Not many people can claim their “office desk” is located several hundred metres below the sea’s surface, but embark on a career as an underwater welder and this can swiftly become a reality. The role of an underwater welder involves the merging of two skills; welding and commercial diving. An underwater welder will need to be proficient in both vocations before undertaking underwater welding projects.
Prospective underwater welders in the UK should enrol on a commercial diving course, which has welding modules as part of the course structure. The Commercial Diving Academy, for instance, runs a twenty week course and has specialist training in underwater welding. The welding training covers a series of components including electrodes, typical weld defects and safe underwater welding practices. The course is also fully accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training.
An underwater welder requires a welding certificate and a commercial diving certificate. Welders with no previous commercial diving experience are required to attend a diving school. They will then need to work as a tender (apprentice) diver for around two years before being eligible for underwater welding work. The majority of diving contractors require applicants to attain skills in dry and/or wet underwater welding to successfully complete tests and achieve certification.
Candidates who are already certified divers can apply directly to firms to complete training as an underwater welder. Holding a scuba diving qualification is usually insufficient to fulfill the requirements of a commercial diver, which includes the use of commercial diving equipment and knowledge of safety procedures for offshore environment.
Underwater welder salaries are between $100,000 and $200,000 per year in the US However, work is not as consistent and structured as it is in other industries. In the UK, beginner divers earn around £100 per day but this can increase to £1000 a day for more advanced work. Welder-divers are typically paid based on single projects rather than a consistent hourly rate. The method of diving, the water depth and the safety of the environment can also affect rates of pay.
The typical skills required by a welder-diver include rigging and fitting, cutting, photography and non-destructive tests. Advanced welder-divers should also be capable of dealing with the preparatory work required for dive projects including cleaning and rigging the areas they need to weld. These skills can be attained through additional post-certification training.
That are no age restrictions in place for underwater welders but it is usually required that a dive physical is completed every year. Availability of work can vary significantly according to the supply and demand of welding skills within particular industries. Underwater welders are also more likely to secure work if they are willing to relocate and have additional skills that may be useful for specific projects.
With sufficient experience, underwater welders can advance to become diving supervisors, superintendents, engineers and welding instructors. They can also undertake consultancy work for underwater welding projects or become qualified as Certified Welding Inspectors.