Last Updated on August 19, 2020 by Gary Hargrave
An underwater welding project presents all of the mechanical and technical aspects of surface or topside welding besides some unique challenges which make one’s journey to become an underwater welder an arduous and time-consuming proposition. So, it is likely for an interested candidate to ask how long it takes to start as a professional.
An absolute beginner needs 10 to 12 years to become an underwater welder. Certified welders can make it in just 2 to 2.5 years. Welders with a commercial diving certification from a reputable diving school or institute need only a year or a few months more.
Underwater welding doesn’t qualify as a type of welding process like MIG or TIG. It is about the particular environment where the welder stays submerged and does the job facing elevated barometric pressures which cause most of the difficulties.
In this article, I’ll tell how much time you’ll need to spend and why before considering yourself good enough to fill the shoes of an underwater welder.
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How Long Does It Take To Build A Career In Underwater Welding?
According to the American Welding Society (AWS), an underwater welder is a welder-diver whose role includes the responsibilities of both a certified welder in general and a commercial diver in particular.
Being one of these professionals means that you need to be able to do commercial subsea work, set up the equipment, and prepare for both dry and wet welding plus other related activities following the requirements set by the “Underwater Welding Code (AWS D3.6M)”.
To keep it simple, I would say you should become a certified welder and then a commercial diver. So, I’ll present you with a timeline accordingly. Keep reading.
- First, you need to complete your formal education, and a high school diploma is the obvious choice. It takes up to four
- Second, you should attend an apprenticeship program to gather some experience in welding. The longer you stay there, the more you can learn. So, consider spending around two years.
- Third, you can work under an experienced welder or at a shop for at least a year. While it is not obligatory, it will bring you valuable on-the-job insights into topside welding.
- Fourth, enrolling in a certification program administered by the AWS is your goal. From taking the training to passing the exam and earning the certification, you’ll need one year.
- Fifth, it is time to acquire commercial diving skills. Attend a recognized diving school and begin as a diver tender. Two years will be the maximum duration for this stage.
- Sixth, you need more experience in terms of field days and working dives to be ready as a commercial diver, and this takes four months on average.
- Seventh, try to join a company that covers all aspects of underwater welding services. Work at least a year to realize what working as a welder underwater is going to be like.
So, becoming an underwater welder takes around 12 years. It may seem so much for being up for a job, no matter the reward. But you see I’ve assumed the above timeline for someone with no formal schooling.
Perhaps, it is not too long for a person who is only a high school student and has started thinking of a career. Even for someone who doesn’t know how to swim, the above estimation is fine.
What if you are not that young and certainly not in favor of taking a 12-year journey? Fortunately, there is a much shorter path to take, and here is how you want to go.
The Fastest Way Around To Become An Underwater Welder
A GED certification is the most reliable alternative to a high school diploma. From registration to passing the exam, GED takes only three months. Some mathematical and mechanical aptitude can be a great help in this regard. Imagine how quickly you can advance towards the career this way.
Opting for a shorter apprenticeship program, say six months to one year, is the next course of action. But you must keep yourself invested in everything you see and learn there.
As I said, working as a new welder at a shop is not compulsory given that you are confident of being able to apply whatever you’ve got from the apprenticeship program.
Skipping a real job leads you to the next phase – getting an AWS welding certification. The estimated duration (1 year at most) doesn’t change much for this part.
Not all candidates are required to remain a diver tender for a couple of years. Most of them can move onto the next phase, the commercial diving certification, in under half the time. Expect to complete this step within 16 months.
Working at an underwater welding company is an essential part because you’ll master not only the AWS D3.6M standards but also the requirements of that very company.
Consider this one year as your foundation and preparation for the actual job sites like dams, ships, locks, offshore drilling rigs, nuclear power stations/facilities, sub-sea habitats, etc.
How many months and years have you got to count? You’re looking at 4-5 years, right? I think this is not much to build a career as exciting and well-paying as underwater welding.
How Long Do Certified Welders Need?
But I know that people who are already a certified welder won’t want to spend this much time. Remember what I stated with reference to the AWS recommendations? You can start working to possess diving skills right away, and the next steps are required too. It lets you finish the whole thing in just 2-2.5 years.
Candidates who are already certified welders as well as commercial divers are the advanced ones who don’t need all those years. Just working at companies with similar concerns for a year or two should be fine.
Don’t Count Scuba Diving As Your Experience
I would like you to note that scuba diving doesn’t make you a commercial diver. Scuba diving is merely a form of sport dive training which doesn’t teach you how to use commercial diving tools and equipment safely and maintain the safety rules of doing an offshore commercial job.
A Few More Things about “Years”
The certifications I spoke of are required by employers. It means neither the requirements nor the duration can be ignored. I think I should have put more emphasis on the “years” associated with the apprenticeship and employment at a company.
Underwater welders are known to make more money than others in the same industry. Guess how much! As the AWS suggests these welders make anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 a year whereas the annual mean wage of welders is only $44,800.
What do you think why employers offer so much? The difficulty and hazards involved in it are the reasons. The better you can grasp surface welding and transition the skills into underwater welding while keeping yourself and the resources safe; the greater are the rewards. You know time and focus are the keys to that precision. So, don’t lose your attention and tenacity in the process.
The longer you stay and the greater diversity you face while on the job, the more experienced and useful you’ll become. Better job opportunities come with the demand for more complex details and higher quality and safety standards.
Not everyone starts and retires as a welder-diver. Many people go on and become supervisors, engineers, instructors, and superintendents. With strong commitment and devotion, some grow to be inspectors or consultants, the most respectable positions in the industry.
Regardless of the future advancements, the early phase, I mean when you prepare yourself, often sets the course for the rest of your professional life. Spending more years to gain experience will take you further towards your future goals. So, don’t make things unnecessarily faster than the time I mentioned.
Need more tips and guidance in this particular profession? Feel free to ask and let me help.