Commercial diver


Commercial divers build, repair, and inspect structures that are underwater. Divers may weld underwater cracks in offshore oil and gas rigs, lay the foundation for a bridge piling, inspect pipes in water treatment plants, or rig and remove a 300,000-pound piece of concrete from a river bottom. Commercial diving is hard physical work; it is critical that commercial divers be able to adapt quickly under adverse conditions and work efficiently. Depending on the location or type of project, commercial divers may work under difficult conditions including tight spaces, low visibility or long durations in cold water. Some commercial divers may travel extensively based on where their expertise is needed.

Education Requirements

Estimated Salary

    • High School diploma or equivalency
    • B.S. is suggested but not required (having a strong education and science background, coupled with professional diving skills may present interesting opportunities)
      • There are some schools that offer commercial diver training and certification as part of an accredited two-year college degree program.

    Diving Certification(s)

    • Commercial Diving Certification (International Marine Contractor Association (IMCA) commercial diver certification)
    • Sport Diving Certification

For salary information, please visit the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics


Tasks and Duties

Most commercial divers work underwater, using scuba gear to inspect, repair, remove, or install equipment and structures. The specific tasks and duties of a commercial diver depend on their field of employment and may include:

  • Bridge inspection, construction, and repair
  • Oil/gas platform or offshore wind turbine construction, inspection, maintenance and removal
  • Rock drilling and blasting (rigging explosives)
  • Underwater salvage, search, recovery, and cleanup
  • Seismic surveying
  • Underwater welding and cutting
  • Water line installation, inspection, repair and maintenance
  • Marine environmental control checks
  • Investigating underwater structures or marine life via underwater video, sonar, recording, and related equipment
  • Deploying oceanographic instruments
  • Underwater painting
  • Supervising and training of other divers, including hobby divers

Knowledge and Skills

Basic skills may include:

  • Small boat operations
  • Good physical and mental health
    • Applicants must pass a diving physical
    • Ability to work efficiently and problem solve quickly (divers can spend only a specific amount of time underwater)
    • Ability to adapt under adverse conditions – Commercial divers may be out to sea at work for 2-6 weeks at a time
    • Good coordination
  • Mechanical aptitude
    • Technical expertise and skill with a variety power and hand tools, such as drills, sledgehammers, torches, and welding equipment
    • Repairing and maintaining mechanical equipment
    • Ability to understand construction specifications; read work order, instructions, formulas, or processing charts
  • Interpersonal Skills
    • divers often work in teams, with some divers in the water and others helping from the shore or on a boat. They are in constant communication and must be able to effectively signal directions or warnings to coworkers.


May need knowledge in:

  • Communications (underwater)
  • Diving physics
  • Diving equipment and underwater tools (and maintenance thereof)
    • Maintain diving equipment such as helmets, masks, air tanks, harnesses and gauges
  • First aid/CPR
  • Marine science
  • Marine safety and seamanship
  • Navigation
  • SCUBA diving procedures
    • Decompression tables and procedures
  • Standards for commercial diving

Additional basic skills may include:

  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
    • Ability to cooperate and collaborate with others
    • Public interactions and public speaking (ability to explain things to diverse audiences)

Connections to Underwater Acoustics

While underwater, a diver is in continual communication with helpers and other divers on the surface. These workers watch air hoses, clock time underwater, maintain logs, and give the diver instructions and assistance. Commercial divers sometimes work in pairs or groups depending on what they field they are in. Special underwater communication systems have been developed to allow divers to talk to each other underwater. A transducer is attached to a diver’s facemask, which converts his or her voice into an ultrasound signal. A fellow diver has an ultrasound receiver, which accepts the signal and converts it back to a sound that the diver can hear, allowing for communication. The same system can be used for communication between the diver and a surface ship. This is vital for divers that are in murky water and cannot use hand signals to communicate to fellow divers.

Related Careers

  • Civil Engineer
  • Dive Safety Officer
  • Marine Archeologist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Marine Technician
  • Ocean Engineer
  • Oceanographer
  • ROV Pilot/Technician
  • Seismologist
  • Survey Technician
  • Welder


People and Sound
Communications > How is sound used to communicate underwater?


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Commercial Divers.

COSEE, Ocean Careers, Commercial Diver

Sea Grant Marine Careers, Michael Lombardi, Contract Diver and Undersea Specialist

DiveTraining – Consider a Career in Commercial Diving