How to Become a Commercial Diver in the United States


Commercial divers install, inspect, repair and conduct routine maintenance of facilities that are located under water. These include bridges, dams and oil rigs. The job calls for a specialized set of skills and competencies and is ideal for people who like water and have no fear of depths.

What Does a Commercial Diver Do?

Commercial divers offer support services and usually need to be skilled in other jobs such as construction, welding, systems installation and so on. They are employed in a number of industries to handle all underwater activities that might arise. Their specific duties include:

  • Conduct site surveys and other forms of reconnaissance prior to the installation of the underwater facility and report back to the client on their findings
  • Diving under to assist in the installation of equipment and machinery by guiding them to the right position underwater and riveting, bolting or welding them in place
  • Inspect the underwater facility where a problem such as a leakage or loss in pressure has been detected
  • Once the issue has been detected the diver may proceed to repair it if he has the necessary skills to do it, or guide the diver who is sent down towards the source of the problem
  • Conduct routine maintenance on equipment such as buoys, distance markers and other flotation devices
  • Conduct search and recovery procedures for items, or even people lost in the water
  • Undertake salvage operations for items lost at sea, but that can still be re-used
  • Test underwater suits and devices to determine whether they function as required


To qualify as a commercial diver, you do not need an academic degree. However, you will need to undergo a training course in commercial diving so that you can be equipped with the techniques and other technical know-how required for the job.

To be admitted to a commercial diving training course you will need:

  • To be at least at least 18 years old and above
  • Have completed your high school education
  • Be a good swimmer
  • Be physically fit and to undergo a medical examination to discover any underlying or previously unknown condition that may be exacerbated at great depths, such as an aneurysm
  • There are other disqualifying medical conditions such as epilepsy, pregnancy, sickle cell anemia or a ruptured eardrum that keeps you from being able to balance or equalize pressure

A training course will cover aspects such as:

  • Diving physics
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Decompression techniques
  • Operation of underwater equipment
  • Reading blueprints and technical drawing
  • Offshore safety
  • First aid training and emergency medical rescue
  • You will need to have a significant amount of on-the-job training before you are able to dive on your own.
  • In addition, you will require Transportation Worker Identification credentials from the Department of Homeland Security because you are likely to be called to work in various locations across the earth.


There are skills that will help you to perform better at your job:

  • Determination and single-minded focus as even simple tasks, such as welding are complicated under water
  • Ability to multitask as you will need to keep monitoring your equipment and surroundings as you work
  • Mechanical ability or other trade craft that you will perform while under water
  • Excellent planning and coordination skills to be able to do your work within the prescribed time frame


Commercial divers’ salary varies depending on the industry they work in and their level of experience. For example, those in the oil and gas business tend to make more than those in heavy construction and water transportation. However, the average wages for commercial divers are:

Entry Level  $28,720
Mid Career $47,930
Successful $94,440

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The best job markets in terms of salary for commercial divers are Louisiana, Texas and Florida.

Work Environment

Commercial divers work almost exclusively underwater. They do not have a fixed work schedule and tend to work irregular hours, particularly when they are called in to perform repair services. If you are posted to an offshore location away from the United States, then you are going to have to be away from your family and friends for an extended period of time.

Career Growth and Job Outlook

Employment in this sector is expected to grow at a rate of 22% between 2012 and 2022. Changes in ocean patterns and conditions as result of global warming and heightening concern for marine life protection are among some of the factors increasing job prospects in this profession. There are also new projects being conducted underwater such as the laying of fiber optic cables that are also contributing to the positive outlook. However, take note that diving is not a profession for those advanced in age. In fact, most employers tend to refuse employing divers aged 45 and above.

This is a profession to get in while young, earn your money and then use your transferable skills elsewhere. If you are young, have no fear of water or the deep blue sea and want to work in an unconventional environment, then this could be the career for you.



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