If you were to ask welders what they think is the top welding career today, many of them would probably say underwater welding. It’s one of the most talked about welding careers. And no wonder. It’s exciting, challenging, lucrative and exclusive. Only a small percentage of craftsmen possess the skills and experience to tackle underwater welding projects.
But what do underwater welders actually do? ETI wants to ensure our students in our Welding Program have ever future career opportunity open to them, so in the following article we’ll outline the career outlook for underwater welders.
Offshore & Inland
Every underwater welding job is also considered commercial diving (but not all commercial diving is related to underwater welding). There are two categories, or fields, of underwater welding: offshore underwater welding and inland underwater welding.
Inland underwater welding typically includes working on dams, bridges, pipes, and water-adjacent infrastructure. In the more entry-level jobs, inland underwater welders perform a lot of salvaging work, cutting underwater debris, dredging, and inspecting and repairing docks and support pillars. At higher levels, they can work on dam walls, large infrastructure projects, industrial pipelines, even nuclear powerplants (albeit at the highest proficiencies).
Offshore underwater welding is highly intense in both the type of work and working environments. The most common offshore welding jobs are on offshore oil rigs or other industrial offshore stations, sometimes related to the military. In rough seas, murky waters, working with precise and dangerous tools, offshore underwater welders are usually highly paid for good reason. Additionally, offshore welders usually spend months on end on job sites away from their families. They potentially work 10-12 hour shifts for up to 9 months at a time. However, offshore underwater welding is seasonal work since it is often too dangerous to work in winter conditions. So welders might be on-site for 6-9 months, return home for 3 months, and then ship off to another site.
Underwater welders are almost always in demand. Aging infrastructure, new infrastructure, and increasing offshore drilling projects continue to drive the need for skilled, experienced underwater welders – both inland and offshore. While job outlooks for welders in general remains steady between four and six percent, underwater welding is a different story. Underwater welders, because they are so uniquely skilled and there are comparatively so few of them, have much higher job growth over the next ten years.
General welding careers typically pay between $42,000 and $66,000. Underwater welders are welders of a different level. While offshore and inland underwater welders have different wage methods – offshore is seasonal, inland is year-round – they are both paid based on experience. At the lower end, underwater welding salaries are between $80,000 and $120,000. The most experienced, most respected underwater welders can make between $200,000 and $300,000 per year. The more they work, the more they grow, and the more they earn for themselves.
Underwater welding is definitely the flashiest, most dramatic welding profession. And for good reason. It’s a tough job. And only truly tough welders can do it. But if welding is your passion and you love a good challenge, underwater welding might be where your future leads.