The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were only about 3,760 commercial divers working in the U.S. as of May, 2011. Nearly 37 percent of them worked in Louisiana, where the offshore “oil patch” provides heavy underwater construction work as well as decent salaries. About 50 percent of those working in the U.S. earn a salary close to the median wage of $25.26 per hour.
The BLS reports that the mean salary for commercial divers as of May 2011 was $58,640 per year or $28.19 per hour. Hourly wages ranged from $15.15 on the low end to $45.50 on the high end. The median wage was $25.26 per hour or $52,550 per year.
At the low end of the pay scale you find the diving tender, a trainee who has already graduated from commercial diving school but is not yet a full-fledged diver. At the other end of the pay scale is the saturation diver. He might spend weeks living in a chamber whose interior pressure is 30 times the normal atmospheric pressure and who breathes an exotic mix of helium, oxygen and other gases, rather than simple air.
The BLS says that as of May, 2011, the highest concentration, about 750 commercial divers, worked in the “Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction” industry. It was also the top paying industry at an average of $66,520 a year. The second-highest paying industry was utility system construction at $63,990.
Where the Jobs Are
More than 25 percent of commercial divers work in Louisiana, where the average hourly wage is $26.72 per hour or $55,570 per year. Those who work in Texas earn slightly less at $26.57 per hour or $55,260 per year. Those in California average $41.29 per hour or $87,870 per year, while those in Florida earn averae $19.16 per hour or $39,860 per year.