How to Become an Underwater Welder

by Usama Chaudry on May 18, 2022

Fascinated by the underwater world and have an interest in welding too?

Then a career in underwater welding is a perfect fit for you!


It’s not everyone’s piece of cake.


Underwater welders require extensive training, including advanced welding knowledge and diving experience to perform technical construction tasks beneath the water.

Keep diving into this article to find out how to become an underwater welder!

How to Become an Underwater Welder – [Quick Steps]

To learn how to become an underwater welder, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or GED
  2. Get certification in welding
  3. Gain experience in welding
  4. Become a certified commercial diver
  5. Pass your physical exams
  6. Attend an underwater welding school

1. Earn a High School Diploma or GED

The first step in becoming an underwater welder is to complete your base level of education. The applicants are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED in order to get enrolled in vocational training programs.

2. Get Certification in Welding

In order to become a certified underwater welder, you must earn a welding certificate before registering for a commercial diving program. To get the certificate, you will need to complete a welding course and get formal welding training in one of several individualized welding processes from an institute accredited by the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB).

3. Gain Experience in Welding

After getting the welding certificate, you should ideally gain experience as a professional welder for a couple of years. The more experience you have under your belt as a welder, the better chance you will have to make a cut in the diving industry.

4. Become a Certified Commercial Diver

Once you have gained the requisite welding experience and certification, you can acquire a commercial diving certification by enrolling in a commercial diving program, which typically takes about seven to ten months to complete. Commercial diving programs prepare you to work in industrial environments and handle heavy underwater constructions without jeopardizing your safety, or the safety of others.

Your commercial dive training may cover some important topics including:

  • Hyperbaric chamber operations
  • Diver communication
  • Diving physiology
  • Underwater inspections
  • Application of commercial-grade underwater tools
  • Underwater emergency procedures

5. Pass Your Physical Exams

Besides the commercial diving certification, it’s mandatory for you to take and pass a physical examination as approved by the Association of Diving Contractors International. Along with a head-to-toe examination, you’ll also be tested on your swimming abilities and cardiovascular conditioning. Underwater welders will need to be able to swim 400 meters unassisted—roughly 437 yards or 1,312 feet. After completing the diving certification and examination, you’ll start out as a dive tender and continue to work in this position for about two years.

6. Attend an Underwater Welding School

After you have both your welding and commercial diving certifications, you can enroll in an underwater welding course, which can take anywhere from six months to two years. Many employers require welders to hold a professional certification through an accredited underwater welding program.

The coursework may cover topics including:

  • Wet welding techniques
  • Air and mixed gas procedures
  • Operation of underwater welding equipment

What Is the Role of an Underwater Welder?

An underwater welder’s role is to use many common arc welding procedures and specialized equipment for welding and cutting metal structures in a wide range of aquatic environments.

The primary duties and responsibilities of an underwater welder include:

  • Cutting, fitting, and rigging metallic components in construction projects
  • Photographing and recording underwater structures for evaluation and project planning
  • Drafting plans, blueprints, outlines, and diagrams for underwater welding applications
  • Identifying weld discontinuities and defects, and performing non-destructive testing to ensure the integrity and safe operation
  • Welding and attaching metal components and structures underwater according to proper protocol
  • Rendering assistance to project managers and engineers in the planning and development of the project
  • Calibrating all materials and equipment for welding and diving
  • Providing input on the efficacy of welding applications and safe operation of equipment
  • Guiding new welders in carrying out objectives in compliance with safety policies

Skills Required to Become an Underwater Welder

To become an underwater welder, you need to possess the following useful skills that will help you get ahead in your career by standing out from the pack:

1. Welding skills

Welding skills are obviously going to be paramount when your entire job relies on your ability to knock these types of projects out successfully while you are underwater. You’ll have to master oxy-fuel welding for sure, but it’s not a bad idea to develop proficiencies in more traditional “land-based” welding areas as well. You want to practice as much as you can – above water and below – since this is going to be your bread and butter skill in the field.

2. Diving skills

Diving skills are equally or maybe more important than your welding skills, as the environment around you that you are swimming in can become deadly in an instant if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. Besides the mandatory certification from a commercial diving school, you need to hone your skills continually. It’s critically important that you dive as often as you can even when you aren’t working on a project to keep your skills current.

3. Underwater Cutting Skills

Your ability to cut material away underwater is almost as important as your welding abilities, which is why you’ll need to master underwater cutting technologies like oxy-fuel cutting, abrasive jet cutting, and the use of mechanical cutting tools that you might need underwater. The skillful ability to remove material and to cut away obstructions is a huge piece of the puzzle. The right cuts make your job as an underwater welder a whole lot easier as well as a whole lot safer.

4. Inspection and non-destructive testing skills

Some underground welders specialize in inspecting sites to ensure they are safe enough for the planned projects. This requires special skills like ultrasonic testing and radiographic testing that not every underwater welder may have. This skill can impress hiring managers and significantly improve your chances of securing a job.

5. Underwater photography and videography skills

You don’t necessarily have to become a world-class artist when it comes to photography and videography, but you’ll definitely need to understand how to maximize lighting, how to hit the right angles, and how to physically manipulate and use the gear and the equipment designed to work underwater for sure.

Tips to Become an Underwater Welder

You should consider the following tips in order to develop a brightening career as an underwater welder:

  • Attend trade shows, training workshops, and events that focus on innovation and current applications in your industry. This can help you stay updated on the latest technologies and advancements that can help you on the job.
  • Stay up-to-date on commercial diving protocols and safety regulations. This can help ensure you’re always in compliance when performing on the job.
  • As you gain more experience, offer to mentor new welders. This demonstrates your leadership capabilities and your dedication to helping team members achieve success.
  • Communicate regularly with project directors and team members to understand expectations and any modifications or changes to project designs.
  • Develop your hard skills and your soft skills. Your specialized skills can benefit from continuous development, and your soft skills are necessary for working with others and building professional relationships that can support your career success.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1- How long does it take to become an underwater welder?

An absolute beginner needs 10 to 12 years to become an underwater welder. Certified welders can make it in just 2 to 2.5 years. Welders with a commercial diving certification from a reputable diving school or institute need only a year or a few months more.

2- Is it hard to become an underwater welder?

Definitely. It is hard to become an underwater welder as it is a very physically demanding job with a high degree of technical complexity. The industry demands total commitment, long hours, extensive travel, a great attitude, and a superior work ethic.

3- Is underwater welding dangerous?

Underwater welding is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Industry investigations show that the underwater welding death rate has a high fatality rate estimated to be around 15%, making it 1,000 times more dangerous than working as a police officer.

4- How much do underwater welders make a year?

Underwater welders’ salary has a wide range, from $100,000 to $200,000 per year. The majority of them are paid on a project-by-project basis and salaries are subject to the same variables as work availability. In addition, other factors such as depth, dive method, and diving environment affect pay rates.

5- What qualifications do you need to do underwater welding?

The qualifications that you need for underwater welding include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Commercial Diving Certificate
  • Welding certificate

6- Is underwater welding worth it?

Underwater welding is not one of the best careers in terms of working conditions and requirements and is an expensive prospect on its own, but paired with your other courses, it’s worth the investment, and is a great job for those who wish to make a high salary in a short amount of time.

7- Is there a high demand for underwater welders?

Yes, underwater welders are always in high demand. There is a growing demand for underwater welders around the world, particularly in view of the need to maintain and repair damage to oil platforms and other massive marine infrastructure.

Usama ChaudryUsama has a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alberta. Computations of electrical and thermal characteristics are among his research interests. Usama's hobbies outside of professional work include reading, playing tennis, and trekking.


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