An Underwater Welder uses many common arc welding processes to weld and cut in a wide range of aquatic environments. They must use their welding know-how and intricate knowledge of diving procedures and protocol to effectively lay down strong welds, often in tight spaces and less-than-forgiving surroundings. Hyperbaric chambers and cofferdams are used for dry welding, while wet welding is performed in open waters up to several hundred feet deep.
Why Is This An Important Role?
It’s easy to forget that not all of the essential machines and structures that allow our society and economy to run smoothly are located on land. Underwater Welders help create and repair dams, pipelines, bridges, commercial and military ships, nuclear power plants and oil rigs, and many other important parts of a modern infrastructure.
What Career Opportunities Are Available to Underwater Welders?
Underwater welders can choose to work in one of several different fields and industries. For example, the oil and gas, marine salvaging, and construction industries regularly require the underwater welder’s unique blend of skills to lay pipe, dismantle vessels, and build bridges. Underwater Welders can also use their wide range of knowledge and skills to transition into dive instruction, consulting, engineering, or hazardous material handling.
Jobs in underwater welding are almost exclusively found in coastal locations. Job seekers will need to consider job location, potential time away from home, and the nature and inherent hazards of the work before choosing to accept a particular offer or opportunity.
How Do I Get Started?
Underwater Welders require certifications as both a welder and a commercial diver. Prospective candidates who lack both can attend one of the various institutions that offer underwater welding training and commercial diving certification to participants of varying skill levels, including those with no experience. Attending one of these institutions may be necessary even if you are certified as a SCUBA diver, as many of the tenets of commercial diving are not covered by a SCUBA certification. Visit AWS Underwater Welding Resourcesfor a list of underwater welding schools and institutions.
Naturally, previous experience in topside welding will provide you with a leg up in this field but ultimately, the ability to operate in the water effectively and safely is extremely important. The welding processes, classes of weld, and qualification tests associated with underwater welding are described in the AWS D3.6 Underwater Welding Code. Use this code as a guide to help you determine the procedures and welds you will need to master in order to succeed in the field.