Are you a welder of commercial diver looking to increase your earnings? Or perhaps you’re just interested to know how much you could make welding underwater? Here you’ll find all you need to know; from the best paying locations to where you can retrain and study.
Basic annual salaries underwater welders can expect to earn, before travel expenses, overtime and bonuses are credited range from around $50,000 to over $300,000. The amount of money that such a professional can earn depends on a number of factors. These factors include:
Location plays a vital role in determining your wage and chance of employment
Conditions of where you are working can make it more difficult to weld
The bigger the employer often the more perks, the smaller, the more flexibility
Usually contract work lasts for 6-8weeks, although this can change, altering income
Being self employed comes with more stress, but also means you get a bigger slice of the pie
Like most professions, the more experience you have the more capable you should be
The deeper the dive, usually, the more money an underwater welder can command
Qualifications in welding are very important and show you have what it takes
The wider your reach, the more opportunities will become available
What kind of salary can I expect to make as an underwater welder?
Because most commercial divers and underwater welders work on a pro-rata or project to project basis the amount of money that can be earned is often very variable. In basic terms, the more you’re willing to work, the more you will earn. As mentioned before in theUnderwater Welding Essentials, the more complex the job, deeper the dive and more remote the location, the more you can expect to earn.
Research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that average wages earned by commercial divers and underwater welders in the US is approximately $54,750, whilst the top percentile can on average expect to take home $93,910 on average.
How much much can an underwater welder earn?
These figures however do not include the money earned by self-employed underwater welders and given the vast discrepancy in earnings and earning potential in the industry, this is by no means the full story. It also depends on how much you want to work as most wages are paid on an hourly basis.
So, if you have the certification required and depending on location and the amount of work you want to do, underwater welders can earn up to the region of $300,000.
On top of that, again depending on that specific job, often accommodation, transportation and food is paid for and earning out of your country of residence can also have some tax benefits too. If you’re the boss of your own company as well, expect that figure to multiply, the more employees you can put on jobs.
Show me the money: Averages earnings by global location
One of the biggest determent’s to the size of the underwater welding salary is location. Either in the US or globally. First, it’s worth looking at the global picture. Based on the largest average annual salaries paid around the world, Australia tops the lot. Followed by New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013
On the face of it, Australia’s average annual salary of $140,000 may appear to dwarf that of markets such as Canada, but of course this doesn’t tell the whole picture, as we know there are a number of factors which will determine how much you can earn. But also, often the places with the highest average wages are also the places where jobs are in short supply.
Supply and demand works in the underwater welding industry like any other. It just so happens though that today, the demand for professional under water welders is extremely high.
So although some locations might have a lower average annual salary than others, it’s usually a sign that these areas also boast a lot of work opportunities, so as ever, getting the balance is essential. Ultimately, the more experienced and qualified you are, the more you will earn. If you’re willing to put in the time, the amount you can earn is up to you.
Top 5 US states paying the highest average annual salary
The US remains the powerhouse of the underwater welding industry. Whilst the average waged earned is approximately $54,750 – the amount that can be earned is much, much more. The US East offers some of the biggest discrepancies in earning potential ranging from jobs up in New Jersey, down to the Gulf. This is reflected in the average wages earned.
However, it is worth noting here that the shifts in income by state are usually down to the higher costs of living, another factor to be aware of as New York and California top the list.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013
Top 8 US metropolitan areas paying the highest average annual salary
Like as is the case with US states, the heavily populated metropolitan areas are ranked in terms of the average annual wage they offer to underwater welders largely based on the local cost of living expenses.
This is why areas in and around New York and New Jersey command the highest average wages. Remember however, these are just averages, but provides a useful example.
Interesting though is the indication of the scale and level of income that can be earned. New Jersey boasts an average underwater welding salary of $124,690. So with the right experience and qualifications, it becomes clearer as to just how much could be earned.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013.
Top 5 US states with the largest number of underwater welding jobs
If you are starting out a career in underwater welding, these locations in the US will most likely be the places you are most likely to find a job, and fast. Jobs in these locations are a plenty as the industry thrives and demand for qualified welders grows. Year on year averages suggest that 85%-90% on all jobs that are billed, are done so in the Gulf.
Today, Louisiana has over five times the amount of jobs as New Jersey, although the North Eastern state is still amongst the top five states in the US in terms of the number of jobs it provides to the industry. Thanks to the oil reserves in the Gulf, the states that surround it, such as Louisiana, Texas and Florida will often be the best option for those looking to start earning money straight away in underwater welding.
|State||Employment||Employment per thousand jobs||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013.
Top 8 US metropolitan areas with the largest number of underwater welding jobs
Again, the metropolitan areas around the Gulf dominate the top ranking locations for the number of jobs.
New Orleans is today a hot bed for jobs and is fast becoming the underwater welding capital of the US in terms of jobs on offer, mainly fuelled by the oil rich wells in the Gulf. Again, average wages here remain around the $45,000-$50,000 mark. Much more can of course be earned.
For those looking to relocate to Hawaii, Honolulu offers on average the same amount of jobs as New York and 25% more than St. Louis and New Brunswick.
|Metropolitan area||Employment||Employment per 1000 jobs||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
|New Orleans, LA||410||0.78||$21.62||$44,970|
|Virginia Beach, NC||150||0.21||$26.45||$55,010|
|New York, NY||50||0.01||$59.95||$124,690|
|New Brunswick, NJ||40||0.04||$38.39||$79,860|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013.
1) How do I become an underwater welder and earn this extra money?
There are a number of ways to get into welding and underwater welding. The most important aspect is that you know the basics of the processes first. For this, the best solution is studying and enrolling in one of the many welding and underwater welding schools around the US as well as internationally. If you are not already a welder, take a look at the Become a Welder pages for more information. Learning and practicing are the first steps of any new career path.
If you are already a welder, looking for that next step in your career, have a look at the Becoming an Underwater welder pages for more information and advice on the routes available to you.
It is worth noting that although underwater welders do earn more on average, because of the risks and other factors involved, like travel, the two can be hard to compare. Money shouldn’t be your only driver when considering whether to pursue a career under water.
2) What’s the difference in earning potential between Topside and Underwater Welding?
There are two types of underwater welder, those who work nearer the coast, called ‘Onshore’ welders, and those that work at sea, known better as ‘Offshore’ welders.
These two types of welding are categorized mainly by the amount of money a welder can earn, broadly speaking. Because of the added risks and increased time and effort it takes for an offshore weld, it is this type which commands much higher wages.
This shift from the amount you can earn from Onshore to Offshore can also be seen around the world in some of the international hotspots for welding. Experience aside, here are the average earning potentials around the world:
3) What is ‘depth pay’ and how does it affect my salary?
‘Depth pay’ is the term used to refer to an extra amount of money an underwater welder can earn for descending beyond a certain agreed depth. This is usually due to unforeseen circumstances under water but remains in place to ensure that the divers are rewarded for going that extra distance. Think of it as overtime.
The general rule, although this changes greatly between employers, is that for every extra foot which the diver must descend to, an $1-$5 is paid. This is usually capped at 100 feet (33metres). After 100 feet, this fee can double.
This is why the general rule whereby the deeper you go, the more money you can earn comes from. Divers that must use compression chambers and experience decompression before they can return to the surface will receive much higher sums.
4) Does the distance you travel at season increase your wage?
Broadly speaking, yes. Much like with the depth you are prepared to dive, the further from shore you have to travel or the more remote the location, the more an underwater welder can expect to make.
There is no one rule here though as there are so many variables at play. For example using an oil rig as a base would come with better facilities than you might expect on a more remote expedition to repair pipelines. The amount of money you will earn however will be increased the further you travel, but this is down to the employer.
5) What kind of schedule does an underwater welder have?
The general work patterns for an underwater welder usually follow the winter month. This is mainly because of the damage done to rigs and pipelines by the low pressure and more turbulent seas. Maintenance and repairs are usually the first tasks at the start of the underwater welder’s season.
This, in the northern hemisphere begins in earnest around March time and lasts through to mid-November. Just in time for the seas to start getting rough again. This is of course the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere where winter falls between June and September. Whilst seas can be more forgiving than in the north, the threat of typhoons and tropical storms means that there is a consistent necessity and reliance on repair.
Although work is therefore in most cases seasonal, there is always a demand for experienced workers all year round. Maintenance being the biggest drain on resource.
The average job would normally last anywhere between four to eight weeks in length, with perhaps a week back on the top side to see family, before repeating the schedule. Usually, the day is a long one and underwater divers can expect to work for at least 10 hours per day.