Commercial divers work below the surface of water to assess, record, install and repair structures. While some commercial divers may be involved in recording marine life or photographing natural phenomena, the vast majority work with man-made structures. These include construction across a variety of industries -- from bridge building to tidal power generators -- oil rig maintenance, salvage, photographing shipwrecks, drilling for natural resources and power line installation. Salaries for the role will vary according to where and for whom a diver works.
In its national employment survey of the United States conducted in May 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collected wage data from 3,030 people working as commercial divers. It calculated that the average yearly pay for the profession was $58,060. This translates into a monthly salary of $4,838 and an hourly pay rate of $27.91. It also reported that those divers among the highest-earning 10 percent received an average in excess of $94,130, while those in the bottom 10 percent earned an average of less than $32,510.
Salary by Industry
Commercial divers work across a wide variety of industries. The bureau listed some of the major ones as support activities for mining, support activities for water transportation, and highway, street and bridge construction. It reported that the average annual pay in these sectors was $59,440, $43,470 and $56,210, respectively. Positions within utility system construction paid an average of $67,330, while those in other heavy and civil engineering construction companies offered $64,110.
Salary by Location
SalaryExpert.com analyzed salaries for commercial divers based in some major cities and found that the best wages were in Chicago and Houston -- $101,962 and $92,480, respectively. Miami was listed at just $51,996. The BLS listed California and New Jersey as lucrative states for divers to work in, with averages across all industry sectors of $82,690 and $82,090, respectively. In contrast, Hawaii was listed at $42,670.
Commercial divers may work in a variety of dive suits -- from neoprene to steel -- depending upon the type of liquid they are in and the pressure they will experience when at depth. Divers work in teams, with some members monitoring and assisting the operation from the shore or a boat. Safety is paramount and the team will discuss safety procedures before every dive. The extensive training a commercial diver must undergo minimizes the risk from diving -- such as decompression sickness resulting from exiting the water too quickly causing a buildup of nitrogen in the blood. Divers must be able to work quickly and efficiently in conditions that may be murky or cold.