About Underwater Welding.

Underwater Welding.

Underwater welding is a career that has a great deal of promise and a great deal of challenge. It’s not a career for those who are faint of heart. There are many skills that are required of underwater welders. It is essential to have the proper training to make sure that the welder is safe as well as able to do the job properly so that nothing goes wrong later.

Kinds of Underwater Welding.

There are three kinds of underwater welding. These are wet underwater welding, coffer dam welding, and hyperbaric welding. Each kind is completely unique from the others and has specific processes that have to be followed.Wet underwater welding is done using the manual metal arc welding (MMA) process most commonly. Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) used to be used in the former Soviet Union. Friction welding has a lot of potential to be used in deep water repair, especially if something needs to be repaired where people can’t go. It mainly is done using robots.

Coffer dam welding consists of a steel structure that is sealed against the side of the structure that is needing to be welded. It is open to the atmosphere and houses the welders in dry air, making it easier to do the welds.

Hyberbaric welding is done by sealing a chamber around the structure to be welded, and then filling it with gas. Helium is commonly used. The gas fills the chamber to a higher pressure than the water around and pushes the water out. More recently, transparent enclosures around the area to be welded are being used. The welder/diver then welds using several MMA electrodes in turn. They work from outside the chamber and the electrodes are already positioned through a flexible port in advance. The enclosures are made for every joint needing to be welded, and this process costs much less than the conventional method of making a large chamber.

Skills Needed.

If you want to be an underwater welder, there are certain skills that you have to have. Before you enter the field, you have to be both a certified welder and a certified diver. You need to have commercial diving skills, be able to set up welds and prepare them, meaning that you need to be able to work as a fitter or rigger as well, and you also will have to be certified that you can perform an underwater weld procedure.If you are already certified as a welder and want to get into underwater welding, you need to become a certified diver. There are many commercial diving schools that you can get certification from, but you should take a diving physical before you start any program. This way, you won’t go through the trouble and expense of training to discover later that you have a physical condition that will prevent you from diving. When you have finished the certification, it’s a good idea to apply for a job with a diving company that also offers services in underwater welding. This can greatly help your career, but keep in mind that you’ll start as an apprentice diver (diver tender) before you work on your own.If you’re already a certified diver, then you will have to become a certified welder. Many divers work for companies that also offer services in underwater welding, and this can be a good way to get training. If you don’t, you can still get training from commercial diving companies. If you’re already certified as a scuba diver, you still need to attend a commercial diving school to learn about how to use the equipment you will need. You will need to be able to meet the qualification described in ANSI/AWS D3.6. Actual qualifications and certifications tend to vary between companies.

Salary.The salary for underwater welders varies widely. Some welder-divers earn around $15,000 a year while others earn more than $100,000. Salaries tend to be subject to the same variables as work availability because welder-divers are paid by the project. Other things that affect the pay that a welder-diver makes is the depth at which they have to work, the diving environment, and the dive method. You can ask the company you are wanting to work with about the salary range with that company. 


There are many jobs available world wide for those who want to have a career in underwater welding. Some welders work on oil platforms or on pipelines that transport oil. Others work on securing docks or even repair ships while at sea or in port. There are also opportunities in the military for underwater welders. Many welder-divers see underwater welding as a stepping stone to other careers. Some move on to become instructors while others take other welding jobs in industry. The possibilities are nearly endless. Jobs that are more risky tend to pay the most.


There is a great deal of risk involved with underwater welding. The biggest risk is electrical shocks. There is also the chance of explosions in some kinds of underwater welding, particularly in applications where both hydrogen and oxygen are used and pockets of gas form. The other big risk is that if a welder-diver comes up to the surface too quickly, they can get nitrogen bubbles in their blood. This is called “the bends” and can be potentially fatal. There are precautions that can be taken to minimize the risks in all areas and many welder-divers never have a problem.