Careers in Diving
The Subsea Industry
- 80% of the World's Subsea industry and technology is from the UK
- 80% of that is in Scotland
- Employs 40,000 people
- £3.5 Billion in revenues
These are now critical and have been caused by:
Oil boom worldwide
- Lack of awareness of oil industry boom and historical image as an industry with poor prospects. (this is from the 'oil is running out' brigade, not the oil industry has great jobs with good money and will give most of us a career for many years to come...)
- Number of major saturation diving vessels increasing by over 25 - a true refeltion on the job prospects and investment going on.
- Lack of 'succession planning' leading to inadequate training over the past few years and few new people coming into he industry in the 90's leaving a gap.
- Retirement of the 'greybeards' who are 50+ in age and about to leave the industry
INSHORE DIVERSQualifications required: HSE Surface Supplied Diver
The majority of inshore divers are self-employed although a few may be taken on as permanent staff with diving company working on a project by project basis.
Hours of work are typically 10-12 hours a day and depending on the proximity of the dive site to the diver's home town may require the team to be away from home throughout the working week or, in some cases, for the duration of the project. Expenses such as travel, food and Hotel bills are normally met by the company.
Salaries in this sector vary considerably depending on the company, the type of contract and the experience of individual divers.
Inshore work is very diverse and covers everything associated with construction, demolition, remedial works, salvage, inspection. More recently working with renewable energy companies who specialise in areas such as offshore wind and wave generators, have allowed many inshore divers to gain stable employment for years to come. The best view to have for commercial diving is that it's a life long training program that will never be fully mastered. Once you set out in this career path you are going to develop many new skills and techniques through working experience.
The job can often mean long days and hard work, but it can be extremely satisfying to be part of team who must trust and rely on each other. The training you receive here at the diving academy tries to simulate this working environment and we will also introduce you to many of the hydraulic and pneumatic tools that you are likely to use in the commercial world in a realistic and safe manner.
Scientific DiversQualifications required: HSE Professional scuba and possibly Surface Supplied.
Normally scientific divers are associated with a University or research establishment such as SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science), St. Andrews University, Plymouth University, Dorset Wildlife, Torry marine research, British Antarctic Survey etc.
Jobs may include site surveying, biological / zoological observation / research and archaeological investigation. Employment ratio of qualified Professional scuba divers is low, but someone has to get the jobs!
Media DiversQualifications required: HSE Professional scuba and possibly Surface Supplied.
This requires divers to work as stunt performers, journalists, presenters, photographers, camera operators, sound and lighting technicians and unit crews. Most people are self employed or have their own company specialising in this type of work. They are a small, closely knit community who work worldwide. However persistence is required in order to become recognised and work is often intermittent.
Police / Fire Brigade DiversQualifications are adapted from HSE Professional scuba and HSE Surface Supplied.
Many local area police and fire crews combine to form regional dive teams for search and recovery operations. Typical work involves location and recovery of stolen goods/ firearms / cars / bodies etc.
These teams have to be highly mobile and adaptable and must be able to dive in many locations and a variety of conditions such as canals, ponds, sewage plants, rivers, lakes and harbours.
Applicants to be a member of a police diving team are drawn directly from the police force. Teams typically consist of 8-12 divers and work on an on-call basis.
OFFSHORE AIR DIVERSQualifications required: HSE Surface Supplied Diver and HSE Wet Bell/Top up.
Surface Supplied (offshore) divers work in open water environments using a hot water suit, air line and open diving bells particularly to support construction, inspection and maintenance contracts associated with exploration in the oil industry up to 50m depth. Qualifications required for this type of work are HSE pro scuba, Surface Supplied Diver and Wet Bell (Top Up).
To qualify as an HSE approved offshore Surface Supplied Air Diver (which is the most recognised accepted commercial air diver qualification), you must attend an approved training course lasting approximately 9 weeks. The first week of the course is to obtain the compulsory HSE First Aid at Work qualification, and this week can be leap-frogged for those already holding a valid certificate but the diving medical aspects of the in-house course are actually very useful.
Most schools prefer some form of diving experience as a sport diver prior to commencing the next part of the course - the HSE Professional Scuba Diver. Any sport qualification or experience is normally acceptable as it avoids the student discovering that they have a fear of water or are claustrophobic in diving situations in the first few days and finding that they have to drop out of the course. However many students arrive at the diving academy with no prior diving experience and are able to adapt quickly to their new surroundings. If you have any doubts about your ability to adapt, then arrange to come for a try dive before booking the course.
HSE Professional Scuba teaches you how to dive in drysuits and full-face masks with hardwire and through water communications. This course lasts approximately 3 weeks duration.
HSE Surface Supplied Air Diver teaches you to use drysuits, hot water suits, helmets and bandmasks. Tools and skills learned on the course include underwater cutting and welding, hyperbaric grinding, use of lift bags, underwater pipeline connecting and non-destructive testing.
HSE Top-Up (Wet Bell) course - Access and exit from most offshore dive sites is via a wetbell or basket. A one week course in use of the wetbell system is required.
Working Terms: North Sea - up to 28 Days offshore, 12 hour days. Due to limited time permitted air diving per working day then most of the shift will involve assisting in deckwork, dressing, preparing and tending.
Many diving jobs offer short-term contract work, so flexibility, and travel, may be required to gain employment.
Rates of Pay - these vary widely around the world. Expect to be competing with divers from nearly every country in the world, but in peak times the rates can be very good.
SATURATION DIVERSQualifications required: HSE Surface Supplied Diver, HSE Wet Bell/Top up and Closed Bell Diver
To get to this stage, divers must prove themselves to be proficient air divers for a minimum of 1 year before being allowed to attend a saturation diving course. The HSE Mixed Gas/Closed Bell Diving Course is a 4-8 Week course at an approved training school.
In the North sea, the time in saturation (including decompression) is limited to 28 days. A typical crew consists of three teams of 2 or 3 divers on a 24 hour rotation of 8 hour shifts. Each shift includes six hours of work time at the dive site and 2 hours for transfer from chamber to bell to dive site and back again.
Subsea tasks may include:
- Rigging for movement / placement of pipelines & control modules for oilfields
- Hydraulic Bolt Tensioning of flange couplings
- Non-Destructive Testing
Salaries in this sector are wildly variable and most divers are self-employed. The more well known, highly skilled saturation divers working in the North Sea can expect to earn more under the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) rates of pay (please see RMT rates insertion at end of this handout for further information).
Hyperbaric WeldersThese are the Crème de la Crème of the diving industry and a small number of highly skilled divers may be retained on salaries of £150k per year upwards
A limited number of jobs are available for these divers capable of producing coded welds at depth in dry hyperbaric / habitat environments.
LIFE SUPPORT TECHNICIANSQualifications required: IMCA ALST course then offshore on the job training.
Divers living in saturation conditions require constant monitoring and control by trained personnel outside the deck compression chamber. The oxygen content of their breathing gas, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the pressure, temperature and humidity of their environment all need to be monitored regularly and functions such as provision of food, drinks and equipment need to be controlled from the outside by life support personnel.
The most junior grade is Assistant Life Support Technician (ALST), which refers to a person gaining experience. Entrants must have satisfactorily completed an IMCA-approved Assistant Life Support Technician training course which is a 10 day course undertaken at the National Hyperbaric Centre.
Divers qualified to an appropriate bell diving standard, such as the UK HSE Closed Bell (previously HSE Part II) standard, Norwegian Bell Diver standard, or other comparable standard, are trained in life support techniques as part of their diver training and can be appointed ALSTs without further training. But it should be recognised that not all divers have retained these skills and the required knowledge of physics and gases even after training.
To be a qualified LST it is necessary to obtain a minimum of 2400 hours logged as an Assistant Life Support Technician . Rates of pay vary considerably (please see RMT rates listed at end of this handout).
Dive TechniciansDive technicians work maintaining, operating and certifying life support equipment and subsea tooling systems used in support of diving operations. The dive technician often needs a broad range of skills for dealing with hydraulic, electronic, pneumatic and mechanical systems all of which interface into the diving and life support systems.
Typical tasks include:
- Helmet and bandmask repair and recertification
- Oxygen cleaning of diving equipment and systems
- Preparation of Life support equipment - BIBS, regulators, Buoyancy Control Devices, bell survival kits
- Umbilical termination, cleaning and testing
- Pipework installation on chambers and dive control panels
- Compressors maintenance
- Air and gas testing
- Diver's hot water machine repair
Diving SupervisorsDiving Supervisors appear in three different areas but all have legal responsibility for the control and safety of the diving operation. The dive supervisor is in overall charge of the diving activity, diving crew, equipment, diving plan and emergency contingencies.
Inshore Air Diving SupervisorA an Inland Air Diving Supervisor is normally an experienced and qualified Air Diver who is appointed by the company following an assessment of knowledge and leadership skills. The UK's Association of Diving Contractors (ADC) now has an examination which includes checking understanding of items such as Regulatory requirements and gas calculations and many companies now require this qualification.
IMCA Air Diving SupervisorThe International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is the world's leading trade body for commercial diving and related marine matters. To be a Supervisor in an offshore environment it is necessary to have an IMCA qualification.
Experienced divers can progress to Trainee diving supervisor through a certification scheme for offshore diving supervisors which sets down minimum requirements. These include relevant diving experience, basic theoretical training, supervised 'hands-on' experience offshore, and a multi-choice theory examination.Examinations now provide compulsory modules relating to air diving supervision, mixed gas (or bell) diving supervision. Candidates also sit optional legislation modules relevant to the parts of the world in which they expect to work. Modules for the UK and Norway currently exist.
Supervisors also pass on information and knowledge gained from their own work experience to the trainee divers. The safety of divers is paramount and is the Supervisor's responsibility.
IMCA Mixed Gas Diving SupervisorFollowing experience as an Air Diving Supervisor and/or as a mixed gas diver there is the opportunity to progress to a trainee Mixed gas supervisor and finally a Supervisor. The role involves running bell diving operations in very complex environments often with activities such as lifting operations and underwater cutting operations at great depth and with the support of a dynamically positioned DSV (Diving Support Vessel). A sophisticated DSV is frequently utilised simply to support a diving crew of one or two divers at a cost of £100-200,000 per day. You are in charge of the safety and effectiveness of the divers on the seabed.
Additional Qualifications and ExperienceAs a diver you should consider what you are bringing to the industry. What we mean by this is that although we can teach you to dive, you must think about what you are going to do when you are underwater. Are you practical? A problem solver? Good with your hands? Do you have experience in the construction industry? Have you worked on a building site? Are you a qualified rigger? etc
Some skills which might make the difference to a company accepting you for a job ahead of someone else include:
- Mechanical/Electrical skills
- Crane Banksman
- Forklift driver
- Construction site experience
Remember not all of your time on a worksite will be actually diving. A lot of the time is spent preparing for the job, getting equipment ready, rigging loads ready to go underwater, and reviewing how the job can be carried out safely and efficiently.
Other skills and qualification might also make you stand out from the crowd:
- Diver Medic Technician
- Diving mask and helmet maintainer
- Dive Technician training
- Compressor technician
- Assistant Life Support Technician (ALST)
Why choose the UK's HSE qualification?In the early days of North Sea Diving 45 divers died in only 9 years.
The Government and industry responded and created the best guidelines for diver training in the world
Unfortunately the procedures now in place are have not yet been adopted all around the world
IMCA (the International Marine Contractors Association) is the World's Offshore diving trade association and has created a huge amount of guidance utilising experiences from diving around the world. The Professional Diving Academy and associate company the National Hyperbaric Centre, are active members of this forum, contributing regularly to improvements in diver safety and learning.
The UK is the World leader in the creation of safe diving practices and techniques. All of the courses recognised by the International Diving Regulators' Forum are based on the original HSE syllabus, (this includes Australia, Canada and South Africa) and the HSE has now moved on to a more Assessment based system allowing the UK's schools to implement a more advanced training approach.
Why choose the Professional Diving Academy?IMCA (the International Marine Contractors Association) is the World's Offshore diving trade association and has created a huge amount of guidance utilising experiences from diving around the world. The Professional Diving Academy and associate company the National Hyperbaric Centre, are active members of this forum, contributing regularly to improvements in diver safety and learning and we offer up to date input on where the industry is going and how it is changing.
The Academy is run by divers with experience in Inland/Inshore, Offshore and Military diving.
The courses are in real diving conditions. This is no classroom, warm water exercise with unrealistic easy visibility.
You'll dive in a vast variety of conditions from:
- cold, clear freshwater lakes,
- tidal sediment and soft seabeds,
- harbour piers and jetties
- deep, dark exposed drop-offs
Be prepared for what the Diving Industry has to offer you.
If this isn't for you then perhaps you should consider another career...
If however your up for the challenge then,
Train at the Professional Diving Academy!
If this isn't for you then perhaps you should consider another career...
If however your up for the challenge then,
Train at the Professional Diving Academy!