Become a Commercial Diver: Education and Career Roadmap

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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.

Step 1: Complete a High School Degree

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 are accredited through the Association of Commercial Diving Educators. It’s not necessary that students attend one of these accredited programs to gain employment; however, accredited program offerings may be more comprehensive and include benefits such as hands-on experience and job placement services. Programs provide varying levels of training in different aspects of diving, such as specific technical tasks or off-shore diving.

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; these usually include first aid, CPR and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) designations. 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, and divers working on oil rigs might inspect, repair or plug wells.

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. New divers – called tenders – gain years of work experience before undertaking advanced responsibilities as surface divers. Seasoned divers perform deeper dives requiring more complicated mechanical work. Divers working at extreme depths for an extended period may live out of a pressurized underwater facility.

Step 5: Pursue Professional Advancement

Commercial divers might 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 might become diving supervisors or consultants.

Career and Salary Outlook

Jobs for commercial divers are expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate – 22% from 2012-2022, according to O*NET OnLine (www.onetonline.org). This U.S. Department of Labor source also reported that the median salary for commercial divers was $46,880 in 2012.

 
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