Underwater Welder Salary | Job Prospects and What to Expect

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It’s infrequent to discover a well-paying occupation that doesn’t need a ton of formal education, but underwater welding can be one of those jobs.

This article will give you an idea of how an underwater welder can earn by:

  • Present submerged welding pay
  • Job category
  • Wage scale features
  • How it compares to a topside welding income
  • Occupation location
  • Career prospects

Fair warning: The world of underwater welding is not quite all it’s cracked up to be and it can be a long hard slog to get to the big bucks I will be talking about in this post.

More often than not, you will find yourself spending a lot of money on schooling and quite getting the payout you expected.

It is also worth noting that even when you get to the good money, you will find job opportunities quite at the whim of global events that are totally out of your control and you could spend long periods of time living off savings waiting for the next job.

However, with that said, let’s move on to the detailed aspects of underwater welding.

How Much is an Underwater Welding Salary?

Global statistics tend to show the average underwater welding pay is $53,990 yearly and/ or $25.96 per hour.

Though most earnings are around $25,000 – $80,000. Diving welders in the topmost 10% make $83,730 whereas the bottom-most 10% pull in $30,700…still nothing to be sniffed at, but you must bear in mind the other factors involved which I will come to later on.

Diving skill is the main method used to understand what an underwater welder might earn. Location comes second.

Certain industrial divers’ underwater welding salaries can rise to $300,000+ per year.

Many underwater welders obtain their salary by the hour or job. That means they could take home a pretty substantial $30,000 in a couple of months through a large agreement but they will have the issue of having to find another job afterward or eat into the profits.

The main aspects that influence a diving welders’ pay:

  • Experience
  • Certification
  • Environment
  • Depth of Work
  • Dive Methods
  • Submerged Welding
  • Tooling
  • Distance Offshore
  • Overtime
Underwater Welder Salary | Job Prospects and What to Expect 1

Underwater Welding Mortality Rate

Underwater welding jobs are part of an industry where those welding underwater are exposed to high risk because of the equipment they use and their work environment. One study found that there were significant differences in injury and death rates between countries. The fatality rate is 15% which is high considering that this is an extremely nice occupation. Each year, 6 to 13 commercial diving fatalities are reported in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Underwater Welder Life Expectancy

It’s most likely that welder-divers who die at ages 35 – 40 have been working in the field for 10 – 15 years. The average age of a diver killed on the job was 38 years old. Most underwater welding accidents occurred from drowning or asphyxiation due to gas buildup in the lungs. Other causes included electrocution, being struck by falling objects, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Some people were also crushed under heavy weights while trying to repair a damaged vessel.

Main Causes Of Underwater Welding Deaths

Underwater wet welding is extremely dangerous because you are working with high heat and pressure. The water will expand when heated, causing the metal to bulge outwards. If this happens, there is a chance that the weld could break off or crack. The main causes of death for divers include drowning, decompression sickness, barotrauma, gas embolism, and electrocution. Other reasons can be related to poor training or a lack of proper equipment.


Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths among diver-welders. Diving accidents caused by drowning account for about 50% of all fatal occupational injuries in this group.

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness occurs when nitrogen bubbles form inside the body tissues during the process of removing dissolved gases from the blood. These bubbles may cause pain, numbness, tingling, and other symptoms. It usually happens after a rapid ascent to the surface.


Barotrauma is a condition caused by the pressure change in the lungs as the diver ascends. This can result in pneumothorax, pulmonary edema, and rupture of lung tissue.

Gas Embolism

Gas embolism is another complication associated with diving. It occurs when air enters the bloodstream through a damaged vessel wall. If not treated immediately, it can lead to serious complications such as stroke, paralysis, brain damage, and even death.

Electric Shock

Electrocution is a very rare but potentially deadly accident that occurs when a diver touches electrical wiring while performing his/her duties. A diver who accidentally contacts live wires will suffer severe burns and nerve damage.


Cold water conducts heat away from the body because it has less thermal mass than warm water. In extreme cases, if someone stays underwater for too long, their body may suffer from various health complications. It is always advisable for underwater welders to wear an insulated rubber wetsuit as a safety measure.

Other Reasons For Death

Some of the other reasons for death include:


Most of these falls happen due to misjudgment on the part of the diver. When a diver is trying to move around or do something else, he might lose balance. He might also fall off the platform or get stuck under the water.

Lack of Proper Training

Many people don’t realize that they need specialized training before going into the deep sea or any other bodies of water. They think that they are already trained enough. However, if you don’t know how to handle yourself, your life could be in danger. You should always check with the dive center to make sure that you receive proper training and are able to follow proper safety protocols.

Poor Equipment

Poorly maintained equipment can also pose a huge threat to a diver. Some equipment, especially those used for scuba diving, can break down easily. In addition, some equipment needs regular maintenance in order to avoid equipment failures. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the equipment you use is reliable and safe.

Poor Work Environment

Sometimes, a poorly ventilated or overcrowded workplace can put the lives of workers at risk. If you feel unsafe in your workplace, talk to management so that you can improve safety conditions.

How To Prevent Diving Related Accidents And Injury? 

There are many ways to prevent driving-related accidents and injuries. The most important thing is to have good knowledge about the dangers involved in underwater welding. Make sure that you learn about the different types of hazards and what precautions you can take to avoid them.

Learn About Different Types of Hazards

It is very important to understand the various types of hazards that exist in an underwater environment. There are three major categories of hazards: biological, chemical, and physical. Biological hazards include bacteria and viruses. Chemical hazards include toxic gases and chemicals. Physical hazards include cold temperatures and high pressures. Learn more about each type of hazard here.

Know Your Limits

It is important to know your limits. Understand what you can safely handle and what you cannot. Take time to develop a personal diving plan. This includes training, equipment, and experience. Be careful not to push your limits too far.

Be Aware Of Hazardous Conditions

You must know where hazardous conditions are located. These areas include dangerous currents, obstructions, and drop-offs. Always keep track of your location by using a compass, map, GPS, or by following a marker buoy.

What Other Hazards Do They Face?

Underwater welding and heavy-duty work can result in a number of different health problems such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Hearing problems
  • Eye injuries
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Possible organ failure
  • Chronic sinusitis due to breathing in polluted air and airborne particles

How To Find The Best Underwater Welding Jobs?

This sort of employment is really a supply and demand kind of job and as a result, it is not possible to tell you where the best jobs are and when.

It is also somewhat of a “who you know to get your foot into the door” kind of world and you will probably get recommended by a more senior welder once you have proven yourself.

With that said, it seems that Louisiana in the United States of America has a high level of underwater welding jobs, concentrated in this state in particular.

Bear in mind though, that whilst you might have more work, it might not be so highly paid as in the areas where there is a drought of experienced underwater welders.

Employment can be quite unpredictable as you will often be working on a contracting basis and will only get jobs on an as-is basis.

With that said, there are certain areas where underwater welding jobs are available more frequently. However, areas with increased employment in this profession don’t always translate into higher-paying jobs.

It is just one of those things that less demand = lower pay but you get it more often and higher demand = higher pay but you get it less often.

There will always be work, but it just depends on your location. There is an estimation that around 90% of all diving jobs are located in the Gulf.

Location will effect how high your diver welding salary will be

States with the Largest Density of Employment and Location Quotients

Underwater Welding Salaries by Region

As you can see, location is a large factor in how much you as a diver welder; might earn.

This doesn’t just vary in terms of states inside a country, but also by geographical region.

You should take the numbers below as an average guide and you should also remember to factor in various taxes.

In other words, a higher salary might actually get whittled down quite significantly once the taxman has taken his ounce of flesh!

Underwater Welding Pay: Earning Probability Based on Country & Location

Numerous divers work globally for serious amounts of time and so consequently, their salaries are credited via the states they’ve operated in.

A high share of offshore dry and wet underwater welding takes place in the United States.

These wages comprise pay from all industrial diving schemes because underwater welding is only a minor percentage of a diver’s job tasks.

Underwater welding is a part of your career.

Country’s account for underwater welding salary in three different categories:

  • Percentile income
  • Numerically
  • Internal work location

Underwater Welder Salary: Offshore & Inland Work Hours & Diving Projects

Underwater welders fit into two pay scale groups based on where the job is and what is actually involved in their work.

There are two main kinds of underwater welders, which include:

Offshore and Inland

In order to further dive into the salaries of underwater welders, I’ve detached the underwater welder salary of novice and expert diving welders, because on-the-job knowledge massively boosts pay.

Offshore Diving Career

Underwater Welder Salary


$40,000 – $60,000

Expert (3-5+ years)

$75,000 – $100,000+

Diver Scheme options

  • Platform and Pipeline Abandonment
  • Cleaning Subsea Sites
  • Surveying Chain Anchor Legs
  • Inspecting and Stabilizing Underwater Oil Pipelines
  • Wet Welding Oil Rig Pipelines
  • Hyperbaric Wet Welding Oil Rig Pipelines
  • Drilling Support
  • Installing Wellheads
  • Saturation Diving & Inspection
  • Cruise/Navy Ship Turbine Repair

Industrial Diver Agenda

Characteristically, you will be 4 – 6 weeks at sea, after which 7 – 10 days back home.

Plus overtime (10+ hour workdays on some projects).

A usual offshore period runs from April – November, and finishes in the winter months owing to severe waves and random weather.

Stable work is contingent on the company and business.

A few offshore divers benefit from continual employment by working in other water-based upkeep. They do metalwork in welding shops or are employed in topside building work.

Some just cut their losses and take the winter off.

As a result of increased pay, many US underwater welders want to go direct to the ocean for their first foray into underwater welding.

Onshore (Inland/Coastal) Diving Career

Underwater Welder Salary


$25,000 – $40,000

Expert (3-5+ years)

$50,000 – $80,000

Diver Project Examples

  • Cleaning and Inspecting Water Towers, Bridges
  • Wet Welding Freshwater Pipes
  • Salvaging and Recovering Sunken Fishing Boats
  • Inspecting and Repairing Dam Walls
  • Cutting Underwater Debris
  • Demolishing Decayed Underwater Structures
  • Inspecting Sewer Pipes (HAZMAT)
  • Maintaining Nuclear Power Station Inlet Structures (HAZMAT)
  • Installing Cement Dock Support Pillars

Commercial Diver Schedule

Around (40 – 45 hour) workdays all year round. The odd weekends are also needed for travel to and from work sites.

Marine welders frequently have a higher volume of work opportunities in the winter and spring months as a higher rate of storm damage to water vessels and docks is expected.

Commercial Diver Field Experience Above All Else

On-the-job experience is the number one factor in earning money in your diving career.

There are a lot of upstarts that go into the industrial diving world and they are only thinking about the money.

However, nobody can make a “quick buck.” And as is everything in life; you need to climb your way up the occupation ladder and listen and learn, (and take orders) from senior divers who will help you to understand some of the more complex issues of the job. 

The highest-paid underwater welder will have probably been welding for a long, long time even before deciding to go underwater!

You will also inevitably have to take commands from business owners who are ultimately paying your salary.

When you’ve finished your training, you’ll have two choices to make: offshore or inland.

Characteristically, underwater welders working near or close to the North Sea frequently find work inland first and then go offshore afterward. 

Other countries that have different needs will have different outcomes. For example, Americans can often find themselves offshore for their initial jobs; in the Gulf of Mexico.

As you climb the ladder, you will be working hard…really hard! Dirty environments, tiring schedules, and no love from engineers and other “higher class” shop employees will be your daily bread and butter.

Different countries will have differing progression levels, but I can give you an example of how you might start out in the USA. 

Underwater welders will often begin as a tender. This means that you will have to get ready for heavy, boring, and unappealing work for your first couple of years.

You will be separated from your family and friends for very long periods of time and 10+ hour workdays are the norm.

As is the case with many standard jobs, the more experience you gain welding underwater, the more your salary will rise. 

Slowly but surely. 

However, diving deep under the frigid cold and dangerous waters of the ocean is not your average job; so be prepared to see a high turnover rate and a long slog to the top jobs when compared with office-based jobs.

But we’re welders so we are tough and not afraid of hard work!

What kind of underwater welding certificate do you need in this job?

You will not be able to land the top jobs with experience alone. I know this seems unfair because this is a really hands-on job and requires way more time “down in the trenches” so to speak, but the higher pay only really comes as the complexity of the task increases.

I.e. you will need to learn new methods, and new experiences, usually earning some sort of certification along the way.

It is actually better to have this mindset and it shows an employer that you are more open to change and are eager to move up and to adapt to the latest advancements in technology etc.

Prepare for Diving Environments with Beastly Conditions

Underwater welders can face brutal conditions

You might think that you know how bad it will be, but you should really prepare your mind for, not only horrid conditions but also for the extremely dangerous aspects of underwater welding employment.

You will find certain aspects that change suddenly and are comply out of your control, such as:

  • Zero degree visibility
  • Subzero temperatures
  • Strong wave currents

Basically, the worse the job you can get, the higher your pay will be. This is not clean-cut and it varies a lot based on a myriad of factors, but you can use this as a general rule of thumb.

Once you have spent several years learning the trade and getting certified along the way, you might want to consider applying for more dangerous and challenging jobs if you are interested in the money.

Saturation Divers: How much Can they Make?

For those uninitiated, saturation diving is a method that permits divers to decrease the danger of decompression illness when working at excessive depths for a large amount of time. Saturation divers usually breathe a helium-oxygen mixture to avoid nitrogen narcosis. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturation_diving)

This type of diver will usually make in the range of 45,000 – $90,000 monthly and over $500,000 per year.

This is as a result of what is known as “depth pay” that adds an extra amount per unit of depth, (foot or meter). The amount can vary, but it is usually, (in the USA), around $1 per foot going to 100 feet, then it will subsequently rise to $2 per foot.

The amount you get paid will depend on how long and how deep the project is, as well as your experience, (of course).

Divers that will saturation dive for long amounts of time, may even earn extra money as a kind of dangerous money from the stress that your body goes through when doing this kind of dive.

Quick note on saturation diving

It is common to hear stories of tenders wishing to switch over to this form of underwater welding. You should think long and hard about your decision because it exacts a large toll on your body and you might find your career over quicker than you thought.

Deepwater welding is not something to be taken lightly and you will likely get to know your hyperbaric chamber and colleagues better than your own home and family.

Underwater Welder Salary | Job Prospects and What to Expect 2

Diving Methods

There are different modes of dive that require different forms of equipment and technique.

Usually, a diver welder will use air supplied from the surface, but other methods can include:

  • Surface-supplied air
  • Mixed gas saturation
  • Scuba

Scuba is only occasionally used for underwater welding, so don’t go thinking you can become a PADI certified instructor teaching off the coast of Belize after you’ve earned the big notes!

Understanding the Equipment Used for Welding Underwater

Deepwater welding job sites have some similarities to a standard construction site, however, only selected equipment is brought below the surface on an as-needed basis.

You will need to understand the relevant safety and operating features of your tools because underwater things become much more alien and unknown.

Method and practice are the names of the game here.

What about electric shock?

Electric shock is a real present danger when welding underwater. Some tools will place you more at risk depending on whether they are AC or DC. The risk of deadly shock raises the longer you use the tools.

Malfunctions are also something that you should be aware of.


Overtime pay is often where underwater diving welders can make some serious money…especially when working with larger companies and projects.

Whilst everywhere is different, your standard wage could jump by 50% for working extra. Just be prepared for the strain this will bring to any family you might have and also your body.

Many underwater welders will use overtime pay as the extra money needed to cover the seasonal nature of the jobs, and some will use it as a nest egg for when they really need it.

The higher overtime pay comes with maturity so you don’t often see the guys spunking the money up the wall, (although some do). You should invest in your future. Underwater diving is extremely difficult so don’t waste it.

Underwater Welding Salary FAQ’s

How much does an underwater welder make?

As per our main article, underwater welder salaries can range from $40,000 to over $100,000. However, it depends on many factors, and only a very small percentage get the big payouts. Read our main article to find out more.

How to become an underwater welder

There are limited avenues to becoming an underwater welder, but obviously, you must start off as a normal, land-based welder. You can then gain experience and get recommended as opportunities arise.

What is the life expectancy of an underwater welder?

Whilst it is an undeniably dangerous job, you will be working for large, professional organizations that take health and safety very seriously, such as wearing the best welding helmets and gloves for the job.

What education is needed to become an underwater welder?

You will need to be a certified welder and also be scuba certified. There are many people that pay big money in the quest to become certified, but not all will pass and not all will lead to the big money lifestyle they think comes with underwater welding.

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