The 10 Best Underwater Welding Schools In 2019

Are you interested in subaquatic construction and technologies? One of the most promising careers in this field is underwater welding, which is the process of fusing metals at elevated pressures. If you feel that this is something you may want to pursue, the first thing you have to do is find an appropriate learning facility.

A professional qualification is not only crucial to ensure you have the necessary skills to carry out a job correctly, but also to ensure that you and the people around you are safe from hazards. To choose the right academy, you have to consider several factors, including things like location, costs, and job placement assistance.

In this guide, we will discuss the best underwater welding schools, the danger that comes with the profession, as well as the salary expectations. If you want to get your training certification for hyperbaric welding, keep reading to learn more.

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What is Underwater Welding?

Dry Welding

Dry welding is when a dry habitat, which is a hyperbaric chamber, shields the welder from the water. The process involves the creation of a seal around the structure that has to be welded. Hoses are connected to suck out the water from the chamber and replace it with a circulating gas mixture that includes helium and oxygen.

When the water is removed from the dry habitat, it has to be pressurized to the correct level to protect the welder from decompression sickness.

There are four dry welding methods:

– Pressure welding, a technique that is appropriate for welding in pressure vessels with one atmospheric unit of pressure.
– Habitat welding, a method that welders use in a room-sized submerged chamber with uniform outside pressure.
– With dry chamber welding, the chamber only covers the worker’s head and shoulders, and he enters it from the bottom.
– Dry spot welding is a technique that is used with balloon-sized, see-through habitats. The welder has to insert the electrode into the habitat, which will form a seal around it.

The processes that are used for dry welding include:

  • Shielded metal arc (SMAW) or stick
  • Flux-cored arc (FCAW)
  • Gas tungsten arc (GTAW) or TIG
  • Gas metal arc (GMAW) or MIG
  • Plasma arc (PAW)

With this process, workers usually work in pairs and work shifts that are six to eight hours long.

Wet Welding

With wet welding, there is no chamber to shield the process from water. Instead, when the welder strikes an arc, the electrode creates a gaseous bubble that shields the weld from water and corrosive gasses like oxygen. Direct current (DC) is also used in this setting, as it is safer than alternating current (AC).

Unlike dry welding, where many processes are suitable, wet processes are primarily limited to shielded metal arc (SMAW), also called stick. The process is the most effective, and it is suitable for a wide range of applications. Other processes for this application include flux-cored arc (FCAW) and friction welding (FW).

Precautionary measures are especially necessary for these situations. The worker should keep their electrodes clean and ensure that there are no obstructions and hazards in the area before they start the weld.

Before carrying out the weld, the diver will place the electrode on the target surface area before signaling their team to switch on the DC, which generates around 300- to 400 amps of electricity.

Wet welding is often used as a last resort, as there is a higher danger involved, and the water tends to cool down the weld too quickly, which increase the risk of cracking.

A man welding while wearing a yellow welding mask

Drowning

Drowning is usually the result of differential pressure or Delta P hazards, which is when a difference in water pressure causes water to move from high pressure to low pressure, which holds the diver down.

The force that causes the diver to get stuck can be as high as a thousand pounds of pressure, and when this happens, there is very little that anyone can do. When repairing, say, a dam wall, a hole in the wall will cause the water to flow out, sucking the diver towards the opening in the wall.

Professional training is crucial to prevent drowning as a result of differential pressure.

Explosion

Explosions typically happen when there are a build-up and mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gasses. Oxy-cutting, for example, involves the use of high quantities of oxygen, and the process produces hydrogen.

When the hydrogen to oxygen ratio reaches a certain level, it forms an explosive mixture, which can ignite when an arc or spark reaches it. Before starting with an underwater operation, the team should carry out a detailed risk assessment, and void spaces should be flushed with an inert gas such as nitrogen.

Electric Shock

Introducing electricity to water carries the inherent risk of electrocution, which is exceptionally high with wet welding. To mitigate the risk of electric shock, the welder should use DC electricity instead of AC, all equipment should be tested thoroughly before a weld is authorized, and ongoing training should be mandatory.

Additionally, a ground fault should be placed accurately that runs into the earth’s surface to direct excess current away from the worksite and into the ground.

electicity warning sign

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness is when there is a build-up of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream. To lower the risk of decompression sickness, the diver’s rate of ascent should not be more than ten meters per minute, and if they plan on diving more than once per day, they should start with the deepest dive first.

Divers should also be in an excellent physical condition and schedule regular medical checkups. Proper training is crucial to mitigate the risk of compression sickness.

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness is when there is a build-up of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream. To lower the risk of decompression sickness, the diver’s rate of ascent should not be more than ten meters per minute, and if they plan on diving more than once per day, they should start with the deepest dive first.

Divers should also be in an excellent physical condition and schedule regular medical checkups. Proper training is crucial to mitigate the risk of compression sickness.

Hypothermia

Cold water directs heat away from the body, which can result in metabolism issues and, if the diver remains in the water for too long, organ failure. To prevent hypothermia, the diver should wear a well-insulated wetsuit that retains body heat. The time the diver spends underwater should also be limited.

Proper training will help divers cope with the colder temperatures to prevent hypothermia. The company should also have the necessary safety protocols in place.

Divers Institute of Technology

Divers Institute of TechnologyThe Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) is located in Seattle, and most training takes place in and around Lake Union. DIT include the GI Bill as a financial aid option, which is why many veterans attend this institute after completing their service.

The Divers Institute of Technology offers an Unrestricted Surface Supplied Air Diver certification, that opens the door for opportunities around the world.

Santa Barbara City College

Santa Barbara City College

The Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) in California offers two qualifications, namely a marine technology certification and an Associate in Science (AS.) The latter requires more extensive coursework. The SBCC is the only community college that is accredited by organizations like the International Diving Schools Association and the Diver Certification Board of Canada.

National University Polytechnic Institute

National University Polytechnic InstituteThe National University Polytechnic Institute is located in San Diego since 2001 and provides training in locations like the Embarcadero and Coronado bay harbors. Safety is one of the institute’s primary focuses, and students learn the principles of construction according to AWS 3.6 coding in a wide range of settings.

The Ocean Corporation

The Ocean CorporationThe Ocean Corporation has proximity to many of the prominent welding companies and offers two programs, namely Ultimate Diver training and Non-destructive testing. The latter is an underwater welding program for wet welders.

The Ocean Corporation’s training facilities include two hyperbaric chambers, a diving bell, and a dive tank training complex.

South Central Louisiana Technical College

South Central Louisiana Technical CollegeThe South Central Louisiana Technical College (SCLTC) is located in the Gulf and focus on practical experience in entry-level diving. Throughout the training, students will spend around 750 hours of learning and practicing to develop their skills as hyperbaric welders.

The SCLTC curriculums include underwater cutting and welding, topside welding, and oxy-acetylene processes.

Commercial Diving Technologies

Commercial Diving TechnologiesCommercial Diving Technologies in Hudson, FL, is one of the most affordable institutions in the United States. The institution offers a five-month program that focuses on, among other things, underwater welding, oxy-arc underwater cutting, first aid, and offshore survival training.

CDT offers nine certifications that include the DCBC un-restricted air dive certification and ADCI-Tender/Diver.

Hydroweld USA

Hydroweld USA in Miami, FL, offers specialized courses that focus on wet and dry welding techniques. The institution’s certifications include the Welder Performance Qualification that meets the American Welding Society’s 3.6 coding specifications.

Hydroweld USA also has a research and development department that works in congruency with organizations like the Welding Institute.

CDA Technical Institute

CDA Technical InstituteThe CDA Technical Institute in Jacksonville, FL, provides students with a college experience that includes on-campus housing. Training facilities include a twenty-foot deep dive tank, and training also takes place in the Trout River that is more than 165 feet deep.

This institution provides students with certifications from the International Marine Contractor’s Association as well as an Unrestricted Surface Supplied Air Diver Certification.

International Diving Institute

International Diving Institute logoThe International Diving Institute (IDI) offers certifications from the Association of Diving Contractors and Lloyd’s Register. Training takes place at South Carolina’s Old Charleston Navy Base, and classes consist of a maximum of ten students. The IDI also offers the GI Bill for veterans who want to become certified.

Divers Academy International

Divers Academy International logoThe Diver Academy International (DAI) in Erial, NJ, provides welder diver students with intensive six-month training. Throughout the course, students will spend time in the water quarry that is sixty feet deep.

Training consists of 900 hours of study and application. The DAI has a Lincoln’s simulator that allows students to practice in a safe setting.

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Things to Consider When Choosing an Underwater Welding Academy

underwater welding education

As you can see, there are many academies to choose from, each with different training certifications, and hyperbaric welding training facilities. The one you should choose depends on your underwater welding career plans.

You should also consider other factors that include the school’s location, cost, program length, tuition assistance programs, and job placement assistance. Below, we will discuss each of these considerations and how they affect your decision.

Location

The location of a welder diving school is significant as it has several logistic implications. If you want to attend a school that is far from where you live, you will have to arrange for housing and ways to sustain yourself while you go through training. Diver training can be tiring, and some students may find it challenging to be far from their support framework.

A school’s location is also significant as it can have a career advantage. Many underwater welding organizations hire students who are certified by institutes that are close to them and who know the local circumstances.

Cost

Underwater welding training is expensive. The average tuition rate of training institutions around the world is approximately $15,000, and the average cost of training in the United States is around $17,500.

Several factors determine the cost of training, including the degree of specialization, the facilities that the institute has available, and the career opportunities that a certification from the school unlock.

In addition to tuition fees, you will also have to pay for equipment, books, traveling, and other living expenses. Housing is one of the more significant expenses that you should take into account. Some schools offer on-campus housing, which can lower your costs.

Program Length

The average length of a commercial diving course in the United States is 25.5 weeks. Longer courses can be as long as 35 weeks, and, if it is a specialization course, it can last as long as 88 weeks. Courses on the short end of the spectrum range between 6 and 12 weeks.

Considering the course length is crucial, as you want to factor this time into your career plans and living arrangements. The course length is also an indication of how in-depth your training as an underwater welder will be. Courses longer than thirty weeks are generally extensive and will provide you with all the necessary skills and experience you will need.

Tuition Assistance Programs

Tuition Assistance Programs

Funding for training is often a problem for students. Many reputable programs are approved for participation in Federal Assistance Programs and offer financial assistance to help students meet tuition costs.

Contact the financial assistance offices of the schools you are considering and ask them about their financial aid opportunities, and if they would be willing to formulate you a package of financial assistance that meets your needs.

To receive financial assistance, you may have to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Standard financial assistance programs include the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan Program, and the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program.

Job Placement Assistance

Upon completion of your training, you ideally want your training school to help place you with an employer to complete an apprenticeship and, hopefully, secure permanent employment. Most training schools that require apprenticeship for a specific duration as part of certification will have job placement assistance in place.

Job placement assistance eliminates the uncertainties of employment upon completion of your training and helps you plan your underwater welding career accordingly. Job placement also ensures that the skills you acquired during training are congruent with your apprenticeship. If possible, try to stick to schools that have these programs in place.

Rookie

According to global statistics, you can expect a salary that starts at around $25,000 per year if you are fresh out of training. However, experience and training are not the only factors that determine the salary you can expect.

The location and work environment can also play a role. As a rookie underwater welder that works in offshore settings like subsea sites, wet welding oil rig pipelines, wellheads, ship turbines, chain anchor legs, and underwater oil pipes, you can earn a salary that ranges from $40,000 to $60,000 per year.

Onshore underwater welders that recently completed their training can expect a salary that ranges between $25,000 and $40,000 per year. These projects include cleaning and inspecting water towers and bridges, freshwater pipe repairs, and maintenance, salvaging and recovering sunken boats, inspecting and repairing dam walls, and cutting underwater debris.

Other onshore projects in this salary range include sewer pipe inspection, nuclear power station inlet structure maintenance, and shipping doc support pillar installation.

Veteran

If you are a veteran with more than three years’ experience, you can expect your salary to increase. In offshore settings, veteran underwater welders can expect a salary that ranges from $75,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on their certification level, previous experience, and the commercial diver schedule.

The salary for veteran divers depends on how long they work during the year as well. The offshore season is typically from April to November as waves and winter patterns are usually volatile during winter months. However, some offshore divers may work throughout the year if they work on topside construction or water vessel maintenance.

Onshore veterans can expect to earn between $50,000 to $80,000 per year, which is less than that of offshore veterans. Because of this, many diver welders prefer to work in oceanic job sites. Offshore employment is not for everyone, however, and you should consider the workload and schedule carefully before specializing in one or the other.

Underwater welders generally have a relatively high earning potential. If you choose this career, you have to be proficient with dry- and wet welding, and you may be facing several risks, including delta P hazards, electric shock, explosions, and hypothermia.

To qualify as an underwater welder, mitigate these risks, and ensure the highest possible earnings, you have to receive extensive training from an accredited school. There are several institutions to choose from and, to select the best one for your needs, you have to factor in location, costs, the program length, and job placement- and tuition assistance.

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