10 Best Underwater Welding Schools & Colleges in the US (2023 Guide)
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Commercial diving is the sixth fastest-growing career in the United States, and underwater welding is one of the major skills that can help you get well-paying employment in this expanding industry. From deep ocean oil rigs to dams on lakes and rivers, there are plenty of places to work in this field and many different opportunities opening up every day.
But it’s not a career that you can train for just anywhere. You’ll need to attend specialized schools that have the necessary equipment and highly-skilled and experienced instructors. Not every college has a dive tank with tens of thousands of gallons of water and all the necessary equipment for performing underwater welds and training. But these 10 schools do, and they’re the best ones in the nation.
1. Diver’s Institute of Technology
Seattle, Washington | 800-634-8377
With a core program that includes 12 separate certifications, the Diver’s Institute of Technology is one of the best underwater welding schools to prepare you for a career in the field. As the first U.S.-based dive school to offer international certification, you can be sure that they are trusted and respected in the industry. During your training, you’ll dive to depths of 165 feet in open water so you can get the real-world experience, not just practice in pools and tanks. You’ll learn hands-on techniques for welding and burning in their 11,000-gallon training tank, ensuring you’re up to date on the latest commercial diving techniques. You’ll learn to dive in 11 unique hat configurations in their seven-month-long commercial diver program. They offer a wide range of commercial diving certifications and international endorsements including the Entry Level Diver/Tender certification, the Unrestricted Surface Supplied Diver certification, Hazardous Waste Materials certification, and more.
2. National University Polytechnic Institute
San Diego, California | 800-432-3483
Located on the sunny shores of San Diego, California, the National University Polytechnic Institute (NUPI) is one of the premier commercial diving institutes in the nation. Embedded within their standard commercial diving program is the underwater welding course, and all students will participate without having to pay extra. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive your Certification of Completion in Underwater Welding. This is set to the standards of the American Welding Society. You’ll also get your certification from the Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI), which is needed for employment as a commercial diver. Most of your dive training will take place in Coronado Bay and at sea from a dive vessel. Hands-on welding training will occur in the 44,000-gallon dive tank on the Kearny Mesa campus.
3. The Ocean Corporation
Houston, Texas | 1-800-321-0298
The Ultimate Diver Training commercial diving and underwater welding course from The Ocean Corporation offers in-depth and comprehensive training that will prepare you for many different welding careers in the commercial diving industry. Located in Houston, Texas, their campus is close to the Gulf of Mexico where many of the commercial diving jobs are to be found. During your training, you’ll dive in open water in several different locations, ensuring that you’re prepared for the ever-changing conditions of your commercial diving career. You’ll learn how to use various types of equipment and perform many different duties that will make you a valuable asset to any employer, even right out of school. You’ll be fully prepared for such things as surface and underwater welding and cutting, offshore oilfield diving operations, hazardous environment intervention. You’ll also learn offshore survival and safety, underwater nondestructive testing, and even earn your rigging certification during the UDT training.
4. South Louisiana Community College
Lafayette, Louisiana | 337-521-9000
At the only accredited commercial diving school in Louisiana, you’ll learn everything you need for entry-level employment in the commercial diving industry. In as little as seven months, you can earn your Certificate of Technical Studies in Commercial Diving from the South Louisiana Community College. Through their Commercial Diving Program, you’ll earn several certifications, such as the Entry-Level Tender/Diver Certification accredited by ADCI, your ACDE Commercial Diver Certification, SafeGulf, Water Survival/HUET, API Approved Rigging, and DAN Diving First Aid for Professional Divers. Between these certifications, you’ll become valuable enough to earn a great living from any commercial diving company. You’ll learn how to apply occupations and employability skills, safe work practices, and understand the ins and outs of hyperbaric environments. You’ll spend time performing hands-on underwater work just like you will once employed so that you can demonstrate the skills you need for equipment operations and maintenance.
5. Commercial Diving Tech Institute
Hudson, Florida | 352-209-1234
Offering several dive programs with nationally and internationally recognized certifications, the Commercial Diving Tech Institute will teach you everything you need to know to be hired into a lucrative underwater welding job or other commercial diving employment. The deep-diving DCBC certification, which is recognized by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), will qualify you to work at the maximum recommended depths worldwide and is the highest level of international certification for commercial divers. To get it, you’ll complete a five-month course consisting of 900 hours of training and practice. Along the way, you’ll pick up a slew of other important certifications such as the OSHA HAZMAT certification, Job safety hazard analysis, Oxy-Arc Underwater Cutting, API/ASNT Non-destructive testing, mag particle, ultrasonic inspection, and several others. You also have the option to take the shorter National Surface Supplied Diver course, which is 625 hours over three months and earns you the ADCI certification for obtaining dive jobs with U.S. based contractors.
6. CDA Technical Institute
Jacksonville, Florida | 888-974-2232
The Commercial Diving Academy Technical Institute is owned and operated by Captain Ray Black, a commercial diver and underwater welder. Its team of instructors has years of diving experience, and the institute is fully accredited and internationally recognized. Through their Air/Mixed Gas Commercial Diver program, you’ll learn the basics of underwater welding. Included in the course is wet welding, hyperbaric or dry welding in a chamber underwater, plus all the essentials to become a certified commercial diver. But the program won’t qualify you to become an underwater welding specialist. For that, additional training will be required. However, you will receive the Topside Welding for Commercial Divers certification that meets the American Welding Society standards. You’ll also get your ADCI Entry Level Tender/Diver certification, as well as your Unrestricted Surface Supplied Diving certification from the DCBC, which is recognized by the IMCA and allows you to work as a commercial diver worldwide.
7. International Diving Institute
North Charleston, South Carolina | 843-740-1124
Through the Air/Mixed Gas Surface Supplied Diver program at the International Diving Institute, you’ll learn the basics of underwater welding training. This is a 16-week comprehensive program that includes 640 hours of training to certify you as a commercial diver and underwater welder. You’ll learn both topside and underwater welding through this course while earning your industry-standard certifications to become a commercial diver. Once you become a certified commercial diver, you can take their specialization course in underwater welding to earn your American Welding Society underwater welding certification. This course is two weeks and 80 hours, and you’ll take your practical test with a Lloyd’s Register Surveyor at the end.
8. Divers Academy International
Erial, New Jersey | 1-800-238-3483
With over four decades as one of the nation’s foremost commercial diving institutes, the Divers Academy International is an accredited and respected learning facility for commercial diving. They offer a host of certifications including ANSI, ACDE, ADCI, and the Divers Academy International Certificate of Completion which includes underwater welding, approved by the AWS SENCE training program. This course is taught to the standards set by the American Welding Society. This school is a Lincoln Electric sponsored welding school, ensuring that you’ll be getting the best hands-on training possible. The underwater welding certification is part of their ACDE/ANSI commercial dive certification, but you’ll still need to take the advanced AWS D3.6 underwater welding qualification field test separately if you want to specialize in underwater welding.
9. Hydroweld USA
Miami, Florida | 305-573-8222
At the Hydroweld USA Underwater Technology and Training Centre in Miami, Florida, students can undertake a variety of programs, learning skills in the 45,000-gallon training and research tank. Programs include welding, cutting, welding procedures, hydroarc-gouging, welder qualifications, and more. You’ll need to be a certified commercial diver before beginning the curriculum, as this is a specialty course specifically for underwater welding. Completing the ten-day course will train you to pass the Welder Performance Qualification test to D3.6 American Welding Society standards for class B welds. The WPQ test will be witnessed by a Lloyds Register tester and you will receive your certification as part of the training. Once complete, you’ll be able to enroll in additional courses to keep improving your skills and education.
10. Santa Barbara City College
Santa Barbara, California | 805-965-0581
You can earn your Commercial Diving Skills Competency Award from Santa Barbara City College. It requires 16 total credits, and through the course you’ll learn mixed gas diving, principles of underwater cutting and welding, advanced underwater cutting and welding, first aid, and more, to prepare you for a career in commercial diving and underwater welding. However, if you want an internationally recognized certification to help you get employment in the commercial diving industry, you’ll need more than just the SBCC Skills Competency Award. Luckily, they also offer ANSI certification in commercial diver training and ADC certification in commercial diving. But if you want to get your AWS underwater welding certification, you’re going to require more specific training.
Careers in Underwater Welding
Commercial diving encompasses many different occupations in various locations around the world. When you think of diving, most people just assume deep ocean waters, but that’s not always the case. In this field, there are plenty of jobs to be had onshore and offshore, dealing with a variety of situations, equipment, and skills. Underwater welding is just one aspect of commercial diving, and as a commercial diver, you’ll be expected to do more than just weld. These are some of the opportunities awaiting you once you become commercial diving certified and wet welding certified.
Lakes, rivers, dams, and more still need divers for many different jobs and situations. You’ll be dealing with high currents and low visibility, and you’ll often be asked to travel regularly. Some of the jobs you may be tasked with include pier and pile repair or installation, underwater construction, building and repair of dams and bridges, and even husbandry of ships.
This is what many think of when they hear about commercial diving. Offshore work is done in the open ocean off of ships and platforms across the world. It can include a variety of different tasks such as repairing oil rigs and pipelines, building oil structures, salvaging shipwrecks and old oil structures, and various types of subsea construction. This work is very difficult and dangerous, and as such, it compensates very well. You may be asked to work around the world such as the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, West Africa, and many other places. Because of seasonal changes that make the waters more dangerous during parts of the year, offshore commercial divers often work for only part of the year, usually April to November.
Dangers of Underwater Welding
Commercial diving can be a very lucrative career, but part of the reason for the high pay is the high risk that commercial divers are taking on. According to one study, underwater welding is the most dangerous occupation with workers experiencing the highest fatality rate of any occupation. Underwater welder’s fatalities aren’t tracked as an individual group, but within the industry it’s estimated to have a 15% fatality rate, making it 75 times more dangerous than some of the most dangerous occupations in America.
Many risks present themselves with underwater welding. Divers have to be concerned with electric shock and must wear special equipment to avoid it, but it only mitigates the risk and doesn’t remove it. Explosions are also a possibility because of gasses used in the welding process. Decompression sickness is also a concern, even when all precautions are taken. Sometimes mother nature herself is the culprit, in the form of dangerous marine wildlife, though this is less likely than other dangers. Of course, anytime you’re fully submerged in the depths of great bodies of water, drowning is a very real possibility, whether caused by diver error or equipment malfunction.
Commercial diving and underwater welding specifically can be a very rewarding and lucrative career, albeit a dangerous one. For skilled workers, major companies are willing to pay very well, and it’s a growing industry with plenty of opportunities for employment. With so much at risk, it’s important that you get the best education possible and arm yourself with all the knowledge and certifications that you can. The ten underwater welding schools listed in this article are the best of the best in the U.S. Any of them is a great choice to learn the skills you need for a safe and long-lasting career in commercial diving and underwater welding. With choices available across the country, you shouldn’t have to travel too far, though the best options may require relocating for a time. Of course, you’ll most likely need to relocate for your career once you finish schooling, so you might as well get used to it now.