As a job sector, underwater welding is often overlooked due to it being unknown to the broad population. The ones who know about it choose not to commit to it due to the risk factors that can result in death very easily.
While all these are said, underwater welder salary has never taken any hit and it’s a growing industry with ample job opportunities for individuals with necessary skills, will and expertise.
At the peak, the highest salary in this job can cross $200,000 per year and the numbers make it more fanciable than ever in the current world of economic growth.
Having expert analysts on the team, this article has broken down the underwater welder salary in many ways to offer you a comprehensive take on the matter.
We are not here to tempt you into this line of work, rather to show you what it means to be an underwater welder and at the same time, what are the risks and benefits that come side by side.
- Average Salaries of Commercial Underwater Welders
- USA: State by State Average Salary
- Canada: State by State Average Salary
- What Kinds of Work Does an Underwater Welder Do?
- What are the Earning Factors for Underwater Welding?
- Requirements to be an Underwater Welder
- Necessary Soft Skills for Underwater Welding
- An Underwater Welder’s Lifestyle
- High-Risk & High-Pay for Underwater Welders
- Is There Any Future for Underwater Welders?
What is Underwater Welding?
Underwater welding is exactly what it sounds like – diving underwater and using welding instruments to weld on objects that are part of a project. It requires an individual to have certain skill sets that range between deep sea diving and professional welding of different types.
Underwater welding isn’t just a profession, it transgresses past to become a lifestyle as the individuals have to organize their lives around this path of career. That starts from living in coastal areas to traveling places, and the more experience one is able to gain, the higher the scale of salary will be. So it’s essential to love the craft and the performance that comes with it.
Areas of Underwater Welding
There are two major areas of underwater welding that come with different types of work with a gap in pay. They are: Inland and Offshore.
Inland underwater welding has its own charms but that comes at a cost too. Inland areas mean the local ponds, lakes, streams or any water body that isn’t as gigantic as the ocean. The smaller size of the area makes the job somewhat easier and less risky than offshore.
However, the sacrifice one has to make to be an inland underwater welder is that the salary isn’t as grand as offshore welding. Surveys show that inland underwater welders receive around $40,000 to $80,000 a year on average – based on skill, experience and type of work.
Their tasks are limited to fixing motorboat vessels, mending bridges, working on ports or similar tasks that aren’t placed in a risky scenario. Although the job may be harmless in nature, working in sweet water has its downside too. As there is no ion in water like the ocean due to the absence of abundant salt, placing the welding and sticking it to the object often becomes challenging.
Offshore areas are underwater welding shines in terms of salary as it’s more demanding and challenging with tons of risk factors. Offshore means into the ocean and miles beneath the surface level. Apart from risks, the task there requires one to be a good diver and welder at the same time with sufficient experience in the bag.
While an underwater welder offshore carries the burden of danger, he or she is rewarded with a higher pay and ample job opportunities. Although the life of an offshore underwater welder requires frequent movements, the average salary in a year ranges between $40,000 to over $100,000 or even more.
Works offshore include maintaining important lines, working with ship turbines & floor, salvaging or removing debris etc. in adverse contexts which are discussed further in this article. Salt water helps though, in welding and in maintaining body balance, but that’s probably the only upside to it other than the pay range.
Average Salaries of Commercial Underwater Welders
While there’s a discrepancy between inland and offshore underwater welding salaries, the average income calculated by the Economic Research Institute breaks it down thoroughly. From this, you’ll be able to better understand what to expect from such jobs at the median.
The diver tenders earn around $42,364 per year on average, which makes it a $20/hour job in 2023. The bonus at this level stands around $724. At entry level, the average salary stands at $31,350 for diver tenders and senior divers earn $50,159 per year with scopes for promotions.
Underwater Welding Salaries in Different Countries
Based on the information from Salary Expert who specialize in collecting salary data from individuals, a visual graph has been presented hereafter to understand how some of the countries stack up against one another in terms of average salaries based on underwater welding.
The graph above shows that Switzerland pays the highest salary to underwater welders, but that is counterbalanced by their living cost. From experts, USA, UK, Canada and Australia are the perfect places to utilize the hard-earned salary in the most efficient way.
USA: State by State Average Salary
From Comparably, a picture of the USA’s six states that relish in the underwater welding industry can be obtained with the variance based on average incomes for a clear conception.
The chart shows that San Francisco pays the highest salary in the US due to numerous industrial works that are currently taking place on the ocean in that region.
Canada: State by State Average Salary
From Indeed Canada, the different salary can be illustrated in average from one state to the other in Canada so that you can understand which one is the most hot and happening zone for underwater welders in the country.
From the infographic, the interpretation can be made that Nunavut is the highest paying area on average in Canada for underwater welders and Yukon stands as a close second.
What Kinds of Work Does an Underwater Welder Do?
There is a wide variety of tasks that an underwater welder has to undertake and some of the prominent ones are described to better understand their struggles.
Fixing Underwater Lines
Have you ever wondered how we transfer water, internet or something similar of a grand volume from one continent to another? These are done through underwater lines that are embedded at the floor of the ocean, miles beneath the surface level. There are times when these lines are damaged and to prevent further breach or leakage, an underwater welder is summoned to the task.
With proper instruments, the welder’s job is to fix that underwater line as soon as possible so that the damage is restricted and the service disruption is mitigated. We are dependent on brave underwater welders in so many ways that we don’t even realize it.
Maintaining Oil Lines
Apart from those large oil tankers, a high volume of oil is transferred via underwater lines everyday. It’s a faster and safer method of oil transferring, but it demands regular maintenance so that the integrity remains the same throughout the year. Underwater welders take upon the responsibility of regularly checking and maintaining those lines so that we don’t run short on oil any time of the year.
Working with Fiber Connection
As mentioned earlier, placing, repairing and maintaining optical fiber lines deep beneath the ocean’s surface is a job for an expert underwater welder. While large machinery helps them out while achieving this feat, yet their skills are tested to the limits as the project takes its complete shape. And due to the relevance and importance of the internet these days, an underwater welder earns a handsome amount of money by being engaged with fiber lines.
Ship’s Turbine Repair
When you see those fancy shipping lines, do you ever wonder what happens when something happens to their floor or simply the turbines require repairing? Do they take apart the gigantic vessel and fix it? No! They dock it in the shipyard and call in an underwater welder to fix it for them. Although they get a hefty paycheque by the end, it does require high-expertise into turbine repairing that gain them access to the job in the first place.
There are tons of nuclear stations placed under the ocean’s surface and not everyone can work with them any time of the week. The maintenance crew are well-trained and have clear knowledge on how to deal with hazardous materials. So is expected of the underwater welder who works on the maintenance of such stations. Despite the payment’s size, it’s still a very risky endeavor as it leaves the chance of radiation exposure should things go south.
Cutting Underwater Debris
Do you ever think what happens to the ships, vessels or boats that sink down to the bottom of the ocean? Cranes don’t always reach that and not all of them are salvageable with regular gears. This is where an underwater welder fills in as they dive down deep and cut off the debris part by part to vacate the ocean floor. It’s a job for the experts and only a few chosen professionals are given access to the task.
What are the Earning Factors for Underwater Welding?
You might wonder what matters for underwater welders in terms of rising in higher payscale. Well, there are certain factors that employers take into consideration before agreeing upon a suitable salary and these factors are discussed in this section.
Certification levels certainly help out an underwater welder to earn more. The higher the degree, the better the pay – this entails in this sector of work as well. With institutional training on diving, welding or a combination of both, tender welders find themselves getting paid at a higher rate with these accomplishments checked in their resume.
Additional degrees or certificates help out further for a higher salary. For instance, having Diver Medical Technician training can drastically bolster the payment forward for an underwater welder, so if you’re aspiring to be one, you must learn to value your certificates and grab the necessary ones as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for schools to get yourself admitted for certificates, you can check out these 10 institutions that offer courses and respectable degrees in this field of work.
Diving Experience & Proficiency
One of the major earning factors in underwater welding is the experience of the individual as a diver. No matter how well one welds, it won’t matter if he or she isn’t good at diving. An incompetent diver who intends on welding becomes a burden throughout the operation, and even if they’re picked for the job, the payment remains at the lower sphere.
Thus, good diving proficiency and experience is required for the job and to get a good salary in the end. So one must not hold back in terms of earning diving experience and needs to spend hours underwater before opting for a career in this risk-prone area.
Welding skills sit right next to diving experience. Underwater welders have to undertake different types of work based on necessity, and having the arsenal of wide welding skills is seized by employers very eagerly. So it’s essential for an underwater welder to devote himself or herself into obtaining welding skills and maturing in the process so that performing the same task deep below water doesn’t overwhelm them.
The pay of underwater welding depends on the traveling frequency of the welder on the tertiary level. As seasons change and contexts alter, one area doesn’t always offer underwater welding jobs and even when they do, the pay isn’t always up to the par. So in order to earn a higher salary, an underwater welder must be open to traveling frequently to reach high-demand areas and be relevant as a worker in the sector.
Size of Company
The range of salary doesn’t always depend on the welder or their skill set, but also on the company that employs them. Larger companies tend to pay more and offer jobs frequently, but getting a contract from them is very competitive as opposed to small scale companies.
And as the smaller companies offer jobs to less experienced welders, the payment is significantly less along with the bonus at the end of the task. So to gain experience, a tender diver or inexperienced break-out diver has to work for such companies with a lower pay rate in hopes of receiving a good contract in the future.
Familiarization with Equipments
As an underwater welder, having sharp understanding and familiarity with the necessary instruments is a must. It increases efficiency which is of high essence under deep water at high pressure situations. So ones having a high-level acquaintance, experience and know-how of these diving and welding instruments are preferred by recruiters and given a larger sum no matter where they venture to work.
Underwater welder salary varies significantly between areas due to the economic condition and nature of work. If a welder’s locality isn’t undergoing frequent or large scale industrial work under water, chances are the pay scale will be very low in those areas.
Also, the locality being adjacent to an ocean opens the doors for offshore underwater welding. Countries like the USA, UK, Canada or Australia have numerous underwater projects going on and being at the coastal areas of countries as such provides front row tickets to a high salary underwater welding job.
Requirements to be an Underwater Welder
What does it take to be an underwater welder? There are certain requirements that must be met before one even thinks about becoming a commercial underwater welder, and those criterias are put on display here.
To be an underwater welder and be called by the companies to work for them, having relevant education is a must. It doesn’t mean one needs to complete school or graduate from reputed universities, rather education here means having an institutional training degree from organizations that specialize in mentoring underwater welders.
Divers Institute of Technology or DIT is one such institution that offers a wide variety of courses for underwater welding. Trained by veteran militaries, they offer from 7 month courses to be a commercial diver to more advanced ones to be an underwater welder. This is one of many institutions that specialize in this matter and having a degree grants access to high pay jobs on a regular basis.
Much like any other job field, there exists hierarchy and scopes for promotions in underwater welding which of course increases the salary in turns. Diver tender is the entry level position in this line of work who tends to earn the least amount of money based on the type of work and locality.
The diver tender gets a higher pay over time and factoring in the depth they go under water. Once the mother organization is satisfied with the level of work after around a year, the diver tender is promoted to a full diver.
There’s an irony to the system as a diver tender gets called more frequently than an inexperienced full diver. Even if the full diver is paid at a higher scale, his irregular calls render the total pay less than the tender diver. It changes over time, the welder only has to wait out and seize every opportunity he or she gets in the time being.
Having great physical strength and endurance is always a must-have quality in every underwater welder. Having to withstand the constant water pressure, working in adverse conditions and facing challenges that require instant solution is not an easy task.
And when it’s paired with handling heavy equipment at such high pressure and moving currents, one must have supreme strength to properly maneuver those and carry on for as long as it takes without faltering. Although such abilities gain them frequent calls and a good pay, it’s something one must have to be classified as a quality underwater welder.
Willingness to Take Risks
To be an underwater welder, one must be willing to take risks. Having the notion that danger might not appear if one stays safe is a concept that good welders must remove from their minds. Deep parts under the water are always dangerous and risky places to be, and one must be willing without any doubt to undertake those risks in order to receive fatter payments.
Necessary Soft Skills for Underwater Welding
Apart from measurable skills, there are certain expertise that can’t be reflected in degrees or even experiences. These are those soft skills that set apart a good underwater welder from some of the best.
One of the many soft skills that is needed for one to be a good underwater welder and earn a high salary is sound understanding of physics. It doesn’t mean one has to have a degree or academic knowledge of Physics, rather it’s the understanding of the context and the nature of work which helps out to reach the desired outcome.
For instance, repairing at odd angles or including extensions through welding increases quality and sustainability if it’s done with proper physics comprehension. This allows the welder to land jobs at a higher pay scale and help out in the long run of their career.
Attention to Detail
This is often underestimated in underwater welding until the occasion calls for it. Ones who have great attention to detail receive higher salary than the ones who don’t. This skill not only fixes welding problems for the longest amount of time, but also speaks for the quality of work. Fixing turbines, dealing with delicate subjects often demand workers with such skills and developing it is a must if one wants to climb up higher in the chain.
Underwater welding isn’t like regular welding in many aspects. When a welder runs into trouble or can’t think of a way to fix the issue, he or she can’t google for solutions or simply call another expert for ideas. What is required in this case is creative thinking, and from numerous underwater welding employers that we’ve contacted with, we were assured that individuals with such a skill set are highly desirable and it creates a positive impact on their salary.
Instant Decision Making Skills
There are during underwater welding when the welder is faced with a challenge that demands instant response. In such situations as such, there’s no way of delaying the job, otherwise it can cost around millions of dollars and even threaten the lives of many. A good and experienced welder needs to be able to make the right decision instantly with proper conception of the outcome in the future which earns them a good worth of pay by the end of the job.
An Underwater Welder’s Lifestyle
During my investigation into the field while composing this article, I was at Portland for a couple of nights and had been fortunate enough to have a long chat with a veteran underwater welder, Creed Gilmore. He was gracious in his manners and allowed me an insight into his life and work.
Currently 49 years old, Creed has been a diver from a very early age. He picked up welding as a profession which broke the line of three-generation fisherman profession. But after 5 years into the welding business, he couldn’t withstand the call of the ocean and committed to become an underwater welder by merging his two expertise.
Creed owns a vessel of his own. Offshore welding isn’t available all year long as in winter the freezing temperatures arrive with killer instincts. During that time, Creed works within inland areas to make his ends meet and spends around 40 hours a week into it.
At the beginning, he would have to pay around 80% of his salary as rent and means of survival. As the years grew by, he gained experience and certificates that see him currently earn well over $120,00 per year. His two sons are currently in school and during their leisure they are picking up the craft that their father has mastered after so much struggle.
There are many like Creed who have to move frequently and work testing exceptional physical endurance. Yet, since good pay is guaranteed and safety for the children’s future is ensured, no amount of danger can hold back brave individuals who dive deep into the ocean and hand out their welding craftsmanship.
High-Risk & High-Pay for Underwater Welders
Underwater welding is riddled with different types of risks that come hand in hand with the nature of tasks. With these guaranteed risks comes a higher salary which is an insult to human lives but that’s the way it is. Some of the risk factors that earn a higher pay are discussed in this section.
If you don’t have any deep sea diving experience, then you wouldn’t know how dark it is down there. Experts claim that there are areas deep beneath the surface level that have never seen the light of day. Where deep sea divers often think twice before diving in, underwater welders go that distance and work their magic.
They not only have to dive deep but also have to perform what they were sent to do. Yes, they are equipped with high-power lights that show them what they’re working on, but still it doesn’t provide clear vision in the surrounding area which is a risk in itself. Generally, the higher the risk, the better the pay, and the minimal vision is something many brave welders deal with regularly to earn their livelihood.
Although we usually dive around the safe areas of the ocean, the underwater welders aren’t always blessed with such a facility. They often have to work on shark-prone areas which has resulted in numerous consequences throughout underwater welding history. While the pay is good for those who work in such regions, no amount of money can be worth more than someone’s life. It’s probably the thrill that guides them to work in these locations other than money.
The temperature beneath the ocean is never the same as over the surface. It may be a bright and sunny day, but miles beneath it’s often freezing cold and it can cause hypothermia even to the healthiest of people. Underwater welders have to maneuver in such conditions with perfect finesse while their health is at risk. It’s not a job for everyone and so having the ability to withstand all the adversity is a must-have quality for a good welder.
High Wave Currents
As you may know, there are currents flowing in different directions in an ocean body and it fluctuates between areas and level of depth. Underwater welders are often faced with high wave currents during diving in or while working on their job. Despite the instruments’ ability to tie the welder down to the subject, it’s always challenging to remain posted and finish the work neatly. In many cases high wave currents have caused major injury to the welders which oftentimes resulted in death.
Even if you ignore the work pressure of working underneath the ocean’s surface for hours, you can’t deny the existence of water’s pressure. A professional underwater welder is constantly faced with this challenge which has at times resulted in heart attacks or strokes. Thus, a longer career in this profession tends to get a higher pay than regular welding on the land.
Is There Any Future for Underwater Welders?
This is one question that’s frequently asked among underwater welding enthusiasts. According to research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the short answer is, YES! There indeed is a future for underwater welders.
In the upcoming decade, the underwater welding sector is going to be more flourishing with jobs and higher salaries for individuals who are both experienced and new to the arena. There’s going to be around 300 more new job openings in the US, and thousands more worldwide during this time.
While the death toll is scary in underwater welding with a large number of workers dying by drowning, the sector hasn’t stopped growing and the future doesn’t seem to be faltering either.
The estimated salary for tender divers in 2027 is going to be around $47,234, which is an 11% increment on the current pay scale. So if you’re planning to become an underwater welder now, it’s a financially wise job sector to focus in and is future-proof, but has its own challenges that you must endure.