Most diving jobs require the employee to be underwater to inspect, repair, remove, or install equipment and structures. Divers use a variety of power and hand tools, such as drills, sledgehammers, torches, and welding equipment.
Divers may also be required to conduct tests/experiments, rig explosives, or photograph structures or marine life. The type of work and rate of pay depends on the location and nature of the work performed.
Many divers are able to travel for work suiting their schedule and needs. Public works jobs funded by government agencies are required to pay divers prevailing wage hourly rates, or mandatory minimums for the work being completed. Prevailing wage rates typically require the diver to be paid for at least 8 hours of work regardless of the duration, overtime hourly payments on weekends/holidays, hourly rate increases for depths greater than 50 feet, hourly rate increases for work in enclosures, and hourly rate increases based on the distance of the project from the governing office/diver’s residence. Some recently published prevailing wage rates are as follows:
STATE OF ALASKA (RATES EFFECTIVE APRIL 2018);
- A1404 Diver (working) – $107.81/hr
- A1405 Diver (standby) – $68.01/hr
- A1406 Dive Tender – $67.01/hr
Work in combination of classifications: Employees working in any combination of classifications within the diving crew (working diver, standby diver, and tender) in a shift are paid in the classification with the highest rate for a minimum of 8 hours per shift.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COMMERCIAL BUILDING, HIGHWAY, HEAVY CONSTRUCTION, AND DREDGING PROJECTS (EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 2016)
- Diver (wet)* up to 50 ft depth – $122.31/hr
- Diver’s Tender* – $76.96/hr
- Assistant Tender – $72.79/hr
- Diver (stand-by) – $77.75/hr
*Shall receive a minimum of 8 hours pay for any day or part thereof worked.
STATE OF OREGON PREVAILING WAGE DIVER & DIVER TENDER RATES
BASE + FRINGE RATE:
- DIVER $103.14/hr
- DIVER TENDER $59.14/hr
PENETRATION DIVER ft. $1.00 per foot per hour over 50 feet
- 101-150 ft. $1.50 per foot per hour over 100 feet
- 151-200 ft. $2.00 per foot per hour over 150 feet
DISTANCE TRAVELED IN THE ENCLOSURE HOURLY ENCLOSURE PAY
- 5-50ft. $.50/hr. up to $4.00/hr maximum per day
- 50-100ft. $1.13/hr. up to $9.00/hr maximum per day
- 100-150ft. $2.13/hr. up to $17.00/hr maximum per day
- 150-200ft. $4.63/hr. up to $37.00/hr maximum per day
- 200-300ft. $4.63/hr. up to $37.00/hr maximum per day, plus $.40 per foot traveled in enclosure.
- 300-450ft. $4.63/hr. up to $37.00/hr maximum per day, plus $.80 per foot traveled in enclosure.
- 450-600ft. $4.63/hr. up to $37.00/hr maximum per day, plus $1.60 per foot traveled in enclosure.
Hourly rates listed above include fringe benefits. For a more complete list of prevailing wage determinations by area, see the latest federal wage determination for diver services here.
Almost any topside industry or construction job has some kind of analog in the commercial diving industry. Although many people tend to associate commercial diving with offshore oilfield operations, the variety of roles a diver can do is numerous and covers a wide range of commercial operations. The truth is, many commercial divers are skilled tradespeople such as welders, pipefitters, and inspection specialists who have attended a commercial dive school to gain more significant income-earning opportunities. Commercial diver pay averages $40k – $60k based on tenure, specialized diving certifications, and job location. Specialized commercial diving certifications will command higher pay. In addition to the specialized skills these disciplines demand, commercial diving will require training from a professional commercial diving academy like Commercial Divers International (CDI).
Let’s take a look at some of the various roles, diving specialties, and requirements.
GENERAL REQUIREMENTS FOR COMMERCIAL DIVING CAREER
In addition to your commercial diving certifications, you will need to have a good level of physical fitness to meet the demands of not only your particular job or work assignment but also the demands of working in a challenging, hostile environment. Commercial divers must take and pass a thorough ADCI dive physical every year, similar to flight physicals for pilots.
Most employers and commercial dive schools will require at least a high school diploma/G.E.D., and many commercial divers will have some college or military experience.
COMMON DIVER JOB TYPES INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
SALVAGE AND RECOVERY DIVER
Commercial salvage and recovery divers are trained to search, locate, and often recover lost items. This type of diving requires specialized training in rigging and recovery techniques.
Commercial divers train in various underwater welding and cutting techniques to facilitate marine construction projects and/or demolition or decommissioning.
Divers train to use custom mixed breathing gases to work at deeper depths for extended periods.
DIVER MEDICAL TECH
A fully certified commercial diver who is also trained as an E.M.T. or Paramedic. A diver medical tech provides medical support for divers and surface crew.
DIVER TENDER or SAFETY DIVER
Dive tenders or safety divers standby to monitor and support diving operations. They are required to be fully certified commercial divers.
Inspection divers are specially trained in techniques to inspect underwater structures such as dams, bridges, and water treatment facilities. The work may be either inland or offshore based.
The most common type of commercial diver is the offshore diver working in the oil and gas industry. Here is where many commercial divers enter their professional career. Hourly pay is often lower than prevailing wage public works jobs, but typically increases over time. Offshore divers live on oil platforms or vessels for long periods of time, and may work long hours for several days in a row, though most do not work year-round due do the seasonal flow of offshore operations.
Inland divers commonly do government work on land-based civil engineering operations in lakes, harbors, rivers, and dams. They do not face as many hazardous working conditions and living situations of offshore divers, and the tasks are typically infrastructure repair or inspection. Per NTSB regulation, every bridge with a pier or abutment in the water must be inspected every 5 years, while some ratings require work at least once a year, all to be done by divers. Divers for inland work are frequently hired by private companies, as well as by states/cities/municipalities, in which case they are required by law to receive prevailing wage rates. Harvest divers may be employed to collect shellfish, sponges, or timber as a commodity.
Reservoirs or large potable water tanks require regular servicing by commercial divers as well.
HAZMAT divers are considered highly skilled and experienced divers who work under dangerous conditions. They have to work under special circumstances due to the dangerous materials they dive in, such as pollution, chemical tanks, or sewer diving. HAZMAT divers must take precautionary measures before, during, and after their dive to deal with the threat of contamination. Nuclear divers work under conditions much like HAZMAT divers, and may assist in power plant construction/maintenance or waste recovery. Different precautionary measures are taken to prevent the exposure of radiation. They may use a cold water suit to prevent heat stress from contaminated areas.
Scientific divers collect experimental data underwater. Work typically includes collecting samples and taking photographs or other observations of a marine environment in order to contribute to a research project.
Media divers work in underwater filming and photography. Many become trained as camera operators who mostly cover projects meant for television documentaries and movies.
Police divers assist in police investigations where a diver is need to recover something underwater.
This short introduction to commercial diving jobs and roles gives a glimpse into the full range of career paths and roles commercially trained divers from CDI may consider as they advance in their commercial dive training. Although the job comes with a demanding and challenging environment, proper training along with good physical fitness ensures your team gets the job done safely and with efficiency. CDI is the place to get started!
For more information about our CDI and our programs, get in contact with a member of our team today.