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A commercial diver is a professional who is paid to go underwater to do specific tasks. There are a number of areas that a commercial diver can work in, such as construction, retrieval, maintenance, inspection, welding, repairs, deep sea exploration, and photography. Commercial divers typically work for construction, engineering, shipping, and oil companies. The most common job for a commercial diver is to work for offshore oil and gas exploration and production companies.
The following are types of divers and what they do:
- are the most common type of commercial divers. They work for oil and gas companies that have offshore operations. Their job is to help explore, maintain oil platforms, and build underwater structures used in oil and gas production. The job is very demanding and it is even considered by some as the most dangerous diving job. A new diver will have a better chance in starting a career in commercial diving by doing offshore diving. This can also offer a lot of opportunities to travel abroad.
- are more concerned with engineering projects. Here, qualified divers work mostly in freshwater such as rivers, lakes, and even dams. Divers help survey or build bridges and dams. This is not as difficult as offshore diving because divers don't have to spend long hours on ships. Onshore divers can go home after a day's work.
- are the military counterparts of offshore divers. However, they are very different from military divers. Naval divers inspect and clean ships and boats. They may also aid in inspecting underwater wreckage and the recovery of crashed planes and ships.
- have a more dangerous job than other commercial divers because they deal with hazardous materials. These divers are at risk of contracting diseases that might put their lives in danger, which is why employers use safety measures like vaccinations against tetanus, hepatitis, and other diseases; specific places for decontaminating the diver and equipment after a dive; and contingency plans if the diver encounters a problem while underwater.
The work of a HAZMAT commercial diver includes the following:
- study underwater species. These divers are also scientists. They usually work with government agencies and universities since they collect underwater samples used in research programs.
- perform underwater filming and photography. They usually work for movie and television companies. They must be trained camera operators and are responsible for planning, researching, preparing equipment, and capturing the shot. This is a job that requires a lot of multi tasking.
In the U.S., a commercial diver may spend a lot of hours at work. It is also common for divers to spend days or weeks on site, especially for offshore and media divers, and not have days off. Onshore divers have a more favourable workplace since they work mostly in freshwater, and their hours are close to normal. HAZMAT divers have a more dangerous workplace, so employers make sure that they are kept safe through vaccines, proper equipment, and specialized areas where they can decontaminate.
Previous diving experience is not required to start a career in commercial diving since a diver will undergo training to become certified. Getting a job abroad is also fairly easy since many countries do not have qualified commercial divers. Most diving certifications are internationally recognized. However, there are some certifications, from certain schools, that may not qualify someone to work in specific industries or countries.
It is important that a diver chooses the area he or she would like to focus on since the requirements may vary depending on the branch of commercial diving one wants to focus on. Generally, to become a qualified diver, one must know how to swim, pass a physical examination, and learn basic math and communication skills.
One must be ready to undergo rigorous training, especially those who are going to train for offshore and HAZMAT diving. Aside from physical training, expect to spend a lot of time in the classroom learning things like basic gas laws as well as decompression tables. First aid classes are also taught to make sure divers know how to deal with diving-related injuries. Media divers must be flexible to capture unexpected moments underwater. They must also be ready to deal with extreme changes in weather and other factors that can make their stay underwater challenging.
The demand for qualified commercial divers and underwater welding specialists, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, is significant. According to an article in a recent issue of Underwater Magazine, the deepwater sector of the Gulf has become the industry’s most active area.
Thomas Harter loves his job. He says, “When you really love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Ironically, he follows that observation with another: “But, believe me, it’s been a lot of hard work to get where I am.”
Did you see suggestive pictures, or catchy captions in one of the scuba magazines? "Excitement, Adventure, and Money" ring a bell? Have you assumed that because of the inherit risk commercial divers work with, that they must earn great salaries? Perhaps you like scuba diving and thinking about taking it a step further and making it a profession of some sort? A lot of commercial divers started out with those same thoughts. But before you shell out your money or make a major career change, here are some in-depth facts, without the hype, that you need to consider.
As Tamara Brown, president of Divers Academy International in Atlantic City, New Jersey, says, "While most people associate commercial diving with the offshore oil industry, there is also a lot of inland commercial diving. This includes support for everything from nuclear power plants to bridge inspection and repair to building and repairing wastewater treatment facilities."
Commercial diving isn't just limited to the energy sector. Construction, demolition and inspection go on everywhere. Municipal water supplies, sewage treatment plants, salvage, hull repair...you name it.
A commercial diver is a professional who is paid to go underwater. Many commercial diving jobs are construction-related, and often involve more services than just diving.