Divers work at sea, or carry out industry-specific tasks in rivers, lakes, canals, and reservoirs.

What does a diver do?

Divers work in several industries, for example:

  • offshore oil and gas – exploring and surveying, or building and maintaining drilling rigs and pipelines
  • inland/inshore - working on civil engineering projects carrying out underwater repairs, demolition or salvage, or working in fish farming
  • the media - performing stunts or doing underwater filming
  • scientific research or underwater archaeology
  • the police - searching for and recovering missing persons or evidence
  • leisure - leading recreational SCUBA dives or teaching SCUBA diving skills

Many underwater tasks can now be carried out by remote-operated vehicles (ROVs), but ROVs have not replaced the need for skilled divers.

Divers specialise in one of four areas:

  • SCUBA (Self-contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) – using an air tank and flippers, mainly in recreational, media and police diving
  • Restricted Surface Supplied – using an air line to the surface, usually in inshore/inland diving
  • Surface Supplied – using a hot water suit, air line and open diving bells, in offshore diving
  • Closed Bell or Saturation Diving – using a diving bell and mixed gas for deep sea diving (often used in surveying, marine archaeology and scientific diving)

What do I need to do to become a diver?

Before you begin professional diver training, you must pass a strict medical carried out by a doctor approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). You must also pass a medical each year throughout your diving career.

You might find it useful to have experience of recreational SCUBA diving before training as a commercial diver, but this is not essential. Many diving schools offer tests to help you decide whether you would be suited to working underwater.

You do not need academic qualifications to learn diving skills. However, to work as a commercial diver you will need the right skills and qualifications for your industry, as well as learning how to dive. For example:

  • some offshore divers might need a degree in surveying or engineering
  • construction divers might need qualifications in welding or non-destructive testing
  • most scientific divers have a degree in oceanography or marine biology
  • police or armed forces divers must already be serving in the force
For offshore work, it is essential that you have an up to date HSE first aid at work qualification. Some inshore employers may also expect you to have this specialised first-aid training. You can often combine this with your practical diving training.

Related skills

  • Discipline
  • Physical fitness
  • Teamwork

Essential qualifications

  • Medical examination approved by HSE

Desirable qualifications

  • Industry-related degree

Where to find out more

Where could I be working?

You would normally be self-employed as a commercial diver. Most jobs are short-term contracts, so you must be flexible about when and where you can work. You would usually gain commercial inshore experience before moving into offshore work.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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