Are you interested in taking your welding career to the next level? Perhaps you have given some thought to one of the more extreme welding career choices like an underwater welder, for instance. You would need to be sure it is something you want to do because it is one of the most dangerous jobs, never mind welding jobs, in the world.
However, it is not just one of the most dangerous welding jobs in the world, but also one of the best paying, so the benefits of undertaking such a job may be worth it.
How much can you make as an underwater welder? In the following post we are going to take an in-depth look at this subject of an underwater welder salary and not just cover the amount you could make an hour, week and over a year but also how often you would be expected to or would need to work.
First things first, is underwater welding the highest paying welding job?
What is The Highest Paid Welding Job?
Any form of welding, as you no doubt realize, involves a very specific set of skills. Due to the unique skillset and the need for experienced professionals that are fully qualified, welders often get paid high salaries.
Just as is the case in any profession, though, there are some welders with highly sought after and more specialist skills that are in even higher demand, which allows them to command even higher salaries than normal.
Welders work in a variety of different sectors, such as:
- Automobile and other manufacturing
- Bridge and building construction
- Oil and Gas Industry
What are the top-paying welding jobs then?
By far the highest-earning welding jobs include
- Certified welding supervisor
- Military support welder
- Aerospace welder
- Pipe welder
- Underwater welder
So up there among the highest-paid welding jobs is an underwater welder.
What is Involved in Underwater Welding?
To understand why underwater welders can command such a high rate of pay, it’s important to appreciate the unique duties and environments involved in this line of work.
First and foremost, the fact that their work takes place underwater in itself sets it apart from other welding career choices. Underwater welders perform a full range of welding types, including wet welding where they are either completely or partially submerged in water, and dry welding, where they are working in a fully closed-off, hyperbaric chamber filled with oxygen underwater while welding.
In addition to the standard welding degree they need, they also require specialist training and certification for underwater welding.
Further to these qualifications and accreditations, they need to be fully certified as commercial divers and have a comprehensive understanding of barometric pressure and working with decompression chambers following dives and how to avoid decompression sickness.
Depending on the extent of their work, they may also need to have underwater photography certification and experience to record and analyze submerged equipment and pipework.
Underwater welders work in a variety of environments including nuclear power plants, bridges, ships, offshore oil rigs, and other facilities that are either partially or fully underwater.
The underwater welders who can expect to be paid the highest salaries are those who are working either at extreme depths or otherwise dangerous conditions.
How Much Can an Underwater Welder Make?
Now we get down to the numbers. The salary of underwater welders can be as much as $100,00 a year. As outlined above, the reason why it is so high is due to the level of skill involved and the dangerous and extreme conditions and environments they work in.
For that reason, it is very possible, depending on where they are working and the kind of job they are working on, that an underwater welder could take home a full year’s worth of pay in just a couple of months. When you consider that commercial divers can make at least $25.96 in an hour, an underwater diver that’s not paid the highest wage should still take home at least $30,700.
Several important factors contribute to what an underwater welder makes, though.
These factors include:
it makes sense really when you think about it that the biggest factor that determines how much an underwater welder is paid is their diving experience. Rookie divers make a lot less than experienced divers who have more than say 3 years’ worth of diving experience. It is important to attend a reputable diving school to obtain the training and education necessary for any diving career.
Just as a welder who works on dry land in a welding shop will be paid based on their experience level, so too will an underwater welder. One with more experience can expect a higher welder salary.
Underwater divers and underwater welders work around the world. As such, the pay could be different depending on where they are working on a specific job.
To be perfectly honest, some underwater welding jobs are only open to people with specific certification to their name. But it goes without saying that if you are saying a trainee welder, you are going to be paid a lot less than a fully certified and qualified welder. Companies will have greater trust as you have a proven track record and will be willing to pay you more.
While it’s fair to say that underwater welding presents a unique set of challenges that those who weld on dry land don’t face, the challenges can change from one underwater location and environment to another. Depending on where you are in the world, you could be dealing with freezing temperatures, high-speed wave currents, or even zero visibility. The higher the risks involved and the more difficult the job is to complete to a high standard, the more the pay is likely to be.
Depth and Length of Project
Another huge factor is how in-depth and complicated the work is and how long it will take. The more involved and time-consuming a project, the higher the pay an underwater welder can expect. Depth pay is a turn of phrase you should familiarize yourself with.
When they work on offshore diving jobs, underwater welders can make extra money through overtime. As marine welding is a seasonal profession, this is ideal as it means they can make a reasonable salary from just one project that will tide them over until another becomes available.
Method of Diving
Although we’ve not discussed it until this point, alongside the level of diving experience an underwater welder has, the type of diving they are required to do on a job can affect the amount they are paid per project. Saturation divers are more likely to be paid more than those experienced in other dive methods. Some of the different types of diving include:
- Scuba, though this is mostly used in scientific and recreational diving
- Mixed gas saturation diving
- Surface supplied air diving
As a general rule of thumb, the less insulation involved between the diver and the environment they are working in, the more they are likely to get paid.
How Often Do Underwater Welders Work?
We’ve already highlighted that there is the potential with underwater welding to only work a few month’s an earn the equivalent of a year’s salary, but also the fact that underwater welding is something of a seasonal job.
If you are interested in a career in underwater welding, you are probably interested in how often you will need to work. There are various types of offshore diving welding projects you could be involved in, such as:
- Navy ship or cruise ship turbine repair
- Saturation diving and inspection
- Wellheads inspection
- Drilling support
- Oil rig pipeline hyperbaric wet welding
- Oil rig pipeline wet welding
- Underwater oil pipeline stabilization and inspection
- Chain anchor leg surveyance
- Subsea site cleaning and clearance
- Pipeline and platform abandonment
The typical schedule of offshore divers can involve around 4 to 6 weeks out at sea, with 7 to 10 days at home. As noted, the overtime can be outstanding, with 10+ hours of work a day, a regular occurrence on some projects.
Generally, the offshore welding and commercial diving season run between April and November and you then have the winter and early spring months without offshore work until the unpredictable weather and severe wave patterns have calmed.
Crucially though, you need to keep in mind that finding steady and consistent work will depend on the particular industry you are working within and the company that employs you. Whereas some offshore underwater welders are employed for most of the year, working on water vessel maintenance jobs. Others spend the winter at home with their families and just work when the seasonal projects are available.
Furthermore, although many travel-friendly diving welders enjoy working offshore, others prefer projects closer to land.
Onshore underwater welding projects you could be working on includes:
- Cement dock support pillar installation
- HAZMAT Nuclear Power Station Inlet Structure maintenance
- HAZMAT Sewer pipes inspection
- Decaying underwater structure demolition
- Underwater debris cutting
- Dam walls repair work and inspection
- Sunken fishing boat recovery and salvage
- Freshwater pipe welding
- Bridges and water tower inspection, cleaning and maintenance
The typical schedule for an onshore underwater welder is between 40 to 45 hours a day, throughout the year with weekend work on occasion to allow for travel to and from sites.
Underwater welders who work in the marine sector tend to work a lot more during the spring and winter, because of the increase in damage docks and water vessels suffer due to storms.
How Much Does an Underwater Welder Make a Week?
After all that, we have discussed a lot about the salary of welding when underwater welding is involved, you may still be wondering what you could make in a week. Well, based on the number-crunching performed by payscale.com, on average, the per hour welding salary is around $25.28.
It depends on how many hours an underwater welder works for, but with as much as $66,267 a month possible, it’s better than the average onshore topside welder who doesn’t have diving experience. More can be found out by taking a look at the Bureau of Labor statistics related to underwater welders.
For anyone curious about how experience and location can affect the potential underwater welding salary you can expect, we have provided some insight into what you could earn in a diving career as a welder based on those factors.
Underwater Welder Salary Depending On Experience
When we discussed the various factors that can determine the potential salary, welder experience was hugely influential.
According to payscale.com, this table outlines the differences in welding salary, based on the level of experience individuals have.
- Entry Level – $59,800
- Average – $84,500
- Senior Level – $104,600
Underwater Welder Salary Depending on Location
Another factor that can have a huge influence on the welding salary an individual can earn is the location they are employed.
Although there is not quite as a big a difference on average, the details are outlined below:
- South America – $59,000
- West Africa – $65,000
- Middle East – $70,000
- North America – $74,000
- Western Europe – $75,000
- Australasia – $75,000
- Northern Europe – $76,000
Hopefully, this post has helped to explain the kind of underwater welding salary you can expect if you take on this type of work. Welding salaries are not the only thing to keep in mind, it is a huge incentive.
It is not by anyone’s standard the easiest or even the safest work in the world, but with the amount of travel, interesting projects, over time, and that salary that offshore divers who are also welders can enjoy, it may be worth all the risks.
Remember, just because it is dangerous, doesn’t mean with the right training and attending a good diving school that welders are really at risk. There is a lot of safety precautions taken and strict working practices in place to ensure that offshore underwater work is carried out without welders losing their lives.