Construction, Mechanical & Electrical Trades

Commercial divers work underwater at sea, or inland, such as in rivers, lakes and canals. They carry out inspections, tests, maintenance or search work. Some divers specialise in underwater photography, teach diving or work in the sport and leisure industry.

Work Activities

Commercial divers work underwater, they carry out inspections, testing, maintenance and repair work. Divers working for the police carry out underwater searches. Qualified divers can teach diving and lead courses.

When descending to depths up to 50 metres, divers receive their air supply from cylinders carried on their back or through hoses from the surface.

Deep sea divers live and work in a compression chamber, and are transported to and from the seabed in a pressurised diving bell. When the work is finished, the divers are taken to a decompression chamber while they wait for their bodies to readjust to surface air pressure.

There are different types of working diver, each requiring different skills and competencies. As well as diving skills, the commercial diver must also have the qualifications or technical skills relevant to the job.

These include:

Offshore Diving in the offshore oil and gas industries involves maintaining and inspecting pipes, cables and oil rigs. Practical skills such as welding would be needed. Some divers work on off shore windfarms.

Inland/Inshore Diving for marine civil engineering projects may involve surveying or repairing bridges, ports and harbours and would require a qualification in surveying or engineering.

Scientific Diving for scientific research and education would require a degree in oceanography, marine biology or similar.

Archaeological Diving involves investigation of sites of historic interest and wreckages would require a degree in Archaeology or similar.

Members of the Police and Armed Forces can be trained as specialist divers to carryout underwater searches for missing people and evidence.

Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are machines which carry out work from ships and rigs, replacing some of the tasks of professional divers. They are controlled by specially trained technicians and can explore depths that divers cannot reach.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for divers

  • Strong swimmer
  • A high level of physical fitness
  • Be able to stay calm under pressure
  • Be able to follow strict safety procedures
  • Be able to work alone and as part of a team
  • Technical skills or knowledge relevant to the job
  • Good health is essential as diving is physically and mentally demanding. There are some health conditions that might prevent you from diving or certain types of diving

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of divers

Short-contract work with diving contractor companies

North Sea oil and gas industry

Sports diving instructors

Police and armed forces

There are also opportunities in archaeological, surveying and conservation work


Qualifications and training required

A certificate of fitness to dive approved by the Health and Safety Executive is required before commercial diving training can begin.

Diving training takes place at HSE approved training centres and combines practical work and theory. Commercial divers need to obtain a qualification that is relevant and sufficient for the type of work that they will undertake.

There are different types of diving. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has four standards of commercial diving competence:

  • SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) – the air supply is in cylinders worn by the diver.
  • (Restricted) Surface Supplied Diving – divers receive their air supply via a hose, known as an Umbilical, from the surface.
  • Surface Supplied - to dive offshore on surface supplied equipment, divers must undertake an additional Surface Supplied Diving (Top Up) assessment.
  • Closed Bell Diving – deep sea divers live and work from a special chamber called a closed bell, which contains a mixture of gases so they can breathe normally. This is known as saturation diving.

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