What Do Commercial Divers Do?
There are many types of equipment and structures that are partly or entirely submerged in water, and can’t be removed to be serviced. Commercial divers perform repairs, inspections, and installations underwater, using scuba equipment and a variety of specialized tools. You’ll also be hired for other types of underwater work, such as explosive rigging, underwater photography of natural and manmade features, or helping conduct equipment tests and scientific experiments.The need for commercial divers is expected to be increasing in the future, with a 29% growth of positions by 2022. Nearly 200 new positions are predicted to open annually nationwide.
Commercial Divers Skills and Abilities
As a commercial diver, you’ll need some of the same set of skills as a construction worker, including knowledge of building, tools, and mechanics, as well as applied physics and mathematics. Critical thinking and decent communication skills are a necessity, and divers must be exceptionally good at observing problems and constantly monitoring equipment to be safe underwater. You also need considerable physical facility, including the hand-steadiness to precisely control machinery, along with the general coordination and endurance to swim.
Commercial Divers Duties
Divers perform a wide range of work for many different types of employers. Some of the tasks you may be hired to do are:
- Inspecting submerged and partly submerged structures, foundations, ship hulls, plant intakes and outflows, pipelines and cables
- Renovating and repairing damage to the above as needed
- Installing pilings for bridges and piers
- Setting up and servicing aquatic gas and oil collection equipment such as drilling rigs
- Recovering sunken objects manually or by hooking them to crane riggings
- Assisting with underwater search and rescue, salvage, and cleanups
- Recording marine life in photographs, video and audio recordings
- Cultivating and harvesting on fish and seaweed farms
For all commercial diving work, you’ll be expected to observe appropriate safety precautions, including maintaining diving equipment in and out of the water, checking water depth and registering dives with the authorities as required. You’ll also have to communicate with workers above the water as well as other divers below, and may supervise or train commercial or hobby divers, monitoring their safety underwater.
Commercial Divers Tools and Technology
The most important tools you’ll use as a diver are your scuba gear and other diving equipment, including:
- Helmets and facemasks
- Air tanks and harnesses
- Coldwater wetsuits and dry suits
- Other instruments such as diving bells
Commercial divers may also utilize many specific aquatic tools as needed for particular jobs, anything from chain hoists and hydraulic drills to underwater video and photographic cameras.
Education and Training for Commercial Divers
The exact education requirements vary widely depending on the specific work. Usually a four-year bachelor’s degree is not demanded, though the majority of employers do want a high school diploma or GED, or an associate’s degree, and science-related work may request higher level education. For many diving jobs you may be asked to have scuba gear certification and a certain number of diving hours to ensure you’ll be safe underwater. Some positions will offer on-the-job training, while others will require past experience.
Commercial Divers Salary
Due to the difficulties of diving, these jobs tend to pay better than similar work on land, but pay scales for commercial divers have a broad spread depending on the specific jobs. Lower paid positions make around $14 an hour for a salary of $29,000 a year, while the highest paid divers bring in more than $84,000 annually. On average you can expect to make in the vicinity of $45,000 a year.
Commercial Divers Jobs by Geography
Most diving work is on the ocean coastlines and along the Great Lakes, although you can potentially find jobs in natural and artificial bodies of water almost anywhere. Florida and Louisiana offer the most positions on average, but the work varies seasonally across the country. You may need to travel to find the best-paying work.