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Diver

Divers work underwater at sea, or in rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You must pass a medical carried out by a doctor approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) before you begin professional diver training.

You might find it useful to have experience of recreational SCUBA diving before training as a commercial diver, but this isn’t essential. Many diving schools offer tests to help you decide whether you’d be suited to working underwater.

You don’t need academic qualifications to learn diving skills, but to work as a commercial diver you’ll need the right skills, experience and qualifications for your industry, like:

  • a degree in surveying or engineering for offshore diving
  • qualifications in welding or non-destructive testing for construction diving
  • a degree in oceanography or marine biology for scientific diving
  • to already be serving in the force for police or armed forces diving

The HSE, Rigzone, Divers Jobs, Underwater Contractor International and Divework all have more information on diving as a career.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • 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

3. What you'll do

You could work as a diver in industries like:

  • offshore oil and gas - exploring and surveying, or building and maintaining drilling rigs and pipelines
  • inland/inshore - working on civil engineering projects carrying out underwater repairs, demolition or salvage, or working in fish farming
  • the media - performing stunts or doing underwater filming
  • scientific research or underwater archaeology
  • the police - searching for and recovering missing persons or evidence
  • leisure - leading recreational SCUBA dives or teaching SCUBA diving skills

You’ll specialise in one type of diving:

  • 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)

4. Salary

Most divers are paid by the day, and work on average around 150 to 200 days a year.

Earnings can be anywhere between £120 and £1,000 a day, depending on the type of diving and work involved.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

The amount of time spent underwater is strictly controlled, but hours can still be long and intensive. 

Not all time is spent underwater; time is also spent planning for dives and preparing equipment.

Inshore divers work around 10 to 12 hours a day. 

In some offshore jobs you may have to live for up to 28 days in an undersea pressure chamber.

Diving is physically and mentally demanding. Conditions underwater are often cold, dark and dirty, especially in inland sites. 

You’ll wear protective clothing and breathing apparatus appropriate to the depth and type of dive.

6. Career path and progression

You’d normally be self-employed as a commercial diver. 

With experience and further training, you could move into roles with extra responsibility and more pay, like life support technician or diving supervisor.

If working in a dive centre you could move into a management role.

You could also set up a business, or work in a related field where diving skills are necessary, like swimming pool engineering or maintenance.

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Last updated: 07 December 2016