Going Commercial in 6 Steps

Less than ideal conditions.

Of all the potential careers in diving, the hardest and most lucrative is commercial or occupational diving. Unfortunately, it shares the relatively high drop out rate of other diving careers, with numerous people starting down it, but dropping out of it afterwards. By no means is this going to be a comprehensive “how to get rich diving” article. What it is going to be though, is a useful guide to becoming a commercial diver and how to hopefully succeed at it as a way of making yourself some money. I’ve broken it into six steps to look at if you’re pondering getting into commercial diving.

1.) Research:
Commercial diving is not something you can just leap into and expect to find a high paying job where you work four months a year and then hang out for the other eight. Before you start looking into training, research out what type of commercial work you want to get into. Scuba? Restricted Surface Supply? Unrestricted Air? Saturation Diver? Also, where do you want to work? What work is available locally, and what level of training does it require? How much work is available is another big question. After you’ve looking into all of that, it’s time to look into qualifications.

2.) Qualifications:
Not all qualifications are equal. A diver with a British HSE set of certifications, Australian ADAS or a Canadian DCBC set will find more opportunities for international employment than someone with American ADCI ones. IMCA rules offshore work, so if you weren’t trained at an IMCA approved facility, or in a program with equivalency… well, it’s too bad. Recreational certifications in the commercial world are generally only sufficient to prove you know how to dive; although in some areas you can work as a commercial scuba diver with them (I don’t recommend this). So, having done your research into jobs and where you want to work, and having figured out what training you’ll need, you’re good right? Not quite.

3.) Extra Skills:
The commercial diving world is filled with basic divers and tenders. To clinch a job, or even an interview, you’ll need to have more to offer than the bare minimum in skills. Boat operation. Marine radio operation. Advanced levels of first aid. ROV operator/technician. Small engine repair. Military (not necessarily naval) experience. If you’re going offshore, a BOSIET course is essential. Pretty much any skill set that might be useful in the field or make you a more useful, productive employee. Some of you are probably shaking your heads at this point; but the more experienced heads are nodding in agreement. Literally, the more diversity of skills you bring to the plate, the higher your employment chances become; so take every chance to get extra skill sets.

4.) Schools:
After all of that, it’s time to pick your school. Choose carefully. There are a lot of commercial diving schools in the world, but many are geared towards feeding local industry or national level activities (Gulf of Mexico, fish farms etc…). If that’s your plan, you’re fine. If you’re looking to travel and work internationally, you’re going to have to look for schools with “HSE”, “ADAS” or “DCBC” levels of training/accreditation. For offshore, you’ll need to look for IMCA accreditation. Look for schools with long operating histories and always check the place out prior to going. Websites can be very misleading and some schools have poor reputations within the diving world for their quality of student.

5.) Finding a Job:
Now, after all of that, it’s time to look for work. Some schools will have job placement schemes in place to get you going. Most post jobs regularly on their websites or even forward their students information to groups that are hiring. Be ready for disappointment and non-diving related work. It can take awhile to break into commercial diving, and it’s all about your skills and your attitude. Many employers would rather hire an average diver who easy to get along with and meshes well with the group than a highly skilled diver who’s a pain in the ass to deal with. Take jobs, build a reputation, and be a safe diver. Be ready to travel if there isn’t a lot of work in your area.

6.) Persevere:
Commercial diving is not an easy industry. It’s often subject to the whiles of weather, economics and personal deprivation. If you stick it out, you’ll find an attractive career with potential for global travel and decent to high pay.

So, that’s the six steps to becoming a commercial diver. If you’re looking for more information, there are two great online communities for commercial divers, and those who want to be commercial divers. Longstreath and cDiver. Personally, I’ve found cDiver to be friendlier to new divers and enquiries. The big thing to take away here is that commercial diving is not a hasty decision to be made. Look into it, investigate it, plan out your scheme and then do it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself on the sidelines of the commercial diving world, having spent a lot of money on courses that might not land you a job. So good luck out there!

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About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.