As with all welding projects there are significant differences in income based on the nature of the project. Projects at sea and in significant depth, e.g. offshore oil platforms, will come with much higher wages than shallow water on-shore jobs.
The main factors that determine pay ultimately sum up the risk by taking into account the depth, type of weld, dive method and diving environment. That being said, annual wages of between $100,000 and $200,000 would be expected and normal in this profession.
Offshore projects tend to pay the most because you tend to take on the highest levels of risk. The above stated salary prospects are very achievable as an average income. Each job you take on though will have its own rates attached and this will very much depend on the types of diving, the environment, depth and equipment used.
Most people just think of a typical scuba diver when they picture a diver, but when it comes to commercial diving there are very big differences. First of all there are situations where you may need a pressurized suite because of the depth at which you will operate.Then there are situations where you may be at a shallow depth but will be required to stay under water for long periods of time. This would often involve surface supplied air as regular mixed gas tanks are not large enough.
The depth of the dive is a very significant factor in the rates being paid as the deeper you dive the more complex the equipment becomes and the higher the risks. You will probably find that when you start out your career that you will be more likely to work on shallow depth projects until you gain more experience.
Example offshore projects:
- Oil/gas wellhead installation and repair
- Commercial and pleasure boat propeller repairs
- Deep sea pipeline installation and repair
- Assembly and demolition of oil rigs
A lot of these projects are very seasonal with winter months providing safe working environments. However, there is the opportunity to bridge the winter months with onshore projects or for the adventurous by travelling to jobs on the southern hemisphere where qualified American welders are often sought after.
Onshore waterwelding mostly does not involve actual diving, but is more centered on welding in wet conditions. Here are some example projects:
- Maintenance work on water pipes
- Bridge building and repair
- Dam construction and repair
- Sewerage pipe fitting
- Oil/gas pipeline fitting
Just because some of these jobs are onshore and not underwater does not mean that you will be paid a low salary. There is probably a lot more of a difference between rates of different onshore projects, but some of the above will indeed pay very high salaries.
Another thing to factor into your potential pay is that especially for larger metal work jobs there will be a significant amount of overtime for which you will most likely negotiate an additional rate.