As a diver you would work under water, either at sea or inland in rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs.
The tasks you carried out would depend on the industry you worked in and the type of diving you specialised in.
You would tend to specialise in one of four types of diving, which differ according to the depth of the dive and the breathing gear used. These are:
- SCUBA (Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) – using an air tank and flippers, mainly in recreational, media and police diving
- Restricted Surface Supplied – using an air line to the surface, usually in inshore/inland diving
- Surface Supplied – using a hot water suit, air line and open diving bells, in offshore diving
- Closed Bell or Saturation Diving – using a diving bell and mixed gas for deep sea diving (often used in surveying, marine archaeology and scientific diving).
You could work as a diver in several industries, for example:
- offshore oil and gas, for exploration and surveying, or building and maintaining drilling rigs and pipelines
- civil engineering, for underwater repairs, demolition and salvage
- fish farming or shellfish diving
- the media, for stunts or underwater filming
- scientific research or underwater archaeology
- the police, searching for and recovering missing persons or evidence
- leisure, as a sports diver leading recreational SCUBA dives or teaching SCUBA diving skills.
Many underwater tasks can now be carried out by remote-operated vehicles (ROVs), but ROVs have not replaced the need for skilled divers. Conditions underwater are often cold, dark and dirty, especially in inland sites. Diving is a hazardous activity, and you would wear protective clothing and breathing apparatus appropriate to the depth and type of dive.
Most divers are paid by the day, and work on average around 150-200 days a year. Earnings can be anywhere between £120 and £1,000 a day, depending on the type of diving and work involved. em>Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Before you begin professional diver training, you must pass a strict medical carried out by a doctor approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). You must also pass a medical each year throughout your diving career. You might find it useful to have experience of recreational SCUBA diving before training as a commercial diver, but this is not essential. Many diving schools offer tests to help you decide whether you would be suited to working underwater. You do not need academic qualifications to learn diving skills. However, to work as a commercial diver you will need the right skills and qualifications for your industry, as well as learning how to dive. For example:
- some offshore divers might need a degree in surveying or engineering
- construction divers might need qualifications in welding or non-destructive testing
- most scientific divers have a degree in oceanography or marine biology
- police or armed forces divers must already be serving in the force.
For offshore work, you must pass an offshore survival course, also known as emergency response training, or Basic Offshore Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET). Follow the links below for more information on safety training and where to find BOSIET courses.
Employers may also expect you to have specialised first-aid training from a HSE-approved centre. You can often combine this with your practical diving training.
Training and Development
To become a working commercial diver in Great Britain, you must gain a qualification from a Health and Safety Executive-approved training centre. The HSE offers different levels of certification for various types of diving, including:
- Surface Supplied
- Surface Supplied Top-up (offshore top-up)
- Closed Bell.
Holding more than one type of HSE certification may increase your chances of finding commercial diving work – for example, the International Marine Contractors Association recommends having Surface Supplied and Surface Supplied Top-up as a minimum. Each course can take up to five weeks, and you will usually have to fund your training yourself. See the HSE website for more details about qualifications and approved training providers in the UK.
You may need to learn extra skills for certain jobs, for example underwater welding, or non-destructive testing in a marine environment. To become a SCUBA diving instructor, you will need to take a series of courses from a sports diving organisation such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) or the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC). For example, the first stage with PADI is to become a Divemaster, who can assist fully-qualified instructors, lead guided dives and teach snorkelling. To qualify as a PADI Divemaster you will need:
- PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certificate (or an equivalent from another diving organisation)
- PADI Rescue Diver (or equivalent), plus
- at least 20 recorded dives when you start training, and 60 to get full certification.
You can join PADI’s Instructor Development Course (IDC) once you are a qualified Divemaster with at least 60 dives. See the PADI and British Sub Aqua Club's websites for full details of their training programmes.
Skills and Knowledge
- excellent swimming ability
- stamina and physical fitness
- calmness under pressure
- good levels of concentration under demanding physical conditions
- the ability to follow strict safety procedures
- the ability to work both as part of a team and alone.
You would normally be self-employed as a commercial diver. Most jobs are short-term contracts, so you must be flexible about when and where you can work. You would usually gain commercial inshore experience before moving into offshore work. Jobs may be advertised by specialist recruitment agencies. Opportunities may be available overseas, although some countries demand different diving qualifications so you may need extra training before you could work in certain places.