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Underwater welding sounds like a fantastic job for a lot of people. Not for the fainthearted, this job attracts a lot of adventure seekers, especially those who are not attuned to the regular 9-to-5 job. Basically, this is like being a diver and a welder at the same time. If you sign up to this, you’re expected to be in the most treacherous situations. You have to be not just certified and highly trained but also physically and mentally fit.
Is underwater welding right for you?
Underwater or hyperbaric welding jobs vary, but there are similarities that almost all underwater welders can relate to. If you’re one of them, your typical day starts with you at the dock. You’ll take all your gear, and then you get on a transport vessel that takes you to the worksite. At the worksite, you don your gear and dive into the water until you reach your project site. Most underwater welding tasks involve repairs, cutting, inspection, testing, fitting, and rigging.
When you’re done, you ascend to the surface. Depending on how deep your project site is, you may need decompression when resurfacing to avoid decompression sickness.
How much does an underwater welder earn?
How much you will earn as a hyperbaric welder working underwater depends on your experience, location, and company. Other factors that affect your salary is the difficulty of the job. Based on the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, underwater welders have an average hourly wage of a little over $26. The average underwater welder earns about $54,750 per year. The range can vary greatly, though. The best earners in this field are paid more than $90,000 annually.
Project location affects your salary
You could be doing pipeline abandonment, subsea site cleaning, oil pipeline inspection, rig pipeline welding, chain anchor leg surveying, or wellhead installation. But your location can be classified into two: offshore and inland. Offshore underwater welding salary varies anywhere from $40,000 t0 $100,000 depending on whether you’re a rookie or a veteran. What separates veterans from rookies is the number of years of experience. If you’ve been in the game for at least 3 years, you can call yourself a veteran and you’d probably be earning between $75,000 and $100,000.
Your schedule also determines your salary. If you’re an average underwater welder, you’re going to be spending a month offshore. Sometimes you’d be out there for 6 weeks and only be at home for a week. Not to mention, you’ll have to agree to long hours of overtime on some days. Summer is the busiest season, but you’re sure to find yourself out at sea from April to November. Then you’ll be out of commission in the winter months. Many divers who are also welders may work as underwater welders in the spring and summer and do regular welding work during colder months.
Although offshore divers earn more money doing underwater welding, onshore divers’ salaries aren’t bad, with rookies earning $25,000-$40,000 annually and veterans looking at a salary range of $50,000-$80,000. Some of the onshore or coastal underwater welding projects include freshwater pipeline welding, fishing boat salvaging, dam wall repairs, sewer pipe repair, and nuclear power station maintenance. These tasks are much less arduous then offshore welding jobs, and you’re only looking at a 40-hour workweek. The good thing is that you have a job all year round (1).
Underwater welding salaries vary from country to country
It’s common for divers to work for companies from other countries and, hence, earn anywhere around average salaries from these countries. If you’re working for employers in the United States, then you’re earning anywhere between $30,000 and $110,000. The median salary for underwater welders working for American companies is $49,140. In the United Kingdom, inland divers earn about £50,000 while offshore divers doing welding underwater earn around £67,500. If you’re working for Canadian employers, you’re earning anywhere around $55,500. Australian companies, on the other hand, provide inland salaries of around 65,000 AUD and offshore salaries around 180,000 AUD.
Becoming an Underwater Welder
Although being a commercial diver and underwater welder is one hell of a job for adventure seekers, it’s definitely not for people who aren’t fond of traveling and working long hours. This job requires a lot of dedication. If the salary looks attractive to you, then have your high school diploma and commercial diving certification ready. Before you can be a certified commercial diver, you need to go through specialized training that’s more than a typical SCUBA certification. You also need to go through AWS Certified Welding Training (2).
Before the pay lures you into becoming an underwater welder, keep in mind what you’ll have to deal with at work. Aside from long hours of work and isolation, you’ll have to contend with dirt and grime. Also, newbies usually sign up for the heaviest and most difficult tasks in the first 1 or 2 years. By the time you reach 5 years in this job, you’re mostly ready to move on and find something else to do. Yes, this job has a high turnover rate for some reason. Even so, this has to be one of the most rewarding jobs for a lot of specialists.
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