applicants to obtain the necessary scuba diving training and credentials prior to enrolling.
A professional scuba diver can work across multiple industries, and can offer services such as photography, repair, inspection or exploration. They must begin with a basic certification, and may also consider completing a certificate or degree program in a relevant field in order to increase their job prospects. All commercial divers can expect to see faster-than-average growth in job opportunities through the year 2029.