Underwater welding requires that the welder combine welding skills with commercial diving and some other qualifications in order to fully perform his/her job which can sometimes be very interesting. This job which involves the handling of heavy equipment designed especially for the setting of the job (underwater), requires professionals who know both welding and are good at deep-sea diving.
It is no surprise therefore that the main qualification every underwater welder must possess is the Underwater Specialist Training Program, offered exclusively through the Commercial Diving Academy. Also, with the nature of the job, certifications in this job must be currently updated by passing periodic examinations which seek to refresh the skills of the underground welder.
Qualifications and Job Requirements
Underwater welding as has been discussed above combines welding skills which are normally done on land with commercial diving. And because of the nature of the job, you can become an undergraduate welder by either completing the Commercial Diving Academy’s highly specialized program or getting both your skilled welding and your commercial diving certificates independently.
Many schools offer the Commercial dive certification program. This program, however, has special requirements which must be undertaken and cannot be overlooked regardless of the number of years of experience the applicant has.
This is because qualification for this certification entails that the diver demonstrates a complete mastery and understanding of different skills including the ability to properly use a wide variety of commercial grade equipment, understanding of hyperbaric chamber operations, emergency procedures, underwater inspections, diving physiology, and communication.
Generally, underwater welders work with different equipment and are expected to perform the following duties:
- Underwater cutting
- Inspection and non-destructive testing
- Underwater photography
- Fitting and rigging
Other underwater welders play the role of assistant to the project manager whose major duty is to plan and execute projects. Undergraduate welders are also expected to have good interpersonal and communication skills so as to be able to work well with the rest of the team.
The standard welding skills required by an underwater welder is rated at AWS D3.6 and this encompasses the knowledge and abilities relating to weld set up skills and preparation. Training in this field which is recognized worldwide is exclusively given by the U.S. Commercial Diving Academy.
And despite the fact that the occupation has no age limits, underwater welders must be physically fit and in good health condition. As such, most companies require that prospective candidates pass a series of physical examinations.
Generally, becoming an underwater welder requires that you possess the following:
- High school Diploma or GED
- Commercial Diving Certification
- AWS Certified Welding Training
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics as of May, 2016, underwater welders generally have an average (mean) hourly wage of $25.96 with average annual earnings of approximately $53,990. In addition to that, welders in the top percentile (90%) can be expected to make at least $83,730 annually
The wage of the underwater welder is often a combination of four distinct factors:
- Experience of the underwater welder
- The company or employer under which he/she works
- Location of work
- Depth of the dive
Other issues that can affect the salary of the underwater welder are the length of the project (since work is typically on a project basis) and types of dive methods employed and the hazard levels.
Opportunities in the Oil & Gas Industry
While commercial diving is usually not associated with the oil and gas industry, underwater welders, on the other hand, are in high demand when it comes to this industry especially in the fields of offshore oil and gas production and exploration.
Underwater welders are used by the oil and gas industry to inspect, install, repair and remove structures and equipment in the depths of the ocean.
An important area of oil and gas exploration and production is the installation of pipelines and other equipment. Two main types of welding are the Wet and Dry technique. These two methods make use of a special electrode used to weld as well as the manual metal arc (MMA).
Most oil and gas production and exploration companies prefer the Wet underwater welding technique as it allows free movement. With Dry welding also known as Hyperbaric welding, a chamber is built and sealed around the structure to be welded and then, it is filled with gas, usually Helium as it doesn’t react with other chemicals.
When the gas has filled the chamber to an extreme pressure, the water in the chamber is flushed out such that welders can carry their tasks within the chamber.
But whether a company decides to use the wet or dry underwater welding techniques, it is important to note the relationship between underwater welding and the oil and gas industry.
Underwater Welding & Diving Schools
Because these schools have internationally-recognized quality training facilities and instructors, they issue certificates from internationally-recognized organizations such as the CDA which ensures that the holder of these certifications and qualifications are able to work as an underwater welder anywhere in the world.