Have you ever wondered what it is like to be an underwater welder?
Commercial diving is one of the most wonderful and lucrative careers for ex-military personnel, veterans and any adventure seeking individual who desires to stand-out not minding his age brackets and make a difference.
As an underwater welder, one will be expected to work under the most of challenging situations, requiring one to be highly trained, certified and also to be both physically and mentally sound.
This review covers virtually every aspect on how to become an underwater welder: the requirements, what it takes to be an underwater welder, the dangers behind the job, possible earnings and lots more. Just sit back and relax as we dive through the world of underwater welding. Be our guest!!!
Table of Contents
- Underwater Welding Requirements
- Part one: Completing your welding certification
- Part two: Receiving a Diver Training
- How long does it take for one to become an Underwater Welder?
- Underwater Welding Dangers
- Underwater Welding Death Rate
- How much does an Underwater Welder Make
Underwater Welding Requirements
People spend thousands of dollars on education/certification solely to become underwater welders. The educational expenses keep on rising and the competition remains stiff, but the truth be told not everyone makes it triumphantly into the world of underwater welding.
If you’re serious minded about underwater welding, then we feel you deserve to know the basic underwater welding requirements and guidelines. This will go a long way to making your dream a success.
Technically you need two things;
- Earn your high school diploma or G.E.D, and
- Pass a diving exam. That’s all. However, in this review, we will try to discuss these two major requirements in details.
Part one: Completing your welding certification
1. You must be ready to spend
The tuition and certification fees may differ from one institution to another. However, collecting the various professional credentials will cost you a minimum of thousand dollars.
You may consider enrolling in a state-funded technical school as they are likely to be less expensive. More so, you may need to start saving some money if you probably don’t have the means of paying for your education and certification at the moment.
2. Earn your high school diploma or G.E.D
One of the very basic things you need to become an underwater welder is at least a high school diploma certificate or GED. This is very important as no employer will be ready to hire you without the above certificate. Sometimes having a college degree for this job does not matter a lot, however, it may help you stand out above other underwater welders especially in terms of looking for a job.
3. Earn Topside welding certifications
Get trained in one of the various welding processes in any of the accredited welding schools. If you’re based in the United States, you may wish to enroll in the welder program offered by the American Welding Society and get Certified.
The certificate is awarded to candidates who only passed both the written and the practical exams. It may take a minimum of 7 to 24 months to complete your welding training and certification, this depending on the type of program or school you enroll in.
It is also good to mention that most companies usually set their certification standards. For instance, even if you are certified as a welding fabricator, a company may wish to give you some tests work to perform to make sure whether or not you understand their fabrication methods.
Also, as a prerequisite to becoming an underwater welder, you must have certification and skill in 3 areas:
- Surface welding
- Commercial welding
- Underwater welding.
4. Working experience as a topside welder
Though it is very possible to get a job as an underwater welder right after graduation, however, a year or more of working experience will tremendously increase your chances of getting a job.
This will automatically serve as a prove to your employer that you are skilled in various welding techniques and safety procedures on land, and you’re ready to apply them in the aquatic environment. The more your surface welding experience, the more chances you have to be considered for an underwater welding job.
Part two: Receiving a Diver Training
1. Take and pass the preliminary dive physical
Sign up for a physical with any institution offering the commercial diver certification you are seeking. You will undergo a head-to-toe examination; at the same time, you will be tested on your swimming capabilities and cardiovascular conditioning.
You may be temporarily disqualified from the exercise and from receiving your diver certification if found under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when infected with any disease that is detrimental to your health. In this case, you will have to take the physical exercise again once you are cleared off the offending conditions.
You may be permanently denied of the certification if you exhibit symptoms of claustrophobia, asthma, severe motion sickness, cardiac arrhythmia, collapsed lung, or congestive heart failure.
Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you engage in the dive physical exercise before going any further even if the dive school you plan enrolling in does not necessarily require you to. This is because your employer may discover you have some limitations which may lead to you been denied the job.
2. Become a certified commercial diver
Enroll in any commercial diving academy around you and participate fully in the training program. Most often, the duration of the program is 5 to 6 months. However, this may vary depending on the institution. Once you completed the program, you will be issued a commercial diver certification and also be recognized as a true commercial diver.
Some of the most recognized commercial diving academies include the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI), the American National Standards Institute Association of Commercial Diving Educator (ANSI/ACDE), and Diver’s Academy International (DAI).
Some commercial diving schools require their applicants to pass both the written exam and the dive physical before there are accepted for a particular program.
3. Attend an underwater welding school
This is where the above two skills are most important (welding and commercial diving). The course content and duration for underwater welding programs may vary, often it consists of both traditional study and hands-on-practice in wet welding skills.
The time frame is usually 6-24 months period. Some underwater welding schools will engage you for 20 to 50 hours of diving test in order to be approved for certification.
4. Focus your Energy
Learn about the various welding processes you will likely be performing as an underwater welder. Preferably before you enrol in commercial diving school, train as an apprentice under a certified welding inspector in order to understand the different methods and techniques needed to meet underwater welding standards.
As an underwater welder, oftentimes you will be using shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) in most cases. Other types of welding methods to be familiarized with as an underwater welder include Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), Plasma arc welding (PAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GTAW) and Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW).
4. Apply for a dive tender position to continue practicing
Not all underwater welders start off in high-profile positions. Most begin as dive tenders, and apprentices who provide assistance to experienced underwater professionals during dives. Engineering firms, Coastal construction companies, Underwater salvage teams, and shipbuilding industries are some of the few contractors that hire underwater welders.
Research on the policy and welding procedures unique to the underwater welding company you want to work with and train to meet their standard. This will help you perform better as a dive tender.
5. Continue improving your skills to become a professional in your field
What you need to become a professional underwater welder depends on the company you are working with, nature of the work they do, and their unique rules and regulations. Among the most important skills, you need to master are rigging, cutting, drafting design plans and standards, fitting metal components, as well as testing and inspecting finished projects.
As an underwater welder, it will also be a plus for you to train in other fields like underwater photography and videography to help document the progress of important projects.
6. Ask important questions
To become a successful underwater welder, don’t just ask the “whats” in welding (equipment, techniques, safety measures) but ask questions like “How” and “Why.” Questions like:
- Why does metal “A” react this way?
- Why is it that welding type “B” is more preferably for this project and situation?
- How do I improve my coordination to make my weld stronger?
- What could possibly cause my equipment to react in so and so manner?
How long does it take for one to become an Underwater Welder?
Having understood the underwater welding requirements, I know by now, you are curious to know how long does it take to become an underwater welder.
- You will need to spend a minimum of 12 years to acquire your high school diploma or G.E.D
- To earn experience and certification in topside welding, you will spend a minimum of at least 2-5 years.
- One month of experience in commercial diving school to partake in all activities and pass their physical exam
- 5-18 months of further training to increase your welding and commercial diving skill set
- 1-24 months of experience as a dive tender
- Then lastly, engage yourself with any professional underwater welding factory.
Underwater Welding Dangers
Just like other professions, Underwater welding is also associated with certain risks, hence, the need for a rigorous training exercise. For people who may wish to engage in underwater welding profession, one important question they need to ask is, “How risky or dangerous is this job? It is very important to recognize that underwater welding poses certain hazards; however, the way a particular company operates goes a long way to minimizing the level of risk associated with this job.
The underwater welding dangers are fairly unique. Often for divers, the risks of hypothermia, decompression sickness, and even drowning might result in the event of equipment failure. Also, cases of electrocution in welding places as well as underwater explosion are commonly reported. People who have worked for years as underwater welders have also been reported to experience hearing problems, muscle aches, and to a lesser extent cognitive impairment.
Underwater Welding Death Rate
Underwater welder’s life expectancy isn’t the same as that of sedentary workers. Research has shown that welder-divers die at a rate of 40X America’s national average. This corresponds to an annual death rate of 5 out of every 3000 full-time underwater welders. Drowning is said to be the number one cause of death.
In another research conducted by OSHA, the annual Underwater welding death rate was found to be approximately 6-11 for every 10,000 full-time workers. This translates to a fatality rate of up to fifty out of every one thousand underwater welders in their working lifetime. Interestingly, technological advancements, as well as improved safety protocols, have helped curtail the fatality rates as reported by OSHA’s.
How much does an Underwater Welder Make
“How much does an underwater welder make?” this happens to be one of the major FAQ by people who wish to take an underwater welding career. To correctly answer this question, let’s look at what professionals have to say about this.
According to a research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial divers and underwater welders earn an average wage of $26.32 per hour and a mean annual wage of $54,750. However, the top percentile (90 percent) can make a minimum of $93,910 or more.
Also, according to commercial divers and global statistics, an average underwater welder earns $25.96 hourly, and $53 990 annually. However, most incomes fluctuate around $25,000-$80,000. Diver welders in the top percentile (10%) make $83,730, whereas, the bottom 10% pull in $30,700.
It is very important to know that diving experience is one of the highest determinants of an underwater welder salary. Then follow by location and certification. Other factors that affect a diver welder income include Depth of Work, Environment, dive method, understanding of the welding equipment, overtime as well as distance offshore.
Note! Every factor is very important and forms part of the larger equation for increased salary, marketability and career opportunity.
If you want to learn how to become an underwater welder, you need to adjust your expectations. The right expectation is the key to your long-term success. If you are just being hired to work as a dive tender, then expect the highest demand and the worst of jobs. If you go off shores and dive into a very deep, dangerous place, then expect challenging hours and hard schedule.
As an underwater welder, you repair and construct a world that hardly people see, but one thing remains apparent, it keeps the economy afloat every day. You’ve so much more than money to keep you motivated: exploration, travel, and challenges are part of your career. Keep going!!