Scuba Diver: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a scuba diver. Learn about certification requirements, job outlook, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Scuba Diver?

As a scuba diver, you can work in a wide range of fields depending on your specific certification. You could work as a commercial diver, which includes underwater welding positions, or seek employment as a search and rescue diver. As a commercial diver, you would wear scuba gear and work with tools that can include drills and welding equipment. In addition to inspecting and repairing underwater structures, you may need to retrieve objects, operate video cameras and take samples. Divers are also responsible for ensuring the safety of a dive and maintaining their equipment. They might train others how to dive safely as well.

Have a look at the table below for some quick facts about careers in scuba diving.

Licensure Required SCUBA certification
Training Required Written test and at least two dives that test particular skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 37% (for commercial divers)*
Average Salary (2015) $54,640 (for commercial divers)*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Jobs Require Scuba Certification?

If you're a certified commercial scuba diver, you could work for public and private companies to inspect and repair equipment and structures underwater to ensure functionality and stability. Additionally, you might work for an exploration or mining company and be required to place explosives or document the existence of marine life and underwater structures. Individuals, private companies and government agencies might hire or you as an employee or contract diver for salvage, exploration or discovery.

If you're interested in construction, as an underwater welder, you'd inspect and test docks, ships and pipelines in deep and shallow rivers, lakes and oceans. As an underwater welder, you could be responsible for ship repair and maintenance, construction of bridges and welding steel using underwater equipment.

You might consider becoming a search and rescue diver. You'll require advanced certifications and can be trained through private companies or the U.S. military. As a scuba diver, you can use your diving skills in all branches of the military for recovery, inspection and special operations. Local and state law enforcement could also hire you as a certified scuba diver for underwater searches, rescue and salvage.

Where Can I Obtain Scuba Training?

You can receive scuba training through an employer, the military or a number of private businesses and dive shops. You might be able to earn basic certification in as little as a weekend, though many schools offer evening programs that span a week or two. You'll start by learning about all of the necessary equipment you'll use underwater and how to take environmental factors into consideration during a dive. Scuba classes are often small enough to give you the individual attention you need to master your underwater breathing, buoyancy and navigation.

You'll need to pass a written test and participate in at least two dives that test particular skills, such as navigation and emergency response. Basic and advanced open water certifications usually qualify you for recreational diving. To launch a career as a professional or commercial diver, you'll usually need to learn specialized underwater procedures necessary for rescue or training certifications. There are multiple certifying organizations, such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), though they all offer multiple certification levels and specialized training courses, such as underwater archaeology, photography or night diving.

How Much Can I Earn?

In 2015, the BLS noted that there were 3,450 commercial divers working in the United States. Most of these divers earned between $30,320 and $88,470 per year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Supervisors of construction workers perform tasks similar to those of commercial scuba divers, including marking the location of a building site and inspecting any work performed to ensure it meets safety standards. Pipe fitting and plumbing are also similar career options. Professionals in these fields put together pipe systems, inspect the finished product and make any necessary repairs.

All of these career options require a high school diploma, and training can be completed on the job or through an apprenticeship or postsecondary education program.

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