Underwater Welding School Guide: How to Choose

Time to make a decision. You must find the best underwater welding school.

You’re going to pursue an underwater welding career – you just need to know where to earn your education so you can get your feet wet. A large investment like underwater welding¬†school training should not be taken lightly; your future in underwater welding depends on it.

I’ll start by wiping out some preconceived ideas about your schooling, and then we’ll move to what to look for in a school.

Underwater Welding School Concepts: You Got the Wrong Idea

Underwater Welding School Guide
Photo property of Holland College.

Before you begin the process of narrowing down your favorite underwater welding schools, you have to understand several concepts that have been blown out of proportion.

Most of these false ideas have been around for decades, in part because some truth exists in all of them.

  • Underwater welding encompasses only a small part of your schooling. Commercial divers are required to be a jack-of-all trades in surface and underwater construction, repair, and research.
  • Just because you’re going to a technical/trade school doesn’t mean it won’t be expensive. Commercial diving equipment, training facilities and curriculum cost major money, and part of that expense is passed on to you.
  • Almost any school you pick will only last matter of months. It will take¬†years of experience¬†in the professional diving world to get your bearings and master the plethora of responsibilities above and below the water’s surface. An underwater welding school teaches entry-level diving.
  • Wipe those dollar signs out of your eyes. Money will come, but you’ll have to work hard for it, both in and out of school.

Okay, now that I’ve burst your underwater welding fantasy bubbles, we can focus on what really counts in an underwater welding school.

We’re not in Kansas Anymore:¬†Real World Experience in Diving

Pretend for a moment that you’ve passed your diving school with flying colors. You have swum laps around your classmates, welded perfect beads in and out of the water and scored top grades on your certification exams. Plus, you just landed your first job with a prestigious oil company off the Gulf of Mexico.

Your boss asks you to complete your first professional underwater weld on a leak 60 feet below the surface, but you can’t do it. The water’s too murky. Your gas gauge doesn’t display like your school equipment. You tried to extend your project deadline, but each hour that goes by costs your company thousands of dollars.

One of the first things to look for in an underwater welding school is one that offers real world experience – that is, experience outside of a controlled academic environment. No matter how stellar your school’s certifications, you won’t be able to function in a career setting without practical training.

Steps to Finding Your Underwater Welding School

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Scope it out: Research & Observation

Underwater Welding School Research

To find a school that offers the best professional environment, you need to do your own research. I’ve included the three most common ways to learn about your school of choice, in the correct order.

  1. Start looking online at their website (if they don’t have one, I wouldn’t even consider them); if you¬†call¬†the school with general questions, they’ll probably refer you back to their website.
  2. Call them to ask more specific questions about class experiences, certification and financial aid options that their website can’t answer.
  3. Finally, if at all possible, visit their campus and talk with instructors. Attend an orientation event or diving boot camp (like this one) if they have it. Below, I’ve categorized the research so you know what “real world” characteristics to look for.

Quality Programs & Applicable Coursework

How many hours will you spend in the classroom versus tanks and physical training methodology? Check out the course outline. Kook for “action” and “career” course titles like¬†Rig and Repair¬†or¬†Underwater Equipment Operations.¬†Talk to an instructor if you have more specific questions about coursework.

Underwater Welding Graduate Testimonials & Dive Projects

Search for alumni testimonials and reviews – either written or video. We also have quite a few on our site. Are the alumni talking about a job or project that they’ve landed? If so, where? Do they connect their training at the school with their current position?

Check out other media the website has of their students involved in practical projects.

Training Facilities & Equipment

Does the school offer more than a large indoor tank for diving experience?

You’ll want to work in every type of indoor and outdoor situation that you can think of, so search facilities that offer these opportunities. Find out how many hours of training you’ll spend underwater, and what kind of diving and welding equipment they have available. Do your own research online and take a welding or SCUBA diving class so you have a basic understanding of your equipment’s function and reliability.

Diving School Facilities

About their Institution: Frequently Asked Questions

Look for¬†answers to the basic questions you have on a dedicated page of the school’s website. Usually, the school will answer questions about underwater welding, coursework, commercial diving certifications they issue, future career potential, underwater welding school costs and facility information.

Instructors: Commercially Active or Teachers Only

If you find out that most of the instructors at the school are not currently (or previously) underwater welders, proceed cautiously.

Prepare a list of questions to ask one of the instructors who teaches a program you’re interested in. Here’s a few to get you started:

  1. How many years has the instructor taught?
  2. How much experience does the instructor have in a professional work environment (not teaching)?
  3. What kind of diving environments has the instructor worked in, and for how long?

Issued Certifications & Affiliated organizations

Look for international certifications that allow you to work anywhere in the world such as “open water” or “unrestricted surface supplied diving” certification. Check out what organization / entity the certificate is affiliated through. If it’s only through the school, you may have difficulty gaining recognition for your certifications when you apply for a job. For a more comprehensive list of quality organizations and certification,¬†sign up for Water Welders’ newsletter to get my free eBook.

Caution: Some diving schools may claim to offer underwater welding certification. This is not true – no diving school offers certification in underwater welding, only training and experience. Hydroweld¬†offers an underwater welding certificate, but it’s specifically an underwater welding school, not a diver school. Even then, the certificate they offer isn’t¬†transferable¬†to any company; it’s only meant to increase your employability.

Diving School Job Placement Department

Not all schools have a full-time Career Placement Officer, but those who do have a higher job placement percentage for their graduates. Look for schools that have high job placement rates, and try to find out which companies are hiring their alumni. After all, a job is your ultimate goal.

Underwater Welding School Cost: Tuition

The old saying, “you get what you pay for” certainly applies with the cost of your tuition at these educational institutions. For many underwater welding schools, tuition will cost you thousands – perhaps tens of thousands. If you’re committed to working as a welder-diver for more than five years, you’ll want to invest in a higher end school with quality certification, equipment and instruction.

Schools can hit you with unexpected fees and expenses for things you may not plan for, such as required curriculum, diving equipment, housing, and parking. Gather a list of specific questions to ask your admissions counselor so you don’t get hit with surprise costs. Also, if you’re interested in “extra” certifications not included in the base tuition expenses, add those in to your budget.

Underwater welding schools probably won’t provide much in terms of scholarship (though you should call to make sure). However, many schools have financial aid options ranging from subsidized federal loans to GI Bills.

Check with their financial aid officer to figure out options that work for you.

Dive School Program Length

Dive School Program Length

Along with expenses, you must evaluate the time you’re willing to invest in commercial diving and underwater welding skills. Some certification programs last as little as four months, while others come closer to two years if you pursue all certificates and apprenticeships available to you.

Your age and prior experience will play a huge role in the length of your schooling. If you’ve already earned several certificates, you may be able to cut down your course load by taking a program customized for you. Talk to an admissions counselor or adviser to see what they can do. In addition, most schools will offer financial aid options, such as federal loans and grants. Veterans may receive additional benefits.

Invest in your Future

Thousands of students drop out of higher learning institutions every year because they were not prepared for the pressures they would face – socially, emotionally and financially.

As you consider a school, don’t be one of these statistics. Take charge of your future as an underwater welder, and make sure you have everything in order before you apply to the schools of your choice.

You have a great career ahead of you!