Underwater welders are some of the most skilled professionals in the world of welding. Their pay scale can be lucrative given the right opportunities.
They perform difficult and skilled tasks in extreme environments and conditions. In return for the skill and services they offer, they are paid up to a six-figure salary. These niche professionals can expect to make up to $100,000 or more per year.
This is the type of career that will allow you to make a fair amount of money, along with travel and adventure.
The rewards can also include more than mere pay. The job is interesting and exciting for many in the industry.
Remember, these are the type of welders who build, repair and maintain ships for large corporations and governments around the world.
Underwater welders also help construct oil pipelines and platforms to keep up with the world’s growing demand for affordable energy resources.
Without these skilled pros, the current economy would not be able to run as efficiently.
Education and Training Requirements
Learning to become an underwater welder can be challenging but education and training is minimal and much of the movement up the career ladder takes place after experience and knowledge is acquired with time. It is not as difficult to learn as you might think. It will take time and effort to master, however.
On the other hand, you must learn to become a skilled diver to get work in this field. There are many quality schools in the United States that specialize in both diving and underwater welding skills, techniques and methods that you will need to learn to excel in a career as an underwater welder.
These schools and training costs will be an investment that will certainly pay off. If you want to earn a serious living doing this type of work, then you will need to consider location and availability.
Many underwater welding professionals spend much of their time on marine vessels and oil rigs. They often have an intense schedule. They often work 80-hour work weeks or more. They might spend up to one month on the high sea before they come back inland. Also, they prepare the materials for welding and clean up afterward, which is a job in itself.
Expect to perform a lot of drilling support, wellhead installation and inspection, and stabilization of underwater oil pipelines.
One caveat to note about being out to sea is that most projects and jobs begin in winter due to tidal waves, hurricanes, and generally unstable weather. So a normal season runs from April to November, typically.
As an offshore welder, you can expect to earn approximately $40,000 – $100,000 annually.
Inland Underwater Welding
Inland welding is mostly concentrated around rivers and lakes. These welders work on dams, small ships, docks, and bridges, along with other miscellaneous projects.
Beyond welding in the freshwater, other jobs descriptions, duties, and tasks could include inspecting and repairing dam walls, cutting underwater debris, inspecting sewer pipes (HAZMAT), and more.
Your take-home pay will be something like $40,000 – $80,000. There is less opportunity for larger payouts inland but your schedule would be a lot less intense, with fewer work hours. It’s a better choice for people who want to stay home with their family.
Income and overtime pay
Due to the nature of work (especially for the offshore jobs), you can expect a lot of overtime (60 to 80 hours per week) and that over time constitutes a 50 percent increase in hourly wages, which is standard.
Another factor to consider for extra pay is that underwater welders do not actually weld much below 15 meters, but much other maritime work takes place at this level and below.
Saturation diving, for example, is very competitive.
Divers spend days or weeks in major water depths but the pay is very lucrative for this work. That can be anywhere from, $1 to $4 per foot of depth in the sea, ocean or freshwater. It might not sound like a lot of money, but it will definitely add up.
Divers often work in depths of 500+ feet.
Underwater welders must take advantage of work when and where the weather is acceptable and go back to their families for the winter months.
For any specific data on underwater welding salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics comes out with a report each year and provides these statistics.
How to become an underwater welder
Beyond training and certification specifically, you need a school diploma or G.E.D. You will need to be physically fit for the job and pass a number of medical exams. During these exams, your heart, lungs, blood pressure and other important health factors will be evaluated.
It will come in handy to have some surface welding experience, but it is not required.
Of course, there are great courses for commercial divers and welders where you will learn everything about diving, welding, safety and theory.
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Outlook for underwater welders
Underwater welding was previously among the most dangerous jobs but the recent technological advances in the industry have made the job much safer and easier.
No matter what the future has in store with automation, IoT, and robotics, underwater welding professionals currently help maintain the most integral components of many industries around the world.
Until very advanced robots and automated machines can perform tasks with the most intricate level of dexterity, skill and performance, underwater divers will continue to be necessary for companies globally.