Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you click through and purchase. Learn more

Last Updated on January 3, 2023

Frank Wilson

Frank Wilson 

Senior Editor 

Becoming an underwater welder allows you to apply for high-paying work in exciting environments worldwide. Underwater welders have a unique skill set in demand in multiple industries, and you could work on exciting projects with multinational companies.

Underwater welders can command salaries of between $25,000-$80,000 or more depending on the type of work and can enjoy traveling to different companies in exotic locations.

Although the rewards can be enormous, it can take a long time to gain the qualifications and experience to become an underwater welder. You can follow some simple tips to increase your chances of success and become a sought-after underwater welder.

Obtain Your High School Diploma or GED

The majority of underwater welder employers expect you to have at least a high school diploma or your GED. Although it isn’t necessary to have a college degree, some employers could see it as an asset when applying for a position. 

Remember that competition for jobs can be fierce, so any qualifications that help you stand out from other applicants could be decisive.

Become a Qualified Top-Side Welder

Before you learn how to become an underwater welder, you need to become qualified as a top-side welder. Most employers accept the American Welding Society’s (AWS) Certified Welder program as evidence you are qualified for work. You can search the AWS database on their website to find welding schools and training programs in your area. 

These courses teach you about safe welding practices and basic techniques. You can complete the AWS Certified Welder program in as little as six to eight months, but you should check this is the best choice for your needs. There are numerous welding qualifications, and you should have certifications for the specific welding type for your career plan. 

You may want to work using gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), plasma arc welding (PAW), flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), or learn how to utilize numerous welding techniques. 

There is always more to learn when welding, and it may be best to become an expert in one style before adding another welding technique to your repertoire. Underwater welders primarily use shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), so this is a good starting point.

Gain Top-Side Welding Experience

Underwater welding is a demanding occupation because the operator may be working in reduced visibility, negotiating obstacles that are not present above water, dealing with increased atmospheric pressure, and taking care of their air hoses to stay alive. 

Due to the increased demands, potential employers hire welders who have considerable experience fusing metals and can manage these multiple distractions while completing welds to a high standard. Gaining at least two years of experience as a top-side welder significantly increases your chances when applying for a job underwater. Welding may be a freelance but it's a satisfying job with high-paying salary which makes it a great occupation.

Gain a Commercial Diving Certification

Before working underwater, you need to become a qualified commercial diver. Look for commercial diving schools that require you to pass a physical exam before taking the course, as they may identify health issues that could prevent you from becoming an underwater welder. 

Underwater welding requires high endurance levels, and a commercial diving school can determine if your cardiovascular system can cope with the strain of working with heavy equipment while underwater. 

Thoroughly research the qualifications offered by the school and review which facilities offer the best value for money. Ask to speak with the instructors to determine their experience and what skills they teach before committing to a commercial diving school. 

Several industry-accepted qualifications are provided by organizations such as the American National Standards Institute Association of Commercial Diving Educator (ANSI/ACDE) and the Divers Academy International (DAI). You can expect to spend around 900 training hours before receiving certification.

Attend an Underwater Welding School

After qualifying as a top-side welder, honing your skills in land-based welding jobs, and gaining certification as a commercial diver, you need to invest in further training with an underwater diving school. 

These facilities teach you to combine your welding skills with your commercial diving experience, allowing you to seek employment as a qualified underwater welder. You’ll learn new skills at an underwater welding school, including working with various underwater structures and gaining information about welding in different environments. 

There are theoretical elements and practical aspects to the courses, and you can find many underwater welding schools located on coastlines where they have access to a live training environment. There is wide variation between the length of courses, but you usually need to log between 20-50 underwater dive hours to obtain certification. 

If you are willing to attend a longer course with one institution, some schools teach a combination of welding, commercial diving, and underwater welding, which is more convenient.

Read More: Welding Schools and Colleges Reviews

Start Your Apprenticeship

Although you can now apply for a job as an underwater welder, it can be challenging to immediately find a job after qualifying from an underwater welding school. A common step is to apply for a diving tender position, which involves working as an apprentice to experienced underwater welders and learning how to become an underwater welder through work experience.

Look for shipbuilders, companies that own oil rigs, and salvage firms and apply for a diving tender position. Learn as much as you can about the company’s procedures and highlight qualifications that make you a good fit for their organization in your application. Underwater welding can be a dangerous occupation, and employers want to know employees understand their safety policies and have read their handbook. 

Completing a successful apprenticeship is an excellent pathway to gaining full-time or contract positions with a firm. Even if there are no jobs available, you can ask the company to keep your resume on file in case of future work opportunities.

Keep Your Skills Current

You need to keep your certifications valid, and you can check with the various awarding bodies how often you need to recertify. Stay current with new techniques and industry trends to boost your chances of gaining continuous employment. 

Final Thoughts

Underwater welding can be a rewarding career, and you can choose to specialize in various exciting welding sectors. Learning how to become an underwater welder can take a considerable amount of time, but by committing to your new career path, you could be welding underwater sooner than you think.


Frank Wilson, or the “Elder Welder” as he is now known in his late middle age, has 23 years of experience in the welding industry, across every project imaginable. Pipe welding and underwater welding were his stock in trade for years before his partial retirement.