(Journeyman – Master Tradesman): I have 2-5+ years of experience with topside welding. How can I become an underwater welder?
Have you ever watched professional surfing on the TV? They make it look easy; as one wave falls and another folds over to take its place, surfers carve out the inside of each massive tidal wave, leaving behind a trail of foam. If you’ve ever tried surfing, you know it takes years to understand tidal patterns, establish your surfing position and find the largest waves to ride. And you certainly don’t start out on the big waves.
As an experienced topside welder looking to change careers, you’ve surfed on the waves for years. You have a special appreciation for new welding technology, safety equipment and methodologies. Unlike your younger, hotshot, inexperienced welding coworkers, you’ve “done your time.”
But Time’s Ticking
Your welding experience is the biggest edge you have in this cutthroat industry.
Since you’re itching to dive into underwater welding, you need to take the proper steps to expedite your career journey. You have welding knowledge, leadership skill (hopefully) and a professional network built. What you don’t have is time. I’ll talk about how to accelerate your underwater welding training, but before I do, there’s one major thing you need to consider: Current physical condition
Getting Physical: Why Jump Onboard now?
Underwater welders have a lot in common with athletes. Both lines of work are hard on your body and require tremendous physical endurance. Unless you stay in peak physical condition, you’ll begin to decline after age 25. You may be thinking, I’m not in the greatest shape now, but underwater welding will force me to shape up. It’ll be like signing up for the military!
Whatever physical weaknesses you currently possess will be amplified many times as a diver. An underwater welder spends days on preparation for construction projects in the depths and hours under the water. And if you decide to make more money doing saturation diving, you’ll put your body under an enormous amount of strain.
In reality, the older you are when you enter this field, the harder it is on your body. However, you may be older than most welder-divers, but employers care a lot more about your physical capability than your age.
Train Hard and Research Harder
Every underwater welding is a commercial diver, and every commercial diver must have commercial diving certification. To achieve this, you should go to a school that provides this certification. Complete your diving physical and start applying.
Before you choose a diving school, ask the course instructors if it’s possible to skip any welding coursework because of your extensive welding background. Not all schools will allow this option, but most instructors will at least listen to see how they can help get you on your feet quickly with a diving job.
Once you’ve landed a job as an underwater welder, do the same thing. Upfront, ask your employer how your welding experience can advance you into the field quicker. They’ll still require their own testing for certain certification, but you’re already on the second rung of the ladder with experience.
- Type of commercial diving work (hopefully including underwater welding)
- Job Stability & Income
Not all marine diving companies operate the same way, and it’s essential for you to find ones that meet your desires. If you can pinpoint the right places to work, you can start a relationship with them before you receive your certification, further accelerating the hiring process.
How do you start that relationship?
- Find marine diving companies in your local area and talk with them
- Connect with your “welding” network, and see who they know in the marine industries
- Ask your school instructors and staff about their connections to marine diving companies
Welding Wisdom Everywhere
As an underwater welder, you’ll probably engage in plenty of topside construction and welding projects – especially in the winter months. You can take the lead on these with your experience, and you can show employers your capability where others lack. In addition, you’ve spent enough time in the industry to inherit a natural “street sense” for many types of problems and situations, whether it’s above or below the waterline. Focus on your strengths, and be persistent in all of your work.
Bend, But Don’t Snap
If you can break into the underwater welding field at an older age, you’ve already achieved something enormous that very few can do. Don’t mess it up by pushing your physical capabilities too far, or working for more than 10 years in the field as a diver if you’re older than 40. Your health is more important than your career aspirations.