Education and Training: Associate’s preferred
Average Salary: $15,000-$200,000 per year
Job Outlook: Good
Underwater welding is an interesting and somewhat dangerous career that appeals to many adventurous outdoors types. This career falls under the broader category of commercial diving, as underwater welders have to have a commercial diving certification before they can repair equipment underwater by welding it. Many underwater welders also do other underwater maintenance jobs as professional divers.
The essential duty of an underwater welder is to dive to underwater equipment and oil lines in order to weld them for repairs or new construction. Usually underwater welders start by taking photographs of the affected areas of the project. They’ll then go through a process of recommending supplies and equipment, as well as laying out how long a job will take. Then, they will do the actual welding and repair work in the underwater world to which they have unique access.
Education and Training Requirements
Underwater welding requires experience and certification as both a diver and a welder. Most of the time, an underwater welder will begin with either a professional diving certificate or a surface welding certificate and then will go on to complete his or her education with the proper training. For the most part, underwater welding training takes place in both arenas separately. Underwater welders and other professional divers start out as apprentice divers, also known as diver tenders, and then move into being underwater welders in their own right.
Getting the Job
Underwater welding requires a great deal of skill and experience, so most companies will only hire those who have worked as diver tenders for a number of years. The actual process of getting a job depends on where the underwater welder wishes to work and what type of company he or she wishes to work for. Some larger companies will contract out positions on an as-needed basis, but others will hire full time underwater welding experts and will do some in-house training.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Job prospects for this field are fair to good, especially as more underwater oil drilling takes place in the United States. However, job availability may vary by year, and many underwater welding technicians work on a contracted, as-needed basis. Those who wish to make themselves most employable should be willing to travel around the world for jobs as needed.
Professional divers who wish to work in underwater welding may be able to expand their employability by having multiple specialties, including ironwork or other repair-type specialties. Some divers go on to create their own businesses, and others make quite a bit of money as consultants who charge for their services on an as-needed basis.
Working Conditions and Environment
Underwater welding conditions can vary greatly, but these people are always working outside and are constantly in and out of the water. This can be a somewhat dangerous job, as diving in itself can be dangerous. However, knowing and following proper protocol makes it much less dangerous. Welders can work in any number of conditions, including cold and rain, rougher seas, or calm, warm waters.
Hours for this type of job can be long and irregular, and actual work may be somewhat sporadic. Because many of these jobs are worked on a contract basis, underwater welders may be required to travel all around the world for their work. They will typically work hard until a particular job is done, so they may experience seasons of heavy work intermixed with lulls where they don’t have much to do but brush up on their skills and find new jobs to work on.
Salary and Benefits
It’s really difficult to establish an “average” salary in the underwater welding field because there is just so much variance. Some welders only make about $15,000 per year, but others can make over $200,000 per year. More experienced underwater welders, particularly those working on a contract or consulting basis, may be paid more per job. However, for all underwater welding professionals, pay is usually per-job, so salary can vary widely depending on how many jobs are available at any given time.
Benefits can also vary widely. If a welder is on staff with a larger organization, he is likely to get benefits and paid time off. Those who work on their own or on a contract basis are usually paid more, but they won’t get these same benefits.
Where to Go for More Information
For more information on underwater welding professionals, check out the following resources:
American Welding Society
550 LeJeune Rd.
Miami, FL 33126
Association of Diving Contractors International
5206 FM 1960 W, Ste. 202
Houston, TX 77069
National Association of Commercial Divers
PO Box 4342
Charlottesville, VA 22905