become a commercial diver

What does a Commercial Diver do?

A commercial diver works in a variety of underwater settings such as deep seas, lakes, or other submerged places. These divers may also specialize in a particular type of work, from gathering or finding evidence underwater for law enforcement to performing construction tasks underwater. For example, it could entail maintenance on parts of a submerged structure, such as oil rigs. Commercial divers almost always work in teams and may work closely with engineers.

Trade Career Test

Discover which trade career field you’re most interested in by taking the free trade career test!

How to Become a Commercial Diver

become a commercial diver

According to O*NET OnLine, over 70% of the commercial divers surveyed held a post-secondary certification, and a little over 10% had earned an associate’s degree. It is best to look for certification or educational programs that offer hands-on experience and job placement assistance. 

The Association of Commercial Diving Educators accredits many diving schools, though it is not required to attend these. Also, there is an international organization called Association of Diving Contractors International that lists schools from around the world that also train commercial divers. Both of these organizations lists schools that provide a comprehensive curriculum and training regiment. We encourage you to check out their website before enrolling in a diving school. These accredited programs often include hands-on training and courses in safety, physics, lightweight, rigging, hazmat, underwater welding, deep dives, medicine, salvage, scuba, and hydraulics, to mention a few.

Besides this training, commercial divers also have to earn a TWIC card and pass a physical. A commercial diver usually begins their career as a diver’s assistant (called tenders) to gain experience for a few years before diving professionally. Once hired, you will receive a lot of additional on-the-job training. Employers prefer applicants with some mechanical skills such as welding or motor repair due to the nature of the job. It is also crucial to be a problem solver, think clearly during stressful situations, and be a team player. 

Watch a video to learn what a commercial diver does:

Job Description of a Commercial Diver

Commercial diver duties vary significantly from job to job, depending on the type of work required. This can include repairs, inspections, and maintenance for off-shore oil rig and pipelines, salvage operations, bridge and pier construction, power plant intake and discharge construction, ship and barges, dam construction, scientific study, emergency response, investigation and recovery operations, water agriculture and seafood harvesting. As one can see, each may require a different skill set pending on what you are doing. Some tasks require welding, conducting tests or experiments, rig explosives, or even photographing structures or marine life.

When a commercial diver works in deeper waters, they wear specialized wet suits when diving. When not diving, they assist the next team of divers from the boat. A diver submerged in deep seas must be placed in a decompression chamber to avoid decompression sickness. Besides, wearing a specialized diving suit, it is vital to following safety rules at all times as this job can be dangerous if one is careless.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Coast Guard can monitor and assist in the safety of those employed in this kind of work. Commercial divers are exposed to dangerous environments every day and can get injured or worse, die due to accidents. Drowning, respiratory or circulatory risks, hypothermia, and physical injury can occur. Some jobs require living on ships for extended periods and may involve lots of travel while other tasks are for much shorter lengths of time and would be closer to home. This career may pay sporadically depending on the time spent on a job, and conditions may not always be pleasant, as mentioned above.

Research Trade Careers

Commercial Diver Career Video Transcript

Commercial diving is a profession that in many cases, combines construction with scuba diving. Commercial divers work on installations that cannot be removed from the water for servicing, such as oil rigs, bridges, and pipelines. Commercial divers use construction tools such as welders and saws, in combination with scuba equipment, to perform maintenance and repair installations that are either partially or totally submerged in water. Divers may also perform other underwater work such as photographing marine wildlife or rigging explosives. They often work long days and typically spend weeks at sea on a job.

Commercial diving can be both strenuous and dangerous, as it combines the risks inherent in construction work with the added complication of being underwater, sometimes working with or around explosives and volatile materials. Typical requirements to enter the field include a high school education, proficiency in English, a certificate from a diving school, and passing a physical. Mechanical abilities and strong swimming skills are helpful. Commercial diving offers both physical and mental challenges, but the work is often exciting and the pay can be lucrative.

Related Careers to Research:

Article Citations

National Center for O*NET Development. 49-9092.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.