Underwater welding certification is a messy, confusing topic.
Certifications aren’t a “one size fits all” solution.
Every underwater welding school has their own names and qualifications.
But there’s hope.
I’ll teach you the value of certifications and how to obtain them in this guide:
Start Here: Defining Underwater Welding Certification & Qualifications
Due to the nature of underwater welding qualifications, knowing where to start is crucial to success.
That begins by defining your objective – a strong, commercial diving career.
So what are underwater welding certifications?
Underwater welding certifications are backed by credible maritime organizations that provide documented proof of an underwater welder’s experience and skillsets within the commercial diver occupation.
Typical baseline requirements for underwater welding certification include:
- Earn high school diploma/G.E.D.
- Passing diving exam (including physical)
Once you’re in underwater welding school, additional qualifications will help earn you a job in the field:
- Mechanical skillset
- Strong swimming ability
- AWS or BS welding training
People ask me questions about certification almost weekly.
Check out this example:
It’s not impossible.
You can go without some certification.
Here’s your mistake in this mindset:
Underachievers get left behind. When you possess the bare minimum…when your mouth is your biggest promoter of your diving work, then you’re already out of step with competition.
Actually, it’s not even a competition anymore.
More of a gamble where the odds stand heavily against you.
You see, certification is your diploma and bonafide proof that you know what you’re doing as an underwater welder, a professional worker in underwater construction.
Essential Underwater Welding Certification Tricks of the Trade
There’s several characteristics of certification that are important to remember:
The Tier System: Commercial Diving Certification Levels Matter
Not all underwater welding certification is created equal.
Some welder divers have earned a level four equivalency as a closed bell diver, while others are still in the “scuba” stage (level 1). Additional certification requires a great investment of time, money and brainpower.
You’ll hear very few underwater welders regret their decision to advance their certification level.
Plus, more experienced team members often participate on the same projects, leading to a more productive turnout and cohesiveness. If you end up working with a less “qualified” team, don’t hold it over their heads. That’s a quick way to establish a reputation of an egotist.
Some certificates don’t work in levels. For these, just the basics will do.
Branch Out to Keep a Solid Base of Underwater Welding Training & Skills
Keep in mind:
It’s not just underwater welding certifications that advance your career.
The same applies to certifications in surface and underwater construction equipment – think welding and burning, remotely operated vehicles, non-destructive testing.
These types of certifications are almost equally important to your commercial diving license because they create an extension of your diving skills.
A Tree in a Jobless Earthquake
As an inexperienced welder diver, you’re like a tree on shifting ground.
Your roots go as deep as the diving experience and skill you’ve gained since being on the field.
When you first begin, your root system doesn’t go far. Professional contracts and diving opportunities constantly move under you.
If you adapt to changing job environments, you’ll plant your roots and grow your branches.
These branches represent related skill sets like inspection non-destructive testing.
Your branches will thicken, continuously extending into new areas of interest while hanging on to useful skills from older experience.
Not only are you ensuring your survival in gaining new technical knowledge and experience, but you’re also broadening your perspective of the overall industry. A “big picture” perspective helps qualify you as manager material.
Promotion, here I come.
Zeroing in: Specialization
Where do your outermost “skill” branches lead?
Some underwater welding certifications you earn provide extremely specific application.
Welding certifications focus on the specific type of plate, position and angle in which you weld.
These certifications may be more difficult to obtain, but they sometimes translate to much higher pay and unique qualification in relation to your given responsibilities. Other certifications offer broader use as a commercial diver, such as those related to the International Diving Schools Association.
Be very careful in how quickly you specialize. Once you begin investing in a certain career avenue, it’s difficult to escape if you decide you don’t like it. Don’t be afraid to ask other underwater welders that have earned certification you’re setting your sights on.
Don’t Let your Career Expire: How to Maintain Your Commercial Diving Certifications
Some underwater welding certifications require upkeep.
They must be renewed annually, biennially or every five years.
I’m intentionally leaving out specific timelines, as the renewal processes are constantly changing according to the governing bodies’ regulations.
Don’t let this required renewal process scare you away; if anything, at least you’ll have an excuse to hit the books more often and brush up on your knowledge.
Still, I recognize that some certifications simply aren’t worth the effort. Ask yourself these questions before attempting to earn the certificate:
- How much does it cost to maintain versus paying for the original certification test?
- Why does the certificate’s organizational governing body require that I maintain this certificate? Do I agree with this policy?
- How quickly must I use this certificate to make it worth my while in my career?
- Are there other similar certificates that I could earn that don’t require upkeep (or less upkeep)?
- How likely is it that this certificate will be useful to me in three years?
If you answered these questions favorably toward earning the certificate (given your present knowledge), then I recommend you take it into consideration. At the very worst, you may decide the certificate wasn’t for you after a few years.
Then, you can let it die a natural death through expiration.
Proximity of Application: Local Versus Internationally Recognized Certifications
In real estate, they say three things matter:
Location, location, location.
The same goes for your certs. Some open up a lake of opportunities; others an ocean…still others – the whole stinkin’ planet.
In other words:
Underwater welding certification works locally or globally.
Let’s look at local for a moment.
The Disadvantage of only Holding Local Underwater Welding Certification
Imagine you’ve gained a cert with a local application. As long as you stay in your town, state or country, you’ll have no problem finding work as an underwater welder. After all, employment’s easier when you’ve built up a local network of professionals who know and respect you.
It’s easy to get sucked into this mentality, but remember this:
You’ll always be on the move until you’ve earned a good chunk of experience. It’s the nature of underwater welding and commercial diving. Whether its the changing of seasons, or a slump of diver demand jobs in your area, there’s a multitude of uncontrollable factors that will force you into new places and new work.
Count on it.
Every underwater welder needs a combination of local and international certifications to keep a well-rounded skillset. Local certificates allow for a higher specialization and greater focus under the guidance of your current employer. As you might expect, inland divers usually have more local certs than international.
How International Hyperbaric Welding Certification Opens Career Doors
The world at your fingertips.
Just sign on the dotted line.
As a underwater welder certified in an international context, your opportunities become 10, 50 or 100 times greater. You may find employment in Greenland in one week and go to South Africa the next.
Something to consider:
“International” is a relative term. Certification that tout global status may meet allow you to work anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the job.
Each employer is different. Some of your “hiring hurdles” may include:
- Meeting national government regulations
- Fluency in the local language
- Thorough understanding of the company’s measurement system and equipment
- Connections to company employees or managers
These regulations sometimes prohibit divers from practicing their proven skills in a different environment. I know – ironic…and political.
Professional Credibility: Look at the Organization Backing Your Certs
Yesterday, I earned a 6G pipewelding certificate. I earned it through my own local shop, witnessed by Sam McGillicuddy.
What? Isn’t that impressive?
Here’s the point I’m driving home:
A certification’s credibility is only as good as the organization or training agency behind it.
You may have just earned the most technically difficult, arduous certificate known to man. But if it’s not recognized through a credible organization, then it’s pointless.
Search for the heavy hitters. Here’s a few ways to find the most credible ones:
Underwater welding schools: Often, these schools will add the logo and link of the organization that issues the certificates or training courses. And if you can’t find any, you can always contact the school directly and ask.
Maritime Businesses: Same thing here – businesses will provide the organizations which have trained their employees or provide a specific certification standard that is represented among them.
Diving Forums: Divers are opinionated people, so don’t believe everything you read. However, they can be very helpful in directing you to the most credible organizations based on their own experiences.
A Commercial Diving Career Map to a Better Place
The way I see it, you can look at diving certification one of two ways:
- A complicated paper with a maze of lines and words
- A map to freedom and employment options, leading you into a better future.
I hope you choose the latter in your underwater welding pursuits.
Certification should be earned logically and methodically – not avoided and not obsessed over.
How has underwater welding certification made your life better? Tell us below!