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Career Profile: Commercial Divers

Work below surface of water, using surface-supplied air or scuba equipment to inspect, repair, remove, or install equipment and structures. May use a variety of power and hand tools, such as drills, sledgehammers, torches, and welding equipment. May conduct tests or experiments, rig explosives, or photograph structures or marine life.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 4,000 people employed as commercial divers in the United States. The median annual salary is $54,800. Entry level employees earn approximately $36,200 per year and senior employees earn approximately $111,130 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Obtain information about diving tasks and environmental conditions.
  • Supervise or train other divers, including hobby divers.
  • Inspect the condition of underwater steel or wood structures.
  • Remove obstructions from strainers or marine railway or launching ways, using pneumatic or power hand tools.
  • Set or guide placement of pilings or sandbags to provide support for structures, such as docks, bridges, cofferdams, or platforms.
  • Perform activities related to underwater search and rescue, salvage, recovery, or cleanup operations.
  • Perform offshore oil or gas exploration or extraction duties, such as conducting underwater surveys or repairing and maintaining drilling rigs or platforms.
  • Drill holes in rock and rig explosives for underwater demolitions.
  • Remove rubbish or pollution from the sea.
  • Set up dive sites for recreational instruction.
  • Cultivate or harvest marine species or perform routine work on fish farms.
  • Take appropriate safety precautions, such as monitoring dive lengths and depths and registering with authorities before diving expeditions begin.
  • Check and maintain diving equipment, such as helmets, masks, air tanks, harnesses, or gauges.
  • Communicate with workers on the surface while underwater, using signal lines or telephones.
  • Descend into water with the aid of diver helpers, using scuba gear or diving suits.
  • Inspect and test docks, ships, buoyage systems, plant intakes or outflows, or underwater pipelines, cables, or sewers, using closed circuit television, still photography, and testing equipment.
  • Repair ships, bridge foundations, or other structures below the water line, using caulk, bolts, and hand tools.
  • Recover objects by placing rigging around sunken objects, hooking rigging to crane lines, and operating winches, derricks, or cranes to raise objects.
  • Operate underwater video, sonar, recording, or related equipment to investigate underwater structures or marine life.
  • Take test samples or photographs to assess the condition of vessels or structures.
  • Cut and weld steel, using underwater welding equipment, jigs, and supports.
  • Install, inspect, clean, or repair piping or valves.
  • Carry out non-destructive testing, such as tests for cracks on the legs of oil rigs at sea.
  • Install pilings or footings for piers or bridges.
  • Salvage wrecked ships or their cargo, using pneumatic power velocity and hydraulic tools and explosive charges, when necessary.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
4,000
Annual Openings:
500
Increase in Openings by 2030:
17%
Annual Salary Range:
$36,200 - $111,130
Education Requirements:
Some college