A diver peers up from beneath a metal deck

A commercial diver could...

Film sea turtles for an educational documentary. A sea turtle Rig underwater explosives for a bridge demolition. Columns of smoke rise along the length of a demolished bridge
Help build underwater structures. A scuba diver works on a metal structure underwater Salvage treasure from an ancient shipwreck. Black and white photo of a ship resting on the bottom of the ocean
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Thousands of structures, like bridge supports, ocean oil rigs, and marine research equipment lie underwater and it is the job of commercial divers to maintain those structures. Using scuba gear, commercial divers do a wide variety of underwater tasks, including installing equipment and structures, conducting tests or experiments, rigging explosives, and photographing structures or marine life.
Key Requirements A fondness for physical activity and adventure, and the ability to stay calm and collected in stressful conditions
Minimum Degree Vocational or Associate's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Physics, algebra; if available, marine biology
Median Salary
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!
Related Occupations
  • Hunters and trappers
  • Fallers
  • Pipe layers
  • Earth drillers, except oil and gas
  • Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Commercial divers typically need a high school diploma or GED. Training and certification through a commercial diving school is mandatory for most jobs. Basic scuba diving certification should be obtained prior to attending a commercial diving program.

Because there are a large variety of jobs to be done underwater, commercial divers may also need to acquire other skills, like underwater welding, photography, or construction, depending on the type of work they'll be doing. In some companies, on-the-job training by more experienced divers also occurs.

Education and Training

A high school diploma or GED and certification through a commercial diving school are necessary for most commercial diving jobs.

Other Qualifications

Frequent scuba diving is physically taxing and commercial divers must be extremely fit. Good mental health is also critical because commercial divers, such as search and rescue workers, often work in emotionally taxing environments. The smallest deviation from diving protocols can have disastrous consequences, so divers must be detail oriented and able to remain calm under stress.

Nature of the Work

Commercial divers perform underwater activities related to construction, salvage, repair, research, rescue and photography. They use specialized scuba equipment. The exact type of equipment depends on the diving conditions, but

Watch this video if you've ever wondered who invents and tests diving equipment. See the Naval Experimental Diving Unit in action creating new diving products and pushing the physical limits of commercial diving.

Commercial divers find employment with many types of companies and organizations. Oil companies, demolition companies, police and fire departments, underwater salvage companies, and the Navy are just a few of the places where commercial divers work. Depending on the task, commercial divers may need other skills, such as welding, rigging explosives, photography, or emergency management.

Work Environment

Commercial divers spend their working hours in wet suits and scuba gear, swimming around in a variety of bodies of water, from freezing oceans to murky lakes. They are found in swamps, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, ports, harbors, locks, weirs, reservoirs, spillways, quarries, pools, and sewers.

On the Job

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

Source: O*Net and The El Group

Companies That Hire Divers

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