While most of us might not like to study, school is the only way to become a commercial diver.
There are a number of welding schools spread over the continental United States. It won’t surprise you that they are all located on or near the ocean. When it comes to commercial diving and underwater welding, training saves lives. The training also ensures that drivers do the right job the first time.
Over the years, divers and their dive support teams saved countless lives. Indeed, they had the knowledge and training to do the right things to end an emergency.
We can’t understate the importance of training. Naturally, where a diver gets their training can make the difference. Some of the them will have a long and successful career in commercial diving. Others will drop out after a year or two. The formula is simple: The best divers have had the best training.
Let’s take a look at the best welding schools in the United States.
How Much is Welding School?
Many people planning to become an underwater welder opt to do a dryland welding course before they begin their commercial diver training. Most of the reputable commercial diving courses include a module dedicated to underwater welding training. Anyway, it is a good idea to have the background skills in dry welding before you begin.
A typical welding school will cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000. The price will depend on the length, range of skills learned, location, etc. Some basic schools can cost as little as $3,600 while the average welding course price is $6,850.
A full commercial diving course that includes a welding module will cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000. And it requires an additional $4-5,000 to buy the necessary dive equipment.
It is strongly advisable that before you commit to a course, you do your homework to establish what accreditations and training certifications you will get at the end of the course.
Many of the less expensive commercial diving courses, for example, don’t include a deep dive module. It will severely limit your diving job opportunities. Also make sure that your school’s accreditation is internationally recognized. Otherwise, you will find yourself limited to working in specific regions that might see you missing out on the best jobs.
How Long is Welding School?
How long does welding school take? The time a student spends in welding school really depends on the type, of course, they are doing.
Full-blown dry welding courses can take up to 2 years to complete. In these courses, students will learn everything there is to know about all the different types of welding. When it comes to underwater welding courses, most commercial diving courses usually dedicate a full month to teaching students to get it right.
Note that no school will pass a student until they are fully competent in underwater welding. The better schools will closely monitor each student to ensure that they are able to undertake every step, from equipment prep to the weld itself, in their sleep.
Such a rigorous approach to diver training helps save lives, particularly when they are using a welder which uses 300 to 400 amps of direct current to power the electrode.
So depending on the course, a welding student can expect to spend anywhere between 1 month and several years learning to weld.
The Best Underwater Welding Schools
The Divers Institute of Technology
DIT as it is also known is one of the oldest commercial diving schools in the world. It was founded way back in 1968 by a retired Navy diver and construction contractor who decided to turn their hands to instructing. The school is located in Seattle, Washington, at the Northside of Lake Union where it undertakes much of its training.
The water completly surrounds DIT school, which is an normous advantage. The Pacific ocean gives way the Puget Sound and on into Lake Union, Lake Washington, and several others. The Divers Institute of Technology, despite having changed hands, is still owned and run by fully qualified commercial divers. Its instructors all have years’ worth of industry experience as well as teaching experience.
The school offers a comprehensive 7-month long diving program that totals some 900 hours of training. Its course is broken down into 7 modules, each of which takes a month to complete. These modules include a dedicated welding course as well as a deep-diving module too.
DIT is one of only two commercial diving training centers in the United States which is accredited to award the Canadian Standards Association Unrestricted Surface Supplied Air Diver Certification, issued by the Diver Certification Board of Canada. This certificate allows graduates to dive internationally.
To date, the school remains at the cutting edge of training, including a recently upgraded training facility. It has examples of all the main diver helmets or hats, some of which are very rare today. The school accepts post-9/11 GI Bill® funding for ex-veterans which goes towards covering the cost of the course.
The Santa Barbara City College (SBCC)
SBCC is another top welding school in the United States. Based in California, it was originally founded back in 1909, however, it only began offering welding classes in the second half of the 20th century.
It is the only other school in the United States to be accredited by the International Diving Schools Association and the Diver Certification Board of Canada, which allows graduates to work internationally. Having an internationally recognized accreditation massively boosts an underwater welder’s earning potential, particularly when it comes to offshore work. Currently, The Santa Barbara City College offers two underwater welding-related qualifications, which are a marine technology certification and an Associate in Science (AS.).
More than 18,000 students attend SBCC each year. It is its main advantage, with the warm climate and water temperatures of its location. This gives welding students the chance to have a good social life and the option of living on campus should they wish. Students are trained in the college’s state of the art training facility and get to use much of the latest industry equipment.
Commercial Diving Technologies
Commercial Diving Technologies is based in Hudson, Florida, so is one of the best schools in terms of all-year-round weather in the U.S.
It offers the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) accreditation which allows graduates to work internationally. Its 5-month program is shorter and cheaper than other schools, which puts it into the budget range for more people. The course includes an underwater welding module as well as a deep diving and HAZMAT course.
Students can obtain a total of 9 certifications that include the ADCI-Tender/Diver and the DCBC unrestricted air dive certification. Its Underwater Burning Specialist module allows students to learn all about oxy-arc cutting as a stand-alone course which can be undertaken by new divers or commercial divers who are seeking further training.
Divers Academy International
The Diver Academy International or DAI is based in Erial, New Jersey.
DAI offers the ANSI/ACDE United States commercial dive certification which allows graduates to work anywhere in the USA.
Its course involves 6-months of intensive training and takes place in the school’s new classrooms and a 60 feet deep quarry that is located nearby. In total, students will complete 900 hours of training both in the classroom and underwater. DAI’s facilities include a Lincoln simulator that allows students to practice in a safe environment before they head to the quarry to do it for real.
The course has dedicated modules for Underwater Cutting and Welding, Salvage, Bridge Inspections, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), Decompression and Treatment Tables, and many more.
While Philadelphia might not have the warmest year-round temperatures, its location makes it a highly attractive option for many people from New York who don’t want to move too far from home.
Hydroweld USA is a specialist welding training center that offers training for both dry and wet underwater welding. This welding school is based in Miami, Florida, so students are guaranteed to improve their tan while they are there.
The school offers a Welder Performance Qualification that conforms to the American Welding Society’s 3.6 coding specifications. Since the school is part of a welding research program, its methods and skills are at the very cutting edge of underwater welding science and technological innovation. It has several affiliated training centers around the world including in The United Kingdom and China.
Hydroweld USA currently offers 5 training dates per year, with the wet welding course costing around $5,500.
CDA Technical Institute
The CDA Technical Institute offers an IMCA (International Marine Contractors Association) certificate that is internationally recognized.
Located in Florida, the school is recognized as one of the best in the country. It offers a 20-week course that includes welding training. Additional courses are available for medical training and hyperbaric technicians. CDA has a very high placement rate of 91% for its graduates and prides itself on the quality of its graduates.
Where Can I Find A Welding School Near Me?
How to find a welding school near me? This is a question that many people who wish to pursue a career in underwater welding find themselves asking.
A good tool to start your search is the AWS Welding School Locator that is free to use. It uses directory information as well as your current location to bring up a list of all the welding schools in your area. Keep in mind that this list will include all types of welding schools and not just one welding trade school for underwater welding.
If you are looking exclusively for commercial diving underwater welding training then the best place to start is with this list from Waterwelders.com.
It is a comprehensive list of all the training schools where you can learn to weld underwater. The list includes schools in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
Am I fit to become a welder?
Working underwater can be a very tough line of work. Lots of people make the mistake of looking at the high pay rate that underwater welders earn and forget to consider anything else.
To become a commercial diver you need to be reasonably fit and have a high school diploma. All students have to pass a medical exam and a swimming test before they will be allowed into the program. Since most commercial diving students are between the ages of 18 and 35, this is unlikely to be a problem, however, if you have any preexisting medical conditions such as heart or lung problems, you won’t make the cut.
You will need to be able to swim. In the United States, the American Red Cross outlines 6 levels of swimming proficiency. You will need to be able to reach level 4 which means being able to front and back crawl of 25 yards, and butterfly and breaststroke of 15 yards. Provided that you can do this and pass the medial, you are physically capable of being a commercial diver.
The one area that most people overlook is the mental challenge that diving entails. Working deep underwater and living in cramped living quarters can quickly lead to a sense of claustrophobia. A diver needs to be able to deal with such mental pressure.
Some divers will frequently be encountering dead bodies, which is also something that they must be able to cope with.
Standby divers might even be called to rescue a fellow diver that they know when they have run out of oxygen or are trapped underwater. In all these examples a diver needs to be able to keep a level head and get the job done.
This is why it is so essential to choose the right school to get the best training .