How to Seize Your $300K Underwater Welding Salary This Year

It’s rare to find a well-paying job that requires little education.

Even more to earn your entire year’s salary in as little as a few months.

Underwater welding can be one of those professions.

Today I’m going to show you exactly how you as an underwater welder can earn by:

Let’s dive in:

How Much is an Underwater Welding Salary? 2016 Average Underwater Welding Income

Underwater Welding Salary

According to commercial divers and global statistics, the average underwater welding salary is $54,340 annually and $24.26 per hour. However, most incomes float around $25,000 – $80,000. Diver welders in the top 10% make $88,640 while the bottom 10% pull in $30,320.

Diving experience is the biggest determiner of an underwater welder salary. Location comes in second.

But here’s the kicker:

Some commercial divers’ underwater welding salary can hit up to $300,000+ annually.

Why the large pay range?

Most underwater welders receive pay by the hour or project. That means Joe Diver might make a hefty $30,000 in a few months with a big contract.

Then he spends another five months looking for his next gig.

 

Here’s the primary factors that affect your diver welder income:

Every factor is part of a larger equation for increased pay, marketability and career opportunity.

But to be passionate about this career, you need to know where it will take you.

Let’s take a look at the two primary types of underwater welders:

Underwater Welder Salary: Offshore & Inland Work Hours & Diving Projects

Underwater welders fit into two pay scale categories based on the location and scope of their work.

Offshore and inland.

I’m taking it a step further:

I’ve separated the underwater welder salary of  rookie and veteran diver welder, since field experience dramatically increases income.

Offshore Diving Career

Underwater Welder Salary Offshore

Underwater Welder Salary

  • Rookie (starting): $40,000 – $60,000
  • Veteran (3-5+ years experience): $75,000 – $100,000+

Diver Project Examples

  • Platform and Pipeline Abandonment
  • Cleaning Subsea Sites
  • Surveying Chain Anchor Legs
  • Inspecting and Stabilizing Underwater Oil Pipelines
  • Wet Welding Oil Rig Pipelines
  • Hyperbaric Wet Welding Oil Rig Pipelines
  • Drilling Support
  • Installing Wellheads
  • Saturation Diving & Inspection
  • Cruise/Navy Ship Turbine Repair

Commercial Diver Schedule

Typically 4 – 6 weeks out at sea, then 7 – 10 days at home. Insane overtime (10+ hour workdays on some projects).

Rinse, repeat.

A normal offshore season runs from April – November and shuts down in the winter months due to harsh wave patterns and unpredictable weather.

Don’t forget:

Steady work depends greatly on the company and industry.

Some offshore divers enjoy year-round employment by assisting in water vessel maintenance. They do metal work in welding shop or working in topside construction.

Others simply find seasonal jobs or take the winter off altogether.

World travelers enjoy offshore employment, but it’s not for everyone.

Because of higher salaries, most US underwater welders look to the ocean for their first dip into the professional world.

Onshore (Inland/Coastal) Diving Career

Underwater Welder Salary Onshore

Underwater Welder Salary

  • Rookie (starting): $25,000 – $40,000
  • Veteran (3-5+ years experience): $50,000 – $80,000

Diver Project Examples

  • Cleaning and Inspecting Water Towers, Bridges
  • Wet Welding Freshwater Pipes
  • Salvaging and Recovering Sunken Fishing Boats
  • Inspecting and Repairing Dam Walls
  • Cutting Underwater Debris
  • Demolishing Decayed Underwater Structures
  • Inspecting Sewer Pipes (HAZMAT)
  • Maintaining Nuclear Power Station Inlet Structures (HAZMAT)
  • Installing Cement Dock Support Pillars

Commercial Diver Schedule

Average (40 – 45 hour) workdays all year around. Occasional weekends for travel to and from work sites.

Marine welders often have a heavier workload in winter and spring months due to the increased storm damage of water vessels and docks.

Underwater Welding Pay: Earning Potential Based on Country & Location

Underwater Welding Pay

Keep in mind that many divers work internationally for weeks or months at a time; therefore, their earnings are credited through the countries they’ve worked in or around.

A large portion of offshore dry and wet underwater welding takes place around the United States.

These earnings include income from all commercial diving projects since underwater welding is only a small portion of a diver’s job responsibilities.

Let me repeat that one more time:

Underwater welding is a part of your career – not the whole shabang.

Countries report underwater welding pay categorically in three ways:

  1. Percentile income
  2. Numerically
  3. Internal work location

Their numbers are compiled from national employment statistics and graduate earning reports through underwater welding schools.

United States

Percentile10%25%50% (Median)75%90%
Annual Wage*$30320$38330$50470$62190$88470

*May 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

United Kingdom

Inland SalaryOffshore Salary
£50000£67500

Canada

0-$19999$20000-49999$50K+Avg
20%20%60%$55562

Australia

Inland SalaryOffshore Salary
$65000 AUD$180000 AUD

New Zealand

Inland SalaryOffshore Salary
$65000 NZD$135000 NZD

Note: The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand hyperbaric welding salary statistics are based off daily rates. We multiplied these daily rates off of average working days for divers:

  • Inland: 150 days
  • Offshore: 200 days

Underwater Welding Pay Scale Factors to Bring Waves of Income

Underwater Welding Pay Scale

If you’re interested in earning money as an underwater welder, make sure you begin your underwater welding career path in the correct way.

It takes several years of topside experience to build up to a sizable paycheck. And as I mentioned, diver welders are usually paid hourly. The underwater welding pay scale factors vary depending on both the practical knowledge of the commercial diver and the nature of his or her work.

Now:

Several components influence your income.

We’ll start with the most important, then move down from there.

Commercial Diver Field Experience Above All Else

On-the-job experience is the number one factor to earning money in your diving career.

Many go into the commercial diving field with a money mindset, but no one earns a “quick buck.” You have to work your way up the career ladder and take orders from senior divers and maritime business owners.

Once you’ve completed your commercial diving training, you’ll have two choices to make: offshore or inland.

Typically, underwater welders around the North Sea often find jobs inland first, and then they may go offshore later on. Americans are on the flip side of the coin, setting their sights offshore in the Gulf of Mexico first.

The bottom line?

Dirt, grime and bottom time. You’re gaining diving experience – paramount to finding employment for the future.

In the United States, diver welders usually start as tenders, so prepare for heavier, laborious jobs for the first 1 – 2 years to gain experience. Known as a “hitch”, offshore work for marine welders means long hours (10+ hour workdays) and isolation from their land-loving friends and family for weeks at a time.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. –Benjamin Franklin

Similar to most jobs in the labor market, commercial divers will start to see an underwater welding salary increase, steadily bumping them up after several years of hard work. But commercial diving has a large turnover rate, so hitting that five year mark looks more like a few decades compared to most desk jobs.

Premium Paper: The Power of Certification

How does certification combine with diving career?

Experience isn’t enough – you need to get certified in new skill sets to improve your learning curve and make a good impression for employers. Also, applying for new types of diving jobs every so often garners new experiences, and it shows a non-resistance to changing techniques and technologies.

You’ll find that your certification knowledge is worth a lot.

Diving Environments with Beastly Conditions

Your project environment may include waves of challenges completely out of your control.

The most common?

  • Zero degree visibility
  • Freezing temperatures
  • High wave currents

Each of these factors should be taken into consideration by your employer or contractor. If you’re looking for higher pay on two different wet welding projects, you may consider one with less visibility, closed-off environment and more challenging weld.

Each project environment has a slightly different look and feel to it which is one of the major draws of this profession. No day looks the same for underwater welders. The sky (or water, rather) is the limit here.

Depth of Work: How Much Money Does a Saturation Diver Make?

Saturation divers make up to $45,000 – $90,000 per month and over $500,000 annually. They receive “depth pay” which typically pays out an additional $1 – $4 per foot. Usually, it’s $1 per foot up to 100 feet, then it raises up to $2 per foot after that.  Income is dependent upon the length and depth of their project plus tenure of the diver.

Those who undergo a lengthy dive projects involving saturation diving (saturating body tissue with pressurized gases) can earn additional bonuses due to the time and physical strain that your body receives.

Stop drooling. There’s more to this:

In underwater welding school, some students may switch their “get-rich-quick” fantasy from underwater welding over to saturation diving.

However, most saturation divers gain several years of mid-level experience before attempting a dive in the deeper waters. Again, there’s not a shortcut to the big bucks. If you want to make saturation diving part of your career, prepare for many hours within a hyperbaric environment.

This career path is a logical way to increase your underwater welding salary.

Dive Methods that Fit the Job

Dive methods or “modes” refer to dives calling for certain procedures and equipment.

The most common dive method for underwater welders is through surface-supplied air.

Here’s the three primary diving modes:

  • Surface-supplied air
  • Mixed gas saturation
  • Scuba

In general, the less insulation between the diver welder and his or her environment, the higher the pay.

Scuba is reserved more for recreational or scientific diving, though it may occasionally be used by underwater welders as a viable method.

Knowing Your Way Around Underwater Welding Equipment

Have you ever looked at a construction site? Most are speckled orange and yellow with all types and sizes of construction tools. An underwater welder has a similar arsenal, though not all equipment is taken down beneath the surface at once.

Some equipment has more complicated operating procedures, such as large power tools or cutting torches. When in use, underwater welders must pay careful attention to their technique and position to handle it efficiently and safely.

You might be wondering:

What about electric shock?

Some diving equipment, like certain hand tools and underwater lights, pose more risk because they use alternating current (AC), not direct current (DC) power. Depending on the depth and nature of the project, underwater welders may have to use AC equipment for lengthy periods of time, increasing the risk of lethal electrocution if equipment malfunctions.

Diving jobs that call for complex and more dangerous equipment translate to a higher pay for the diver that signs up.

Distance Offshore: Sheltered No More

Typically, the further from the coast, the less emergency medical services may be available.

Of course, almost all oil rigs and large ships will have the basic first aid and diver emergency equipment for you. But with sicknesses like the bends or a broken bones, even a Diver Medical Technician may not have a long-term solution for you.

Unlike saturation diving, there’s no “cutoff distance” for an increase in pay, but employers take work site distance into consideration.

Though not a factor listed on paper, your offshore managers understand the increased hazards you’re undergoing. This may be reflected in your overall underwater welding salary.

Making Bank in Overtime Pay

Underwater Welding Overtime

Trading time for money?

Dealing especially with offshore diving, underwater welders make bank with overtime on big projects. Some divers may work up to 12 hours a day for 1 – 2 weeks straight. Many places increase pay by 50% for overtime, but each company is a little different.

Working long hours on projects applies to the entire welding and construction profession in general. Because much of this work is seasonal, overtime is usually offered to make up for the offseason.

Other Factors that Influence Marine Welder Salary

Overall, two factors impact all others in marine welder income: experience and risk.

I’ve gone over the major elements that influence a marine welder salary, but I don’t want to leave these out.

  • Location: Coastal areas, international waters and other countries all have different guidelines and payment.
  • Performance: A commercial diver who provides quality welds will increase their reputation and salary for future projects.
  • Travel Frequency: The more an underwater welder is willing to relocate, the greater their potential income.
  • Education Level: Marine welders with advanced degrees and certification from credible training facilities stand a higher chance of salary bumps.
  • Employment Competition: The more saturated the commercial diving industry is with other divers, the less they’ll demand your services (and less they’ll pay you).

Topside Welding Salary Versus Underwater Welding: Which Pays More?

Topside Underwater Welding Income

If you’re a surface welder right now, I know what’s happening in your head.

You’re thinking about the money:

How much would I make as an underwater welder? Is it worth the switch?

To answer this question – at least in America – I turn to the BLS. Their data records topside welder income.

The average welding salary is $18.07 an hour according to average wage statistics, with yearly salaries at $37,590. The top 10% of welders make $26.13 an hour and the bottom 10% make $11.51.

This is a difference of about $15,000 annually as compared to underwater welders. However, because of the disparities in responsibility, environment and certifications, I feel this is an “apples to oranges” comparison.

Indeed, some pipe fitters I’ve spoken with can make over $90,000 depending on what part of the country they live in. Others working in dangerous environments like mines can pull in over $120,000 with no sweat.

I get paid more for what I know than what I can weld. – pipewelder interviewee

The point is, it’s not necessary to “take the plunge” if your only concern is money. Surface welders make a great living, albeit in a less diverse environment as their underwater counterparts.

If you’re halfway into your topside welding career and decide it’s not for you, I have some good news:

It’s much easier to teach a topside welder to swim than a commercial diver how to weld.

Where to Find Commercial Diving Jobs

Hyperbaric Welding Salary Employment

During the Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, all prospectors had their eyes on California. Gold veins ran deep in the mountains, and yielding a rich harvest for hard-working pioneer. Location meant a great deal, just as it does for underwater welders.

The commercial diving profession receives most of their employment opportunities in construction.

So where do you go to find the best underwater welding jobs?

Since employment is based on project demand, it’s hard to predict. However, within the United States, Louisiana has the best track record for underwater welder employment level and concentration. This doesn’t directly translate to the highest underwater welding salary, however, as we’ll soon discover.

For offshore work, diver welders will find job opportunities all over the globe.

Some estimate that 90% of commercial diver hours are billed in the Gulf.

Of course, many other jobs exist across the world.

America: Top 5 Paying States

According to the BLS’ May 2015 statistics, marine welders earned a salary mean of $54,640.

Here’s the average income breakdown by state:

StateSalary
New York$84940
New Jersey$84080
Virginia$57770
Florida$54640
Vermont$51120

Not surprisingly, New York pays diver welders more than any other state. To understand these numbers, don’t try to narrow it down to a specific industry or company.

It’s more the cost of living that drives income.

Future Prospects: Commercial Diving Career & Underwater Welding Salary

Underwater Welding Employment

Wikipedia Commons Public Domain

Because of the amount of intensive labor involved in underwater welding, some commercial divers will move on to other professions.

Some after 5 – 10 years.

But the majority?

Less than a year.

Typically, commercial divers range from ages 18 – 38, though no age limit exists. Some diver welders work up into their fifties:

As long you pass your physical to keep certified each year, you can continue your career in this field.

When it’s time for a job transition, underwater welders who have solid experience and education can easily shift into related fields.

Here’s a few of the many career opportunities available:

  • Surface welder/machinist
  • Engineer (chemical, civil)
  • Remote Operated Vehicle Operators
  • Riggers
  • HAZMAT Technicians
  • Instructors at commercial diving schools
  • American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspectors
  • Underwater construction consultants

Bonus Advice on the Money: Starting Your Underwater Welding Career

Remember:

The underwater construction industry greatly rewards underwater welders who have knowledge in a variety of fields.

Your underwater welding pay will directly reflect a versatile resume or CV, demonstrating skills in a variety of projects, certificates and locations.

It’s wise to have a learn-as-you-go mentality. Well-rounded experience will dictate your pay and position as an underwater welder, but it will also translate over to other related careers you may choose at another point in life. If you’re interested in starting a career as an underwater welder, we’ve created a guide for you.

What questions do you have about underwater welding or underwater welding salary?

mautic is open source marketing automation