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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 onto 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 salary 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 afterwards or eat in to the profits.
The main aspects that influence a diving welders’ pay:
- Depth of Work
- Dive Methods
- Submerged Welding
- Distance Offshore
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 the 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.
States with the Largest Density of Employment and Location Quotients
Top 5 Highest Paying States in the USA
(Mean Hourly Wage)
Top 5 Highest Paying States in the USA
(Mean Annual Wage)
States with the Highest Employment Level
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 about the United States.
These wages comprise of 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:
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
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 metal work 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 ocean for their first foray into underwater welding.
Onshore (Inland/Coastal) Diving Career
Underwater Welder Salary
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 winter and spring months as a higher rate of storm damage of water vessels and docks is expected.
Commercial Diver Field Experience Above All Else
On-the-job experience is the number one factor to 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 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 longer 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
You might think that you know how bad it will be, but you should really prepare your mind for the, 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 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 danger money from the stress that your body goes through when doing this kind of dive.
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.
Deep water 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.
There are different modes of dive that require different forms of equipment and technique.
Usually a diver welder will use air supplied form the surface, but other methods can include:
- Surface-supplied air
- Mixed gas saturation
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
Deep water welding job sites have some similarities to a standard construction site, however only selected equipment is brought below 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 real present danger when welding underwater. Some tools will place you more at risk depending on whether they are AC or DC. 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?
How to become an underwater welder
What is the life expectancy of an underwater welder?
What education is needed to become an underwater welder?
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